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Brumbaugh Body Co.
Brumbaugh Body Company, 1921–1988; Altoona, Pennsylvania; 1962-present; Duncansville, Pennsylvania; 1990-present; Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania
Associated Builders

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 installer.

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, Altoona.

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 for enlargement

“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 new buildings.

“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 inside.

“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 other concerns.”

The move was completed by June 17, 1936 as recorded by the Altoona Mirror:


“Concern Takes Occupancy of Remodeled and Enlarged Structure at Plank Road Intersection.

“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 bodies.

“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 wartime activities:

“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 considerable expense

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 problems.

“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 company.”

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 and Canada.

“‘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 special lights.

“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 truck.

“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 grillework.

“‘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 bookkeeping department.

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 maximum visibility.”

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 immediate 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, Pennsylvania.

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 division.

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 rigs.  

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 Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

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 fabrication shop.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -







Phyllis Brechbiel Hanson - The Dilling-Puterbaugh Family Chronicle, pub 1991

Warren Jenkins – Bruco - Enjine! Enjine!, SPAAMFAA, 2009-4 issue.

Walter M.P. McCall & George H. Dammann - American Fire Engines Since 1900

Fred W. Crismon - Fire Engines

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