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The History of the Dennis F44 (Motor Engine No. 407)

In the lead up to our Dennis Heritage Day to be held this coming Sunday, we thought we would share a little bit of information on one the vehicles that will be the main feature; the Dennis F44 (Motor Engine 407).

The Dennis F44 (ME 407) at Crows Nest, c. 1978

While the iconic Dennis appliances deserve a day to themselves, the Dennis theme was inspired by a noteworthy story which dates back 50 years. In 1971, the Board of Fire Commissioners placed forty-two new Dennis pumpers into service as part of a dedicated effort to equip their brigades with state-of-the-art firefighting appliances. It was the largest pumper intake in the Brigades’ history, compared to an average annual intake of nineteen units seen over the nine years prior.

The Dennis F44 (ME 407) at the Museum of Fire formed part of this historic intake and was first placed into service at Crows Nest in April 1971. It was supplied in its built-up form, rather than as an unbodied chassis which had been common practice in the New South Fire Brigades (NSWFB) for almost two decades. For the first time in the NSWFB’s history, a four-speed automatic transmission unit was also fitted.

The Dennis F44 was powered by the Rolls Royce B81 series petrol engine, which was manufactured specifically for military use. The B81 engine was available in 4-, 6-, and 8-cylinder versions, and Dennis Bros utilised both the 6- and 8-cylinder versions in their models. The B81 had a capacity of 6.5 litres, developing 235 BHP @ 4000 rpm.

An advertisement for the F44 fire appliance with specifications on the Rolls Royce B81 Engine

ME 407 remained at Crows Nest Fire Station for eleven years, before it was removed in November 1982. The appliance then was transferred to Broken Hill, where it served as a spare between 1983 and 1985. Withdrawn in the month of June 1985, the Dennis F44 (ME 407) made its way to its final home at the Museum, arriving onsite in July 1985.

It now forms part of Fire and Rescue NSW’s Heritage Fleet and is cared for by the Museum’s devoted volunteers. It still drives like a dream and is often used in the parades that the Museum take part in. As the F44 will be turning 50 this year (since it was originally placed into service), it will be front and centre of our Heritage Day Display. The F44 will be joined by a number of other Dennis appliances which date from the late 1920s to the early 1970s; visually charting the development of the iconic fire engine.

The Dennis F44 (ME 407) at Broken Hill Fire Station, c. 1983

The 'Baby' Dennis F44

Before we sign off, we could not miss the opportunity to talk about the ‘Baby’ Dennis F44 model which you may have seen on your most recent visit to the Museum. The model is approximately one third the size of the standard Dennis F44 appliance and is self-propelled, with two twelve-volt batteries required to power the electric motor. It was designed and built by Australian Electric Vehicle Manufacturers P/L. Interestingly, it is also a favourite of Duke’s (our very own Museum mascot).

-Story and Research by Museum of Fire Curatorial Team

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