Challenger Corporation - 1950s-1970s - Memphis, Tennessee
|In 1959, General Motors purchased
the name "Comet" from the coachbuilder for use on Mercury's version of the
Ford Falcon. Starting with the 1960 model year the former Comet Coach Co.
was called Cotner/Bevington, named so after the company's two founders. They
moved from Memphis a few miles North to Blytheville, Arkansas and stayed in
business through the 1975 model year, building only on Oldsmobile chassis
after about 1964. They were bought out by Divco-Wayne (of school bus, milk
truck, step van, and Miller-Meteor fame) in about 1964.
Wayne's line of truck-based ambulances ("Sentinel" Suburbans starting for the 1968 model year, "Vanguard" Chevrolet vans for 1971, and "Medicruiser" Dodge vans for 1973) were built in the Blytheville facility until the ambulance product line was sold in about 1980. It was sold to Gene Knisley, owner of Mid-Continent Conversion Co., which was an ambulance/medicar builder in Kansas City, Mo. The name of that company was later changed to Stratus Specialty Vehicles, which no longer builds ambulances.
The Sentinel Suburbans received a headroom increase for 1971, but were only built through the 1972 model year. After that, the name was used on Wayne's line of Type I (pickup chassis) modular ambulances.
Steve Lichtman or Terry Lange, help me on this...were the Challenger (Memphis, Tenn.) Suburban ambulances known as "Centurions?" I have a vague memory of their logo showing a medieval-type warrior, but I don't have time to dig one out to look at.
Challenger was in business from the late 1950s (I think) through about 1974. Even though they built some standard Suburbans, they were famous for their stretched Suburban hightop ambulances. For many years, they used 1963 Plymouth taillights as their standard front and rear flashers.
ad 1963 GMC Truck Equipment Catalog pp52 - Challenger Centurion Rescue Ambulance
Challenger Corp., 4933 Lamar Ave, Memphis, Tennessee
Yes, Challenger ambulances were Centurions. I have an ad for the
Challenger Corporation of Memphis, TN, which shows a long '65 Suburban
ambulance, and it states they are the "Manufacturers of the Centurion
Ambulance". There is no logo. Interestingly, rather than custom building a
side door for the ambulance, as National did, Challenger used another front
door for the back door, complete with the vent window. There is a triangular
sheet metal plate with a round side flasher that covers the space where the
door angles for the windshield.
Challenger Corporation... Challenger dates back to at least 1957, as I was shown a photocopy of a newspaper article about a fleet of Challenger DeSoto sedan ambulances when I was there in 1974, and it concerned the last of those ambulances being retired and crushed. By the mid-'60's, the mainstay of Challenger's work was ambulance conversions of Suburbans and panel trucks, and that work went on at least as far as 1974. This firm did a Suburban stretched ambulance for the Cincinnati suburb of Evendale, and it even had a sink with running water in the left front corner of the partition, as well as a custom built step bumper with compartments in its face.
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