F-100 (F100) Twin Life Ambulances (1982 to 1988)


In the early eighties a particularly innovative ambulance design concept emerged in South Australia that went on to win an Australian Design Award. As the cost of specialised ambulance body conversions began to climb, it became obvious to some within the St.John Council of South Australia 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. 



A rare early photo of Fleet 165 at Torrens Centre 1984, shortly after the Twin-Life ambulances had become operational in late 1983.  At this stage, the Twin-Life ambulances still had a glossy white bonnet, and the standard number plate (registration number UGL-526).  There no external locker 14 on this vehicle (see later image below).  The Hella driving lights were excellent at night but a trap for young players was inadvertently leaving the plastic covers fitted and turning the lamps on – they produce a lot of heat and could melt the covers on (this was nearly as bad as crime as the attendant leaving the hand held spotlight turned on sitting on the vinyl covered floor!).  Alongside Fleet 165 is a Ford XE Falcon clinic car (Photo supplied by Kevin Marsland).


Staff from 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, until he recently retired, went on to operate 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 and manufacturing skills, Javelin managed to design and manufacture a durable, yet functional, and safe, re-usable ambulance fibreglass modular body.




A photo of the wooden mock-up body on an F-100 utility produced by St.John for the Twin-Life concept.  The stretcher on the right does not have folding legs.   The stretchers are mounted directly on the utility body floor in this version (St.John Ambulance Museum).




Another photo of the wooden mock-up body on a utility produced by St.John for the Twin-Life concept, showing the internal wooden bracing.  The stretcher on the right does not have folding legs.   The stretchers are mounted directly on the utility body floor in this version (St.John Ambulance Museum).



The Javelin designed, F-100, F-250 petrol and diesel 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 operational in 1984 fitted to Ford seventh generation F-100 cab chassis.  Remarkably, the Twin–Life ambulances were still on the road 27 years later in 2009, until they were finally retired in the middle of the year. 


Many of the original grooved rear-wheel-arch F-100 modules from 1984 were still around as operational ambulance modules as recently as 2005 – over twenty years after they were first manufactured, clearly demonstrating the strength and soundness of the original bodywork.





Another photograph of Fleet 165 at Torrens Centre 1986, clearly showing the grooved rear wheel arch that was characteristic of the F-100 utility tray upon which he original Twin-Life bodies were fitted.  This F-100 vehicle had domed wheel trims and a black extension below Locker 14 (the external locker behind the driver’s door) which was not present on the earlier photo above.  The bonnet has been sprayed black since the photo above.  Less noticeable is the fact that the whirly-bird rotary ventilator is at the rear of the module on top of the roof, it was moved to the front, on vehicles manufactured later (Photo supplied by Kevin Marsland).


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 F-100 style 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 Javelin custom-made clip beneath the dashboard and the external radio speaker along-side it.  The Hella 2631 chrome flexible map light is visible on the left of the photo (Photo supplied by Kevin Marsland).





Another view of the driver’s compartment of Fleet 165, it appears to be an AWA Carphone RT80 radio and the map pockets on the door were special Javelin fibreglass moulding.  In this era the seats were vinyl covered (Photo supplied by Kevin Marsland).



Fleet 11 parked at an oval during a sporting event in its St.John livery (registration SJQ-011).  Unlike the vehicles above the rotary vents are located at the front of the module with the fixed vents at the rear.  Fleet 11 is fitted with the standard Ford F-series wheel trims and Hella rotating beacons and TOA SC-35L siren speakers (Photo supplied by Steve Schuler).



The Repatriation General Hospital ambulance that was operated by the Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs (C of A Commonwealth of Australia registration ZUJ-877).  Apart from the special markings, it appears to be a standard Javelin Twin-Life Ambulance complete with the specially manufactured illuminated AMBULANCE sign above the air vent (Photo supplied by Steve Schuler).



Fleet 172 an F100 Twin-Life, with black bonnet and fixed ventilators at the front.  Registration SJQ-172 (Photo supplied by Kevin Marsland).



Another shot of Fleet 165 (Photo supplied by Kevin Marsland).



The interior of an F-100 Twin-Life module showing the Physio-Control Lifepak 5 defibrillator carried in the special cradle and the Sphygmomanometer, clock, CIG Entonox bottle and regulator, CIG Ohmeda suction bottle and at the bottom left of the picture the AWA portable radio in the blue canvas pack that could be used for medical consultation at the scene (Photo supplied by Kevin Marsland).



The new Fleet 165 showing the AWA portable radio in the blue canvas pack and on the bulkhead is the Pye radio handset, the large locker on the right is for the Jordan lifting frame.  The earlier F100 Twin-Life modules had grab handles on either side of the back door. Ford Transit ambulance Fleet 5 is in the background (Photo supplied by Kevin Marsland).





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