F-Series Twin Life Ambulances
In the early eighties a particularly clever ambulance design concept emerged in South Australia. As the cost of ambulance conversions began to climb, it became obvious to some people that a modular ambulance body that could be lifted from its old chassis (the parts that wore out) as a complete unit and then relocated to a new chassis was an attractive option. St.John produced a wooden mock-up on the back of a utility, “something like what they wanted” and approached Javelin bodyworks at Elizabeth, under the leadership of Les Brazier (who now operates Les Brazier Special Vehicles). Les and his team solved many of the challenges and were able to successfully realise this extremely demanding design brief. Through a combination of hard work and highly developed practical design skills, Javelin was able to pull it off – to design and manufacture a durable, yet functional, and safe, re-usable ambulance modular body.
The Javelin designed, F-100, F-150 and F-250 “Twin-Life” ambulance modules became, arguably the most successful, and long lived, ambulance body designed in Australian ambulance history. The prototypes were ready in 1982, and the first Javelin “Twin-Life” F-100 equipped ambulance was fully operational in 1984. Remarkably there are still “Twin –Life” ambulances on the road 26 years later in 2008. Many of the original grooved rear-wheel-arch F-100 modules from 1984 were still around as operational ambulance modules as recently as 2005 – clearly demonstrating the strength and soundness of the original body.
One of the original F-100 Twin Life Ambulances, Fleet 165 at Torrens Centre 1986. The grooved rear wheel arch is clearly visible, less noticeable is the fact that the whirly-bird ventilator is at the back on top of the roof, it moved to the front later.
Given that St.John and SA Ambulance have generally kept each of their vehicles for 200,000 km, it is conceivable that some modules have travelled over 600,000 km as many of the grove arch bodies were still in the fleet on the last cab version used, the 1998 F-250 7.3 litre diesels.
The driver’s compartment of Fleet 165 as above. Note the “Dolphin” torch in a clip beneath the dashboard and the trauma kit between the seats.
An rare earlier photo of Fleet 165 T Torrens Centre 1984, shortly after the “Twin-Life” ambulances had become operational. Note the white bonnet, and the standard number plate. Hella driving lights were excellent at night; a trap for young players was inadvertently leaving the plastic covers on. Alongside is a Ford XE Falcon clinic car.
Fleet 102 in its red-writing no-St.John livery at Fulham Gardens, around 1991. Note the grooved rear wheel arch showing this as an earlier F-100 style module that is on its second time round. External locker 14 behind the driver door contained the rescue kit.
Fleet 145 again in the red-writing livery on the road. The F-150s still had all red beacons. This unit has the smooth rear wheel-arch module, and the SJQ number plates also introduced in the late 80s.
Fleet 155 at Blackwood centre around 1987. Note that beacons are smaller and rounded compared with the Fleet 145 shot above and the older style Ambulance illuminated top sign is simpler than the ‘fancy’ one above. The fleet number is plain and not as fancy but it does have the SJQ number plate.
Fleet 155 in the car park at Blackwood centre in 1990. This shot shows how well the reflective tape stands out at night, and also shows the function of the illuminated ambulance sign.
A lovely photo taken by Phil Dunkley of Fleet 155 at Blackwood centre May 1991 with the brand-new Blackwood FJ75 Toyota First Aid Unit Fleet 905. Fleet 155 has fog lamps and still has the St.John Ambulance livery to the last.
The new Fleet 155 at Fulham Gardens around 1991. Note that beacons are bigger and the vehicle as the no St.John red writing and the new SA Ambulance Service badge. The presence of the small amber repeater under the F-Series Ambulance badge shows that this is a new cab-chassis to the one 155 had a Blackwood.
The new Fleet 155 at Fulham Gardens around 1991 – another angle. Smooth rear wheel arch and the fixed rear step are evident. The rear doors wrap around above the tail-lamps. Note the tail-lamp units are rounded in each of the inner corners
The new Fleet 66 on the back of a recovery vehicle after a break-down. Note the rear door on this earlier type module does not wrap around at the back, and the tail-lamps are squared in each of the inner corners.
Another view of Fleet 66 on the back of a recovery vehicle after a break-down. Note the rear door on this earlier type module does not wrap around at the back.
Rear interior Fleet 155 at Blackwood with Ray the Divisional Ambulance Officer.
Fleet 351 at Marion Centre around 2003. In the red writing livery. Note that by this time the beacons are now mixed red and blue same as on the green livery vehicles.
Fleet 351 at Marion Centre again, rear view. Reversing lamps are in the rear bumper step and note the rear high-mounted stop lamps and turning indictors are rectangular by this time.
Fleet 201 in green and silver South Australian Ambulance Service (SAAS) livery with the diagonal red and white reflective stripe. This is an older F100 utility-based module that is still in use and possibly on its third life. The front roof vents have changed to fixed scoop ones, and the sidelights are rectangular.
Fleet 201, the bull-bar shows this to be a country car with fog lamps under the bumper. By this time SAAS were using AMB number plates. The shiny green bonnet looks very smart and the LED bar on the top of the module above the speaker boxes is also visible. To correspond with the LED bar there is also a red and blue repeater behind the bull-bar.
Fleet 201, rear view showing the fixed step, similar to Fleet 351, the SAAS badge on the screening on the rear window, and the rectangular high level brake lamp and turning indicator.