By: Larry Lorance


Columnist Dave Barry wrote “There is a fine line between a hobby and mental illness”.  For those of us who collect “stuff”, we can certainly relate to Dave’s writing.  I prefer to call it a passion for collecting; my wife calls it something else!


 For me, my first passion was collecting baseball cards.  For boys in the 60’s baseball cards [and comic books] were  money.  You would trade, toss, and sell them.  You kept them in a PF Flyer shoe box in your closet.  The “keepers” were kept safe in a cigar box hidden from public view; you always knew if someone had rearranged them.  Heaven knows how many Roger Maris or Mickey Mantle cards ended up connected to my bicycle’s spokes with clothespins; I am convinced at least $5000.00 worth!  I HATED the gum that came with every pack of cards!


Later in life I moved to coin operated machines.  I had jukebox, pinball, gum, slot, and trade stimulator machines.  I even had a Skeeball at one time.  It became obvious collecting these items required a great deal of room.   When the jukebox broke and threw 45 RPM records half way across the room, I got rid of everything and started to look for another passion that would take up less room and required zero upkeep.


Ten years ago, I started collecting model emergency vehicles.  I’ve always enjoyed the fire service.  When I was a kid a would ride by bike, along with those expensive baseball cards, to the Arvada, CO. Volunteer Fire Department to hang out.   It was a place I could get a bottled soda for a nickel and climb on the trucks.  The department had a soda machine that I really had to take a gamble on.  You inserted your nickel in the machine,  move the bottle through a maze, and pull in out at the end of this maze.  At any time, the bottle could fall into the case and if if fell in the wrong place, you could not pull it out.


My very first truck was a Tonka engine that had a fire hydrant that connected to the garden hose.  However, that truck did not last long; it was in the trash after its second response.  At the age of seven, my father had a nice fire going in the fireplace when I decided it would be a great time to test the garden hose to hydrant to the trucks hose theory.  The theory worked well.  The fireplace fire was “tapped” out in record time.   Unfortunately, that was the last response this truck ever made!


I now have over 300 model emergency vehicles in my collection.  The collection takes up the entire wall of our family room.  It includes police vehicles, ambulances, fireboats, fire trucks / engines, helicopters, airport crash trucks, and command vehicles from around the world.  I try and get a model from every major city I visit.






My pride and joy is a scale replica of the San Francisco Fireboat Phoenix.  This model is built entirely from scratch, using only wood, museum board, and pulp based compound.  It was hand made by Vaclav Niedermertl, who’s been a master model boat maker for most of his life.  


Only three of these models were produced. This model took almost 65 hours to complete and measures 28” long x 13” high x 6” wide and weighs approximately 7.5 lbs.


SFFD Fireboat Phoenix


I have local police models from Dallas, Fort Worth, Allen, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, and the Texas Highway Patrol.  I have model fire apparatus form Dallas, Fort Worth, Cedar Hill, Alliance Airport, and Houston.  I was lucky to find a model, made in Germany, of Fort Worth’s Ladder 1 “The Tower of Power”. 


Model of Fort Worth’s Ladder 1


Also, a small version of Dallas’s old “Hook and Ladder” Truck 3, that was stationed just down the street.   Very few of these models exist today.


I even have a model of Plano’s Engine 180, the first due engine to my home!


Model of Plano Engine 180

On November 24, 2003 the employees of Seagrave handed over the keys to a all-new Commander II Rescue Pumper to the firefighters and officers of SQUAD 61.   This new apparatus offers the latest in technology and was dedicated and put into service by the Fire Department of New York.  When the truck was delivered to the FDNY then Seagrave President Jim Hebe said “I can assure you, the heart and soul of this truck is committed to protecting the crew of Squad 61 every day until retired."  I was lucky enough to receive a foot long model of Squad 61 with opening doors and compartments.

Model of FDNY Squad 61

Most of the models come preassembled and are made from die cast metal.  I purchased most of them from a company that specializes in limited edition fire models: Code 3 Collectibles.  EBay and other collectors are also great sources.


Five years ago, I started a website,, for collectors of model emergency vehicles.  This site now gets over 15,000 hits per month and is visited by collectors from around the world.


During an extended stay in Los Angeles, I became friends some folks that have close connections with the Los Angeles Fire Department.  As a result of that friendship, I became  webmaster of  This site is dedicated to Southern California Firefighters.   We have volunteer staff photographers that photograph incidents, mostly in the Los Angeles County area.  The photos have appeared in a number of national fire publications and we are constantly mentioned in the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s website. 


Well, it’s time to dust the models.  There is no hobby that has zero upkeep!


Share you passion, email me!