DEARBORN - What started out as a Ford concept truck has become a life-saving vehicle during times of real tragedy in our country.
This heart-warming story began two years ago, when Brad Snyder, founder and vice president of Newscope Marketing – a long-time Ford supplier that helps market Ford trucks and other Ford vehicles – contacted Ford Truck Marketing Manager Doug Scott and said he wanted to build an “over the top” rescue vehicle that could go on the auto show circuit as a Ford concept truck.
“Doug gave his blessing,” said Snyder, “The only request he had was that the truck be authentic. Everything had to be real – nothing less than what people would expect from an F-Series truck.”
Ford provided Newscope with a bare F-550 chassis cab and Snyder went to work on the rest. He set up a meeting with a group of people in his hometown who would know exactly how to make a rescue truck authentic – members of the Granbury Texas Fire Department.
“I said if you guys had all the money in the world what would you put on one of these trucks,” recalled Snyder. “They suggested things like night vision and thermal imaging cameras, high-intensity LED lighting, Doppler radar, a remote-control spray nozzle, a generator and an on-board all-terrain vehicle.”
Outside of the chassis cab, Newscope funded the entire project. And since he didn’t have “all the money in the world” Snyder searched high and low to find the most economical way to up-fit the truck.
“We actually acquired the night vision camera through the U.S. military. It was used on one of their helicopters and we bought it at a surplus auction,” explained Snyder.
Within almost six months, the truck was complete. It made its first appearance in February of 2012 at the Chicago Auto Show.
“Everybody loved it and it got rave reviews,” said Snyder. “It was such a beautiful truck.”
Two weeks later, tragedy struck in Arlington, Texas, when a series of tornadoes ripped through town in the middle of the night. Word about the rescue truck Newscope built had spread quickly throughout the first responder community and Snyder received a call for help.
“They needed our lights and thermal imaging equipment to locate people lost in the rubble,” said Snyder, who drove the vehicle to Arlington himself with two members of his staff. “This truck was set up to literally do that kind of work.”
After the Arlington tragedy, the Ford rescue truck resumed its appearances at auto shows, fairs and rodeos. By the end of the year the vehicle had received such positive press that Scott and Snyder decided – since the Super Duty body style had not changed – to add more features to it and keep it going through the 2013 auto shows, including the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
When a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas, in April of this year, Snyder received another call for help.
“We drove there immediately,” he said. “We used our thermal imaging equipment to scan apartment complexes that were almost completely leveled looking for survivors.”
A month later, tragedy struck Snyder’s own hometown of Granbury when 16 tornadoes devastated the small community.
“I’ve known Brad for a long time and he was the first person I thought of calling when all of this went down,” said Mitch Galvan, chief of police, Granbury. “I said, ‘Hey can you get your stuff and come out here?’ And he said I’ll be there before you blink.”
Galvan says many of the homes were reduced to rubble and numerous people were trapped.
“Without the thermal imaging on Brad’s truck it was impossible to determine if anybody was in there. We would have had to just start digging,” he said. “The thermal imager shows heat signatures to let you know that someone is under there. It was of invaluable help because it made our job a lot quicker and a lot more efficient.”
The high-intensity lighting provided by the truck was also a Godsend, says Galvan.
“If you can imagine in the evening we were out there a straight 23 hours all through the night and there was no power at this place,” he said. “Lighting was a huge issue and the truck had incredible lighting on it.”
When he saw the dire conditions that the first responders were working under – like sitting on the ground trying to rest – Snyder went to his warehouse and brought back a “Ford Lounge.”
“It’s something that we use for a lot of ride-and-drive events. It’s like a VIP customer lounge with air conditioning and televisions in it,” said Snyder. “So we took that up to the disaster site and gave it to them to use for five days.”
Galvan said the lounge made all the difference in the world.
“It gave the first responders a place to cool off and actually be able to sit down in a chair and grab a bite to eat or something to drink,” he said. “That in and of itself improved the morale of everybody 100 percent.”
A few days after the Granbury disaster, a huge tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma. And Snyder was once again called upon to bring the Ford rescue truck to support search and rescue efforts there.
Snyder – who says the completed value of the truck is in the neighborhood of $250,000 – says the experiences he has had over the past year have been life-changing.
“Probably one of the most rewarding things I could ever do,” he said.
Throughout his travels – and the 13,000 rescue miles put on the truck – Snyder has brought a great deal of positive attention to the Ford brand.
“Obviously the truck has Ford branding all over it, but the people that are at all these disaster sites are Brad and his Newscope team,” said Scott. “It’s through Brad’s good will and effort that this is reflecting favorably on Ford. It’s gracious that they’re directing all of this attention to us, but they’re the arms and legs on the ground really helping people.”
“I told Doug we’ve been blessed to be able to work with Ford for 14 years and make it through the ups and downs,” he said. “When we first started with Doug, it was me, my wife and two employees. Now we have a 40,000 square-foot facility and 31 employees. We worked very hard and are very appreciative every day that we work for Ford.”