Special Feature

July 2003

The Crowns of the movie


or we could call it: "Terminator 3: Sacrifice of the Firecoaches"

Article by Mike Britt

(Click on photos to see bigger images) 

(Warning: If you don't like to have surprises spoiled, you might want to see the movie first and then read this article and view the photos below!)

Two CFE members, Joe Ortiz (Ortiz Firetrucks) and Darrell Gilbert (AKDarcy and who both work with the motion picture industry, supplied the emergency vehicles used in this sci-fi action drama. CFE member Kevin O'Connell also was hired and worked on fabricating a Firecoach cab. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," is the third in the Terminator series which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cybernetic humanoid who comes back from the future to help save the earth from mechanical killers, known as "Terminators," also from the future.

Early in the development of the movie, the artists who drew the "story board" sketches of the crane chase sequence, based their drawing of the fire engine on sample photos of a Crown widebody with a telesqurt. When it came time to find the rigs to be used in the film, a rig with wide windshields and a telesqurt is what the studio insisted that they wanted, even when other pumpers with wide windshields (but no telesqurt) such as Emergency Ones were available (and who hasn't wanted to see one of those blown up!) But unfortunately for Crown fans, the only used apparatus with a telesqurt and wide windshields that could be located was a Crown. Not to give too much away, but the wide windshields were needed for things to crash through them and fly out of them.

For the filming, two identical looking rigs were needed, plus a mock-up "process" cab for close up shots inside a sound stage. One of the rigs needed to be fully operational to be driven in the (soon to be infamous) crane chase sequence with firefighters in the cab. The second rig was the "stunt double" - a shell with the insides gutted and rigged with explosives and blown to bits. Through the magic of editing, it appears to the audience that it is all one rig.

Two Crowns widebodies were located. One was serial number F1820, a 1979, 500/1500 with a 50' telesqurt, ex-Huntington Beach FD, acquired from used fire apparatus dealer Fire Etc., in San Diego. The other was serial number F1830, a 1979, 500/1500 pumper, ex-Orange County FD. This was acquired from a private party in Bonsall, CA, in San Diego County (it had originally been sold at Porter Auction in July 2001 to a truck dealer in Wilmington, CA). The ex-Huntington Beach rig was chosen as the fully operational rig for the chase scene, and the ex-Orange County pumper was made to look like it. To accomplish this, a third rig, a 1978 Pierce/Ford C-cab pumper with a 50' telesqurt (ex-Chula Vista FD) was acquired from Pierce in Ontario, CA. The telesqurt assembly, pump panel, and other parts were removed from the Pierce/Ford and mounted onto the Crown pumper.

(Left):F1830 (L) and F1820 (R) before being reworked for the movie. (Center): Ex-Chula Vista 1978 Pierce/Ford with telesqurt boom removed. (Right): Cab from F1830 used for sound stage filming.
At the same time, the cab off the ex-Orange County pumper was removed to be used in the sound stage and a third cab was mounted on the pumper/telesqurt "stunt-double" in its place. This cab was actually the cab from the very last (unfinished/unsold) Firecoach that many CFE members know about. This unfinished cab was easier than the actual cab to make into a "break away" cab. It had no doors or bumpers or windshields, so it was necessary for it to be constructed (CFE member Kevin O'Connell was hired to lead this effort), but in a manner that would easily destruct with the help of explosives. Windshields, bumpers, and other necessary parts were acquired from Westcoach Services in Chino which still does work on Crown buses and stocks Crown parts.

The Detroit Diesel engine, Allison transmission, Watererous pump and transfer case, and the water tank were all removed from the pumper/telesqurt stunt-double rig. The body and telesqurt boom were cut at strategic locations and held in place with only small spot welds so that the rig would break apart at those locations when exploded. The frame rails were cut behind the cab and the rig held together with two pieces of lumber. The rig was wired with pyrotechnic explosives, including motar launchers, one inside the cab.

F1830 with new cab and telesqurt and rear panel from Ford/Pierce installed. Boom was cut to break apart in explosion.
The chase sequence has one of the world's largest cranes (shipped in specially from Europe for the movie) being driven by the evil female terminator with Arnold Schwarzenegger character in hot pursuit on an Indian police motorcycle. The crane boom swings back and forth, crashing into and destroying things. A blue tractor trailer truck hauling pressurized gas canisters is hit and explodes, colliding with a fire department squad which also explodes and flips. Of interest is the fact that the 500 gallon water tank from the Crown pumper was painted blue and put on the trailer and becomes part of the large debris.

When the crane boom swings out and knocks Arnold off his motorcycle, he hangs onto the hook at the end of the boom. The boom swings over and knocks him into an LAFD ambulance which rolls over and crashes.

Images © Warner Brothers Pictures
Trailer full of gas canisters explodes and crahes into fire dept. squad which flips as Arnold passes by on PD bike.
Images © Warner Brothers Pictures
An LAFD Ford Rescue Ambulance is no match for the force of Arnold's body when the crane swings him into it.
We see the Crown telesqurt approaching from the opposite direction, rolling code 3 (as LAFD Engine 40), with a crew of firemen inside. The crane boom swings Arnold into the cab and he is smashed into it, but hangs onto the front of the cab. We see the shocked firemen looking at him through the windshield. Arnold reaches through the broken windshield and says "I'll drive" and takes control of the steering wheel from the outside and the Crown pulls a fast U-turn. The firemen are all tossed out of the cab and then Arnold chases the craane as he is driving the Crown. Not for long, however, because like almost everything else in the chase sequence, the Crown Firecoach is destroyed. It explodes in a huge fireball, the cab desintigrating and the hosebed body flying up in the air in flames.

Images © Warner Brothers Pictures
The sequence above shows the Crown Firecoach Telesqurt exploding into flames and breaking apart.

The Remains:

The body of Crown F1830 which was split from the cab in the explosion. Note how the telesqurt boom separated at the cut points and the broken boards that were used to hold frame rails together. Undamaged and usable parts were salvaged off both the body and cab before the remains were sold for scrap.
The cab of the Crown that was exploded and split in half. Note the motar launcher and steering wheel in the center used to position the engineless and driverless "stunt double" Firecoach. Doors and roof were rigged to easily blow off.
(Left): Remains of the cab roof and part of the boom. (Center): The Detroit Diesel engine that was removed from F1830.

(Above right): F1820 was heavily damaged in the crane chase sequence, hit by the boom in the front and sieswiped on the right side, however, it was not completely destroyed like F1830.

Click here to go the official Terminator3 website where you can view the Terminator 3 domestic movie trailer online.

There are numerous unofficial T3websites and fan sites. Click here for a UK site that has lots of links to other sites.

©2003 Crown Firecoach Enthusiasts.

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