PHOTOS: Vintage Utility Vehicles You’d Never See Today

A lot can change over the course of a century, especially when it comes to automobiles. In the early part of the 20th century, automobiles were becoming more widely available, and police, fire, and other public services went to work, experimenting with how to develop and use this form of transport to their benefit. Of course, progress isn’t a straight line, and there were many ideas that quickly became outdated. A horse-drawn horse ambulance, Cadillac funeral coach-ambulance combination car, and a GM delivery truck that resembles a Swiss train are just a few of the odd vehicles you’re about to see.

Search Lights Were Added to this 1900 NYC Fire Car

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Bettmann/Contributor
Bettmann/Contributor

This image was taken on October 10, 1900, during New York’s Fire Prevention Day Parade. During this time, the vehicles used by the fire department could be called a Chief Unit, Fly Car, Fly Vehicle, or Fire Car, among other names.

In the year 1900, United States fire departments had just begun using automobiles instead of horse-drawn buggies and were driven by the Fire Chief’s assistance, Deputy Chief, or someone specifically hired to the department as Chief’s Driver. This Fire Car shows off the newly-introduced searchlights.