Holden Em-Care Ambulances 6×2 – 1973 to 1985

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In Australia at the end of the years 70, the hospital staff has identified a need for a large-capacity ambulance, whose payload is greater than that of existing Holden van ambulances.

This was due to the evolution of the care provided to on-board patients who became more and more numerous and sophisticated as well as to resuscitation techniques which required more equipment on board.

To meet this need, Saint John Hospitals and Moeller Industries have jointly developed the Em-Care ambulance based on a chassis from the Holden HJ range.

It was equipped with six wheels and a powerful V8 engine to be able to move almost 3 tonnes of the loaded vehicle.

One of the craftsmen of Les Brazier (an alternative supplier to Moeller) completes Em-Care after finishing work ( 1975).

The rear compartment allowed the attendant to sit or stand next to the patient who was lying on a stretcher, unlike most ambulances returned as is without folding thanks to a ramp.

The Em-Cares therefore had two rear axles to deal with excess weight, bearing with long overhang thus ensured good stability.

Sadly, only the first axle was driven, which means that if the crew had to cross a wide ditch or a deep rut, the heavy ambulance was found on these front wheels and on the second rear axle causing the first rear axle to be left in the void with no power ! … Very embarrassing scenario for paramedics and will give Em-Care a certain reputation…

In 1982, the Em-Care ambulances have been gradually stored with the introduction of Twin-Life ambulances based on Ford F-150, but many of them continued to serve in rural areas until the early years 90.

We find a certain number of them today preserved and sometimes transformed by individuals.

Kevin Marsland was a paramedic at the time of Em-Care, it testifies :

“Medical care required heavy equipment on board and maintenance equipment, the chassis found it difficult to withstand this load and the rear axles broke regularly.
The tires on the last axle rubbed too often and the braking system was too fair to stop this mass… a big brake application and the brake pads went up in smoke !
And I wouldn't have wanted to pay the fuel bills for the gargantuan V8 !
There were medical gas units too, which turned out to be very difficult to manage and which could qualify our profession as a risky activity !
And what about the rubber step on the rear ramp holder which was expensive in civil proceedings for the injuries of many nurses after having slipped on it !
All this means that these ambulances almost had their road traffic certificates canceled, that adventures ! … But that's another story…
Short, at the time this Em-Care was a good idea but there were in fact better choices ... They certainly wanted to favor the national manufacturer ... “Kevin Marsland wearing the suit and cap which were the standard uniforms for all paramedics in St. John until the early years 80. Indeed, in all good self-respecting officers, they had to wear a cap, even while driving.

The brochure d’Australian Bodycraft Sales, an alternative supplier to Moeller.

Some Em-Care specifications :
∙ Base : Holden HQ series, HJ (majority) and HZ
∙ Engine : V8 5,Ol (308us) 179Kw (244ch)
∙ Box : automatic to 3 reports (Turbohydramatic 400)
∙ Length : 5870mm
∙ Patient compartment : 2970mm long and 1780mm high

Source : this article is based on the editorial by Kevin Marsland published on www.old-ambulance.com in 2013. Photo credits : © Saint Jhon Museum, Kevin Marsland and Adam Gregus.

Bruno Tourmen

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