What's the story?
Paul Hazell still isn't quite sure why he's so fascinated by Land Rovers that have been RAF crash-rescue tenders, but there's no doubt that he is. He's now restored three of them and helped to restore others. So when he told me in 2011 that he was going to tackle that third one, I made sure we kept in touch. After all, it was a type nobody had restored before – an ACRT.
So, just what is an ACRT? Well, the initials stand for Airfield Crash Rescue Truck. The prototype was built in 1960 on a Series II 109, and about 180 followed before 1968, latterly on a Series IIA chassis.
Despite the red paint, it wasn't a conventional fire engine, although it would have been operated by the fire crews on an RAF station. Specially built, its purpose was to be first on the scene if an aircraft crash-landed, and to rescue the crew. The main fire would be dealt with by the bigger fire trucks that would take longer to get to the incident.
Our favourite bit?
Restoring something like this is in a different league to restoring a standard Land Rover. You can't just walk into a specialist and ask for a searchlight to suit an ACRT – you have to be into the military scene – but even after three years of searching, Paul hasn't found the right one. 'The proper one was made by Harley and was bigger,' he says, pointing to the Francis searchlight. You wouldn't know it wasn't right unless you're an expert – but Paul is, so he's still looking.
It helps that Paul is a skilled fabricator: finding the correct hose racks was just never going to happen, so he made them himself. He likes to work from period photographs, and you won't be surprised to hear that he has gathered quite a collection. Some have come from former RAF fire crew, some are official photographs, and others have come from enthusiasts. One way or another – and with the aid of things like the operator's handbook – he was able to get an accurate idea of the way things looked.
And the verdict from LRO contributor James Taylor?
Though Paul enjoys the finished article – and still owns the TACR-1 that started him off with these restorations – it's the research and the restoration that really fire his imagination. As a result, he's considering parting with the ACRT and he's got his eye on something that could become the next project. If he does it half as well as he's done this one, it'll be a stunner.