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.

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1930 Rossem Buick. Putten, Gelderland Province, The Netherlands Column

1946 Visser Buick, Van der Pol Ambulance Service, Nunspeet, Gelderland Province, The Netherlands Column

1952 Visser Ford, Bornkamp Garage Ambulance Service, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Column

1949 IJzerhout Packard Custom 8, Metropolitan Ambulance Service, Zaandam, Province of North Holland, The Netherlands Column

1953 Packard, Metropolitan Emergency Services, Vlaardingen, South Holland Province, The Netherlands

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Column 00C

Ambulances of The Netherlands

(This article was published in The Professional Car magazine issue #143. All photos are from the Hans Waldeck Collection, De Wijk, Nederland.)

Most of the ambulances manufactured in The Netherlands during the past century were built using imported automobiles. A few were built using domestic Spyker chassis in the early part of the century and a few on the DAF chassis in the early 1950s, but all other Dutch ambulances were built on chassis imported from America and from other European countries. American automobiles were popular for ambulance manufacturing because they were larger than their European counterparts. And size matters to the Dutch because they are the tallest people in the world which also makes them the longest when they are placed onto an ambulance cot!

The American vehicles most favored by the Dutch for ambulance building were Studebaker, Packard and Buick. Other American imports included Chevrolet, Cadillac, Dodge, Ford, Plymouth, Mercury, DeSoto, Pontiac, Chrysler, LaSalle, Oldsmobile, Lincoln, Kaiser and International. The Dutch also manufactured ambulances using a wide variety of European vehicles, with Mercedes being the most prominent. Other German chassis included Opel, Volkswagen, Hanomag, Adler and Steyr. Chassis imported from Britian included Austin, Commer, Bedford, Crossley and Humber; French chassis included Citroen, Peugeot, Renault and Delage; Belgium supplied Minerva; Italy supplied Fiat; and Sweden provided Volvos.

The majority of Dutch ambulances were manufactured in-country - only a few were imported into The Netherlands as finished ambulances. The two largest Dutch ambulance manufacturers were Akkermans, located in Oud-Gastel, and Gebroeders Visser (Visser Brothers), located in Leeuwarden. Both are still active in ambulance manufacturing today. There were also many other Dutch ambulance builders, most of whom built only a few ambulances each. And not all ambulances were built on new chassis. In order to reduce the cost of a new ambulance some privately owned ambulance services would purchase a two or three-year-old wedding car and bring it to their local garage or to one of the professional ambulance manufacturing firms to have it converted into an ambulance.(A wedding car in The Netherlands is a full-size four-door sedan that is rented for wedding parties - similar to the function of a limousine in America). Wedding cars usually had low mileage and had been professionally maintained, making them suitable for conversion into an ambulance. Some privately owned ambulance services even operated their own wedding car business.

The ambulance service providers in large cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht were predominantly municipal organizations, although some cities also had a few private providers. Rural regions of the country were served mainly by private ambulance firms although some were served by the Red Cross, and a few by hospitals and first-aid organizations.

In summary, the Dutch used a wide range of American and European vehicles for ambulance manufacturing; their conversion into ambulances was undertaken by several professional manufacturers as well as numerous small builders, and the finished ambulances were sold to a variety of end users. This diversity makes the research of historic Dutch ambulances interesting.

Copyright 2010 Peter Adsten