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Christopher Co.
The Christopher Company, 1954-1967; New York, New York
Associated Builders
International Auto Industries Corp.

The Christopher Company was a Manhattan-based retailer of emergency rescue vehicles. Their initial offering was a multipurpose vehicle called the FAPA - Fire Ambulance Patrol Auto that was built using a long wheelbase Chevrolet Suburban or GMC Carryall.

Their 1954 literature states that the “New Revolutionary” raised-roof FAPA could carry 4 stretcher patients in addition to 150-200 gallons of water. Hoses for the built-in 200 GPM water pump were stored under the two built-in running boards and a rear-mounted foam delivery system mounted inside the extended rear step bumper could generate as much as 6,000 gallons of foam.

The pump’s controls were located behind a hinged panel located behind the driver’s door and ambulance personnel could enter the rear compartment though the rear barn doors or a smaller door located on the passenger-side of the vehicle. 

Literature states that the FAPA was “Designed, Engineered and Sold by The Christopher Company, 66-70 Beaver St, New York, New York and Serviced and Assembled by Fruehauf Trailer Co.” 

The FAPA was also available without firefighting gear as the RES-Q. Although similar in appearance, the running boards that held the firefighting gear found on the FAPA were noticeably absent. 

Christopher advertised in Fire Engineering magazine and the Chevrolet Silver Book and is known to have delivered vehicles throughout the US (CT, FL, LA, MI, NY, NJ, NM, PA, VA, WI, WV) as well as the Africa (Ethiopia) and South America (Brazil, Venezuela). During the late 50s Christopher relocated their sales office uptown to the very fashionable 100 Central Park South. 

In 1958 they began building the “Cruiser”, an automobile-based rescue vehicle built using a 2-door Chevrolet station wagon. It featured a slightly raised roof that included built-in emergency warning lights and was the ideal “Ambulance, Police Patrol, Chiefs, or First-Aid Emergency Car”. 

They also marketed Suburban-based funeral service vehicles as well as airport limousines and buses that could be built with or without the raised rear roof. A fully optioned 1958 Christopher RES-Q body conversion was priced at $10,500, which did not include the $4,500 required to purchase the Chevrolet/GMC or Ford donor chassis. 

By 1960 Christopher had become a division of the International Auto-Industries Corp., and had moved their office further north to 1095 Madison Ave. As before, the exact location of their factory was a mystery and as Fruehauf was no longer listed as the builder, it’s possible that the construction was subcontracted out to one of the larger metropolitan New York coachbuilders such as Franklin or Adam Black. 

In addition to their ambulances, Christopher offered light and medium-duty pumper trucks as well as salvage, light plant and rescue squad bodies for both Ford and GM/Chevrolet chassis. 

As early as 1960 they started offering high headroom 46" or 55" ambulances that were built using standard wheelbase station wagons and panel truck chassis. Although no actual pictures of the vehicles survive, advertising pictured the following styles; Cruiser, Cruis-Aider, Guardsman, Marksman, Trojan and Zephyr. The pictured vehicles were taken from Ford, Pontiac, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile ad-mats upon which an artist had airbrushed-on the high-top ambulance roofs. 

A picture of a stretched 1963 Suburban ambulance with a standard roof exists, although they didn’t advertise stretched vehicles in any of their official advertisements. Only a single Christopher-bodied vehicle, a 1964 GMC rescue truck, is known to exist. 

A 1964 mailing was sent out in an envelope from an art gallery: Galerie Internationale – 1095 Madison Ave., which was apparently run by the same organization. After 1967 no evidence of either Christopher or its parent, International Auto-Industries, exists although Galerie Internationale survived as an art gallery into the late 70s.

© 2004 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Bernie DeWinter IV






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