The Brumbaugh Body Company of Altoona, Pennsylvania is fondly remembered
for the streamlined fire apparatus produced by the firm during the 1940s,
50s and 60s. The firm manufactured fire apparatus from 1937 until at least
1988 and remains in business today as a truck equipment vendor and
Brumbaugh Body was established in 1921 by Clarence Dilling Brumbaugh
(b.1895-d.1985), a Blair County native who was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania
on May 9, 1895 to Samuel Nicodemus Brumbaugh (b.1864-d.1934) and Hannah
Johnson Dilling (b.1870-d.1971). Clarence had one brother, Dr. Elmer Ralph
Brumbaugh (b.1901-d.1982) who first practiced general medicine and later
founded the Brumbaugh Hospital, a private institution located in Pen Argyle,
Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
The Brumbaugh family traces it American roots to Johannes Henrich
Brumbaugh, who emigrated from Rotterdam, Germany on the Ship Neptune in
September of 1754, settling in Frederick County, Pennsylvania. Clarence’s
grandfather, Rev. George Wineland Brumbaugh (b.1827-d.1916), was a minister
in the Church of the Brethren, and during the week ran a sawmill and
blacksmith shop in Fredericksburg, Blair Co., Pennsylvania.
Samuel Nicodemus Brumbaugh, Clarence’s father, was an accountant educated
at Juniata College, Zeth Business College, finally graduating from
Poughkeepsie Business College, in Poughkeepsie, New York. He was bookkeeper
for the George R. Stone for 33 years after which he went to work for his son
Clarence as secretary-treasurer of the Brumbaugh Body company.
Clarence graduated from Altoona High School in 1914 after which he found
employment in the Altoona repair and maintenance shops of the Pennsylvania
Railroad. He subsequently enlisted in the US Army, where he served in
France with the Four Hundred and Forty-sixth Engineer Corps for the duration
of the First World War.
After his safe return to Altoona, Brumbaugh returned to his job at the
Pennsylvania Railroad, but following a furlough during the post-war
depression of 1921 he started his own business, refinishing and repairing
wrecked automobiles in a one-car garage located behind 2511 Eighth Avenue,
Brumbaugh had a keen eye and talent for paint and bodywork and soon
became inundated with work. After several additions to his garage and the
consequent hiring of assistants, he relocated to larger quarters located at
Sixth avenue and Thirty-first street in 1924.
Brumbaugh placed a number of morbid display ads in the Altoona Mirror
between 1925 and 1928 depicting the wrecked racecar of driving ace Jimmy
Murphy, with the firm’s slogan, “You Wreck ‘Em We Fix ‘Em”.
The advertising blitz must have been successful as he became the Altoona
distributor of Hercules Truck Bodies and married nurse Anna Catherine
Kneisel (b.1904-d.1980) on September 1, 1927. The blessed union bore three
children, Clarence D. Jr. (b.1931-d.1931), Mary C. and William R. Brumbaugh.
A series of 1930 Chevrolet Truck display ads in the Altoona Mirror showed
a Hercules Delivery Body mounted by Brumbaugh Body Co., exclusive Altoona
distributor. The firm served as an official Hercules truck and dump body
distributor into the 1950s.
The Hercules Body deal brought the firm lots of commercial body customers
and they started building and modifying truck bodies for a large number of
Altoona businesses, so much so that they had outgrown their Sixth Ave garage
by 1935. The January 30, 1936 Altoona Mirror reported on the firms intention
to move into new quarters:
“Brumbaugh Body Company To Move
“Growing Local Concern Finding Need for Larger Quarters, Acquires A.S.
Ebersole Building, Plank Road.
“As soon as the necessary changes are made, the Brumbaugh Body company,
operated by C. D. Brumbaugh at Sixth avenue and Thirty-first street, will
move to its new home at Plank road intersection where the concern will
occupy the Albert S. Ebersole building erected there in 1921.
“Removal from the present location is made necessary by expansion of the
company's activities which has grown exceedingly within recent years. Its
new quarters at the intersection of three highways, Plank road, Logan and
Southern avenues will provide ample space in a modern building located
within the city limits.
“The Ebersole property embodies ground space of 60,000 square feet and
contains a brick structure having 28,000 square feet of floor space. There
will be ample facilities on
one floor for operations of the company without use of elevators or
ramps. This location is one of the few properties in Altoona having ample
parking space, storage facilities
being around the entire building. The National Motor Car company occupied
this location for many years.
“The history of the Brumbaugh Body company has been one of constant
expansion and development. In 1921 Clarence D. Brumbaugh started with a
one-car garage at the rear of 2511 Eighth avenue. Several additions were
made to this building and additional help was employed until some years ago
the firm moved to its present home at Sixth avenue and Thirty-first street.
“At this location additions were made from time to time until these
quarters were inadequate. On account of the Mill Run stream dividing the
property it was impractical
further to enlarge and this situation caused the firm to look elsewhere
“Several offers and inducements were made by outside towns to secure this
growing industry. Through the efforts of the local IEF the firm was induced
to remain at the present location and last year the closing of Mill Run was
started by a PWA project which would have enabled the firm to expand with
“But by securing the Ebersol property the Brumbaugh Body company will be
able to start immediately to make necessary changes for factory purposes. As
soon as these changes are made the firm will have plenty of space and room
for additions should they be needed later.
“Confining practically all its activities to building and repairing both
commercial and pleasure car bodies and their accessory parts, the firm has
had a steady growth from a one-man concern until last fall when it had
twenty-three men on the payroll. Since winter weather set in there have been
but eleven men on account of there not being sufficient working space
“While this firm sells truck bodies, school bus bodies and house trailers
which are manufactured by outside concerns located in Detroit, Mich.
Evansville, Ind., and Rock Hill, S.C., it is the intention upon installation
of necessary machinery, that the local firm will manufacture these bodies in
Altoona, thereby giving additional employment.
“Mr. Brumbaugh has acquired the entire plant at Plank road but at present
will use about half of the building, leaving the balance of the structure to
The move was completed by June 17, 1936 as recorded by the Altoona
“BRUMBAUGH BODY COMPANY LOCATED
“Concern Takes Occupancy of Remodeled and Enlarged Structure at Plank
“The Brumbaugh Body company has taken occupancy of its new home in the
enlarged and renovated Ebersole building at Plank Road intersection,
removing there from Sixth avenue and Thirty-first street.
“The decision to locate in larger and more up-to-date quarters came as a
result of the company's growth in recent years. The new home provides ample
space in a modern
building, situated at the intersection of three highways, Plank Road,
Logan and Southey Avenues.
“The entire building was rebuilt to meet the needs of the Brumbaugh
company. Twenty-one wood roof trusses were replaced with steel trusses More
than two miles of conduit wire cable were installed. A complete new heating
system will be installed later in the summer.
“An additional building, 40 by 70 feet, is under construction at present
and will further augment the facilities of the plant. Offices and display
rooms are of modernistic design and are most attractive to say the least.
“A large thirty-foot neon sign has been erected on top of the building.
Special attention has been given to the entrance of the building with eight
large doors installed to provide easy access to the structure.
“Large tractors and trailers now can drive into the building and drive
out without any necessity of reversing. Six barrels of white paint were used
in the body departments
alone, hoists mounted on traveling trolleys facilitate handling of
“Much new machinery is being installed and it the intention of C.D.
Brumbaugh, founder and owner of the company, to go into production
immediately on house trailers for automobiles.
“The history of the Brumbaugh Body company has been one of constant
growth and development. In 1921 Mr. Brumbaugh started with a one-car garage
at the rear of 2511 Eighth avenue. Several additions were made to this building and
additional help was employed until some years ago the firm moved to Sixth
avenue and Thirty-first street, where enlargements were made from lime to
time. However, the need for larger quarters became apparent and Mr.
Brumbaugh decided to move to the Ebersole block.
“With the occupancy of the new home, the Brumbaugh company has launched
what is believed will become an important industry here —the manufacture of
auto bodies and trailers.”
Brumbaugh’s trailer project was short-lived although the firm’s new
quarters allowed them to build larger vehicles such as bus bodies and
bookmobiles. Installing commercial bodies supplied by third-party
manufacturers was still large part of their business with dump, delivery and
refuse truck bodies being amongst their most popular items.
They were listed as a bus body manufacturer in Bus Transportation
magazine during the late 30s and also advertised their bookmobiles in the
American Library Association’s ALA Bulletin.
The firm’s move to 100 Plank St coincided with the manufacture of its
first known fire apparatus bodies, a totally custom-made product that soon
became the firm’s most popular line. A circa 1937 Brumbaugh hose body,
originally built for a 1937 Ford chassis is known to exist, although it’s
now mounted on a 1953 Chevrolet cab and chassis.
Although they built hundreds of pumpers on various customer supplied
chassis, their streamlined squad and rescue bodies were their most popular
products. Brumbaugh’s reputation was built upon the purpose-built squad cars
that were used by volunteer fire departments to pick up volunteers en route
to a fire scene, normally after the first responder left the fire house.
Brumbaugh’s versatile squad bodies could be easily up-fitted to provide
fire departments with lights, oxygen tanks, and other life-saving apparatus,
decades before the modern roll-up compartmentalized body became commonplace.
The firm pioneered the convertible squad body, a unique and useful body
that included a retractable canopy that could cover the normally open rear
compartment during inclement weather. The sliding canopy included window
openings that matched the fixed forward portion of the roof, making it
invisible when stored in its forward, (rear compartment open) position.
The manufacture of truck bodies and fire apparatus halted soon after the
United States entered the Second World War. However, Brumbaugh kept the
plant busy by successfully bidding on a number of large government war
contracts. One supplied the military with 700 plywood tool chests, another
with 2,975 3,000-gallon canvas water tanks, and a third with 12,000 canvas
cargo truck covers.
The September 17, 1945 Altoona Mirror wrote about the firm’s various
“Much Work In War Drive Done By Brumbaughs
“From the beginning of the activities of the Brumbaugh Body company in
1921, they have confined most of their work to building and repairing truck
bodies. This business
progressed rapidly from small one man's shop at the rear of 2511 Eighth
avenue to larger quarters at Sixth avenue and Thirty-first street.
“On June 19, 1936, the Brumbaugh Body company moved to their present
location at Plank road. At that time the building was completely revamped at
to accommodate their growing activities.
“After Pearl Harbor, truck body building was curtailed to such an extent
that it was necessary to find other lines of work which naturally led to war
work. The first item manufactured by the Brumbaugh Company was 700 ply wood
tool chests for the engineers. At this particular time a new modern addition
was built to the present plant to accommodate war work. Afterwards, contracts
were taken for about 2,975 canvas water tanks. The water tanks were manufactured
by seven different manufacturers throughout the United States. The water tanks
were 3,000 gallon capacity.
“Much difficulty was experienced in the beginning in manufacturing these
water tanks. Clarence D. Brumbaugh, head of the Brumbaugh company, was
called to Washington and Fort Belvoir engineer board concerning these
“Experiments were conducted in the Brumbaugh plant in Altoona, and also
by the Pennsylvania railroad laboratory at Sixteenth street. About six
different inventions were presented to the federal government by the Brumbaugh company and
accordingly, changes were made in specifications and drawings of these water
tanks. Many special machines were developed to manufacture these tanks.
“These tanks were sent to all parts of the world, primarily to be used
for storage of drinking water for soldiers and Marines. After contracts for
these water tanks were completed, the Brumbaugh Body company took on
contracts totaling approximately 15,000 canvas covers for trucks used on
cargo bodies. About 3,000 covers remained to be manufactured when V-J day
came and contracts were cancelled.
“Sub-contractors for the Brumbaugh company were Dura-Par Products,
Punxsutawney; General Process and Manufacturing company, Johnstown; Modern
Cabinet and Construction company, Altoona; Penn Public Spring and Wheel
Service, Altoona, and Textile corporation, Toledo, O.
“The Altoona High School vocational shops rendered distinct and valuable
aid in helping In develop some machines necessary for the manufacturing of
these war items. About 125 people were employed by the Brumbaugh Body
Post-war activities included an increase in truck and fire apparatus body
production as well as the introduction of the firm’s new trade name, Bruco.
They were also one of the numerous firms that built Crosley-based
fire-trucks for use in parades and county fairs. At least one Brumbaugh-built
1946 Crosley Firetruck exists today.
The December 17, 1949 Altoona Mirror reported on the firm’s entry into
the lucrative tractor cab business:
“Brumbaugh Body Co. Likes Knotty Problems In Trucking
“If you need a truck body that will serve as a portable lending library,
as a traveling salesroom for pianos, or as a refrigerator for perishable
foods you may have any one of these special bodies custom built right here
in Altoona by the Brumbaugh Body company at 100 West Plank road.
“Clarence D. Brumbaugh, who founded the company as a one-man enterprise
in 1921 when he was furloughed by the Pennsylvania railroad, yesterday took
an Altoona Mirror reporter and photographer on a tour of the present-day
plant which covers more than 80,000 square feet of floor space, employs 30
men and does a gross annual business in the neighborhood of $400,000.
“Mr. Brumbaugh pointed out that during World War II the Brumbaugh Body
Company handled war contracts and shipped products to all parts of the
world. Through the war years 125 men were employed at the plant. Many of
them helped turn out 3,000-gallon canvas water tanks which were used by the
United State armed forces all over the world.
“But the basic business at Brumbaugh Body company is the manufacture of
custom-built truck bodies.
“‘We concentrate on designing and building truck bodies to solve specific
problems. We build special bakery trucks, freight trucks, library trucks,
milk trucks, refrigerator trucks, fire trucks and squad cars,’ Mr. Brumbaugh
said, adding that new machinery is currently being installed which will
enable the company to build steel dump truck bodies, a type which up to now
the firm hasn’t produced.
“Brumbaugh Body also manufactures hundreds of neat, weatherproof cabs
which are used on tractors in industrial plants to afford protection for the
driver while providing maximum visibility. These are sold under the trade
name of ‘Bruco’ cabs and are now in general use all over the United States
“‘Several years ago when I received the first order for one of these
tractor cabs I thought there wouldn't be much in it,’ Mr. Brumbaugh said, ‘I
figured tractors were used exclusively by farmers and not many of them would
want shelter cabs on their tractors. Fortunately, we learned that the cabs
were intended for use on tractors in industrial plants and managed to whip
out a pretty fair product. The cabs caught on and we've been
turning them out ever since.
“‘That's one thing about this business,’ Mr. Brumbaugh commented. ‘You've
got to look into everything. An idea that doesn't look like much at first
turns into a winner, and an idea that looks great at first glance often
winds up a dud.’
“Two special squad and equipment fire trucks are currently under
construction at Brumbaugh Body. One, for the Alpha Fire Company at State
College, was nearing completion yesterday and its bright red body gleamed
with newness. A workman was painting the name of the fire company in gold
letters on the side of the truck and another workman was busy installing
“Mr. Brumbaugh proudly displayed the innumerable compartments which house
special equipment, including portable pumps and generators.
“‘These compartments are all of our own special design,’ he said proudly.
He called to another workman, ‘show them how the lights work, let them hear
the horn.’ The lights worked fine, the red blinkers on the top of the cab
winked on and off alternately, the windshield wipers whipped back and forth
across the lustrous glass, and the siren whirred out in great style.
Mr. Brumbaugh beamed.
“‘We have another fire squad and equipment truck under construction for
the Windber Fire company,’ Mr. Brumbaugh said, leading the way to the second
“The Windber truck wasn't as far along toward completion as the State
College truck but it wasn't without some obvious features already. For one
thing, in order to save space for the truck body and control the overall
length of the truck, workmen at Brumbaugh Body had moved the steering column
and gear forward of the front wheels. They had applied special springs and a
heavier and wider front axle to the truck and had modified the design of the
“‘It's going to work out all right,’ Mr. Brumbaugh said. ‘We've solved
the space and length problems.’
“At another point in the plant workmen were putting together the steel
framework of a truck body which ultimately will carry three pianos in what
will amount to a portable showroom. ‘It's for a Maryland store; a new
selling idea,’ Mr. Brumbaugh said. ‘The potential customer has the pianos
brought right to his door and then walks inside the truck and plays there.’
“In addition to designing and building truck bodies, Brumbaugh Body
workmen engage in painting, trimming, glasswork and other skills. The
business has come a long way from the small garage at 2511 Eighth avenue
where Mr. Brumbaugh started with a one-man enterprise. In 1924 he acquired a
new location at Sixth avenue and Thirty-first street and, in 1936, obtained
his present location.
“‘It hasn't been particularly easy keeping the firm moving,’ Mr.
Brumbaugh said. ‘For instance, when we moved in here part of the roof fell
in immediately and we had a $22,000 repair bill before we even turned a
wheel. But we have managed to do pretty well and I have a lot of confidence
in the future.’”
After graduating from Hollidaysburg High School, William R. Brumbaugh,
the son of the firm’s founder, embarked upon a course of business
administration at Juniata college, after which he joined the family business
as vice-president. Coincidentally, his grandfather, Samuel Nicodemus
Brumbaugh, also a Juniata grad, worked for his father Clarence in the late
twenties and early thirties as treasurer and head of the Body Co.’s
The June 13, 1959 Altoona Mirror included an article detailing the firm’s
association with the Ford Motor Company:
“Brumbaugh Body Firm Shifts To Cab Units
“Original Emphasis On Truck Bodies Changes With Newer Demands.
“Emphasis at the Brumbaugh Body Company, Inc., at 100 W.Plank Rd., has
shifted in the 37 years since Clarence D. Brumbaugh began the business in a
small garage at 2511 8th Ave. In 1921 he started making truck bodies and
repairing them. Today, the firm's 40 to 50 workers are concentrated on
making cab enclosures for industrial tractors and bulldozers and in
custom-built fire engines. Truck bodies now comprise less than 10 per cent
of the total business.
“‘Care of the operator of a $50,000 machine has become a big factor in
the business.’ Mr. Brumbaugh explained. ‘Years ago the operators sat out in
the sun rain hail and cold. Now if the operator of a big machine gets the
sniffles, his wife calls up the boss and reports him off work. Without an
operator, the big expensive machine is idle. So the trend is to make it more
comfortable for the operator.’
“Firm Now Incorporated
“As a result, Brumbaugh Body Company, which became incorporated April 1
of this year, has become involved in building cabs. It has devised several
patents and is setting its sights on some larger contracts for the future.
“It has sent one order of 20 and another of 14 cabs to the Ford Motor
Company, which installs them on Ford tractors are being shipped all over the
United States and into Canada, he said.
“The founder, Mr Brumbaugh, is president of the newly incorporated firm.
First vice president is Melvin Bigelow; second vice president is the son of
the founder, William Brumbaugh, and vice president in charge of production
is Paul Luckner. Treasurer is Frank Bomberger, who has been with the firm 32
years, and secretary is Miss Mary Bookhammer.
“Another large portion of Brumbaugh’s present business is their building
of special fire apparatus. Altoona Mirror readers will remember seeing on
April 2 the picture of a prototype $33,000 quadruple fire-fighting truck
built here for the South River, N.J. fire department.
“About six months were required top engineer and build the unit, which
had a 65-foot hydraulic controlled aluminum ladder, a 750-gallon pumping
unit, a 300-gallon booster tank, a reel for its booster tank hose, 250 feet
of ground ladders and a life net.
“Brumbaugh has built similar special trucks of all types for fire
departments across the country. Clarence Brumbaugh founded the company as a
one-man enterprise in 1921 when he was furloughed by the Pennsylvania
Railroad Company. He started making truck bodies. In 1924, he acquired a
new location at 6th Ave and 31st St.
“One of the first Altoonans to sense the future economic and business
development of the Plank Rd. area, Mr. Brumbaugh moved his plant to its
present location in 1936. He has prospered there. The plant embraces about
80,000 square feet of floor space and employs about a half-hundred workers.
“But the basic business of Brumbaugh in the years since the war had
become the manufacture of weather-proof cabs to protect the operator of
tractors and bulldozers and other heavy work equipment, while affording
In 1962 Frank B Bomberger retired as treasurer and was replaced by Warren
H. Emeigh, the husband of Clarence D. Brumbaugh’s daughter, Mary C. Her
brother, William R. Brumbaugh remained vice-president as did Paul Luckner.
The firm also established a satellite branch 8 miles south of Altoona at 1
Jennifer Rd., Wye Switches, Duncansville, Pennsylvania.
In a recent issue of Enjine! Enjine!, fire apparatus historian Warren
Jenkins reports that:
“During the late 60s the Washington DC Fire Department
obtained the largest fleet of Brucos in use by a major city. DCFD had 5
engines, 4 rescues, and a salvage/air truck, all on various Ford chassis.”
The popularly priced Ford and GMC cab-over chassis proved popular with many of Brumbaugh’s customers during the 1960s and
70s. Purpose-built rescue trucks remained the firm’s most well-known product
although many pumpers and hose trucks were also delivered. Less popular and
significantly more expensive were the firm’s ladder and aerial platform
trucks, which were equipped with whatever units the customer desired albeit,
a Grove, Hi-Ranger, Smeal or Memco.
During the late 1960s and 1970s Brumbaugh offered a line of custom-built
apparatus built on purpose-built Duplex chassis although Hendrickson, FWD/Seagrave and International chassis
could be substituted. Although Bruco fire apparatus was occasionally advertised
in the national trades, most sales emanated within Pennsylvania and the
surrounding area; Washington D.C., Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey
and New York.
During the late 1970s Clarence D. Brumbaugh gradually withdrew from the
day-to-day management of the firm which was taken over by his son, William.
Clarence Dilling Brumbaugh the firm’s founder and namesake, passed away on
February 25, 1985 at the age of 89. He was predeceased by his wife, Anna on
March 19, 1980.
Clarence was a charter member of the Twenty-Eighth Street Church of the
Brethren of Altoona, Altoona Lions Club, director of the First National
Bank, and board member of the Morrison Cove Home in Martinsburg,
A circa 1986 listing of Brumbaugh Body lists 21 employees and list the
following officers: William R. Brumbaugh, president; Paul Luckner,
vice-president; Warren H. Emigh, treasurer; and James Brumbaugh, manager FT
A budget line of Brumbaugh compartmentalized bodies was introduced in the
early 1980s that were supplied to the firm by the Morysville Body Works of
Boyertown, Pennsylvania. Most were mounted on medium-duty Ford, GMC and
Chevrolet chassis and offered as small pumpers, rescue trucks and brush
Although Brumbaugh continued to produce small numbers of full-sized fire
truck bodies, their primary focus was on refurbishing existing fire
apparatus and sheet metal fabrication. In the early 1990s they abandoned
their Altoona factory and moved into a new facility southeast of Altoona in
Sometime in the 1990s William R. Brumbaugh sold the Duncansville facility
to his brother-in-law, Warren H. Emigh. Today, Warrens’ son, W. Scott Emeigh
is president of the firm which remains in the truck equipment business,
albeit as an installer and distributor of Wheelchair and Scooter Lifts,
Adaptive Driving Equipment and Meyer & Western Snow Plows. The
Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania facility remains listed as a sheet-metal
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com