Jay Leno is known for his collection of cars, and he has a lot of diverse machines in his Big Dog Garage. Most are cars you’d expect to find in such a large collection, but occasionally you come across something a bit different.
Today, Jay has pulled out his fire engine for some play time, and the machine dates all the way back to 1911. It’s called a Christie Fire Engine, and it features a unique front-wheel-drive system. In fact, as the 9-ton behemoth rolls down the road, you can see that the center of the front wheel remains still while the outer rim and tire rotate around it.
Jay had driven another example of this fire engine on the show in a past episode. During that drive, the engine spit out a piston, which Leno shows to the camera in this segment. It seems to be the same size as an entire modern four-cylinder engine, and probably weighs as much.
Leno wanted one for himself, so he worked with firefighters and vintage fire engine communities on the east coast to find the one he wanted, finally tracking it down in Wayne, New Jersey. Now his unique machine will be donated to the Los Angeles Fire Fighters, serving as a great piece of Americana history.
This fire engine is quite an amazing piece of engineering. It’s got exposed gears, those unique front-wheel-drive hubs, and a center-mounted driving position that puts the occupant many feet above the ground. Leno dives into how the whole thing works, but also highlights those who helped bring this particular vehicle back to life.