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EMS Classics is a feature column I write for Canadian Paramedicine.

It is my attempt at giving the younger generation who work in EMS today, a snapshot into the history of ambulance service.

If you are interested in purchasing the images or the text copyright to any of the columns please email me at EMSClassics@shaw.ca

All proceeds are donated to the Paramedic Association of Canada Benevolent Society.

EMSClassics.com Column

1968 Meteor, Crescent Ambulance Service, Saskatoon SK

EMSClassics.com Column

1979 Crestline Ford, an early Hitop van for Taber, AB

EMSClassics.com Column

1987 Crestline Ford, vehicle number 1,000, Medicine Hat, AB

EMSClassics.com Column

1992 Crestline Ford, our first aerodynamically shaped ambulance, Parkland Ambulance, Prince Albert SK

EMSClassics.com Column

1994 Crestline Ford, our first export, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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Column 00A

History of Crestline 1971 to 2004

The roots of Crestline Coach extend back to 1971 when Ken Sawatsky and Peter Adsten started a new ambulance service in Saskatoon named Crescent Ambulance Service. They built their first ambulance using a 1968 Meteor station wagon. Within a few years Ken and Peter began manufacturing Suburban and van style ambulances, first for their own ambulance service, then for sale to other ambulance services in Saskatchewan.

In 1975 they formed a new company, Crestline Coach Ltd, to handle the manufacturing side of their enterprise. The following year they sold their ambulance service in order to devote all resources to the manufacture of ambulances and specialty vehicles. Ronn Janzen joined the business as an equal partner in 1978.

Crestline grew rapidly and by 1980 relocated into a larger manufacturing facility in Saskatoon. Most of the ambulance services in their target market (the Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) were using Suburbans, Low-Roof vans and High-Top vans at the time, however Modular ambulances were also beginning to appear. In 1980 Crestline began building Handibuses (vans equipped for wheelchair transportation). Crestline also manufactured a limited quantity of limousines and funeral coaches up until 1983.

In 1983 Crestline purchased Alberta competitor Ambucraft, and relocated the company to Edmonton. Ambucraft continued operating as a separate division of Crestline until 1994 when Ambucraft was closed.

In 1986 Crestline began winning large volume ambulance contracts from the Government of Ontario. In 1987 Crestline celebrated the sale of their 1,000th vehicle.

In 1987 Crestline's Design and Engineering Department developed a new type of ambulance named Sprint. The Sprint was designed to be midway between a Type II Van ambulance and a Type III Modular ambulance, both in size and in price. The Sprint became one of Crestline's most popular models; hundreds of Sprints were manufactured in the following years.

Growth of Crestline's Paratransit, Tour and Shuttle Bus division continued throughout the 1980's. A few of the buses were manufactured by Crestline; the majority were imported from bus manufacturers in the U.S. Crestline also manufactured a limited quantity of rescue and other specialty vehicles.

In 1988 Ford Motor Company developed the Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) program to ensure design standards were being met by US and Canadian ambulance manufacturers. Only twelve North American ambulance manufacturers qualified for charter membership in Ford's QVM program and only one Canadian ambulance manufacturer - Crestline - recieved the award!

In 1993 Crestline formed a separate ambulance retailing and manufacturing company, Novacentre Technologie Ltee, in Boucherville, Quebec. It was an attempt to capture a portion of the Quebec ambulance market however this initiative was discontinued in 1996.

Crestline began exporting in 1994 and in the following years exported their vehicles to 32 countries world wide. In 1998 Crestline received the Saskatoon Achievement in Business Excellence award for growth in international exports.

In 1995 the Province of British Columbia began purchasing their ambulances from a joint venture between Crestline and Dynamic Specialty Vehicles of Langley, BC. Close to 800 Crestline ambulances were purchased by the BC Government during the following twelve years.

In 2004 Ken Sawatsky, Ronn Janzen and Peter Adsten sold their shares in Crestline and retired. Their companies had sold more than 7,000 vehicles; had achieved 80% ambulance market share from British Columbia in the west to the Ontario/Quebec border in the east; their ambulances had responded to an estimated 20 million calls; and they had created more than 2,000 person years of employment. Crestline was purchased by three members of Crestline's management team: Tim Morrow, Darryl Bitz and Geoff Booth, with financial support from a syndicate of investment funds. Since then, Crestline has continued to grow and prosper and has broadened their market area to the Province of Quebec and to the United States.

Peter Adsten has written the history of Crestline in a book CRESTLINE - BUILDING WORLD CLASS AMBULANCES. The book is hardcover, has 360 pages with 560 photos (most of them in color). The book may be purchased on Peter's website www.EMSclassics.com. The website has a library of more than 19,000 images of Crestline vehicles, Ambucraft vehicles as well as images of classic ambulances, hearses and limousines.

Copyright Peter Adsten 2004