Spartan Motors/Smeal



In 1955, Donald Smeal bought out a repair shop in Snyder, Nebraska, his home town, and named his new business Smeal Implement Co. His plan was to earn a living doing welding repair work while he experimented and searched for a product that he could build and sell. He was looking for something that had a rather small market so he wouldn’t be competing with bigger manufacturers. His shop was a converted house located near the downtown business area. Don had an interest in things mechanical since his boyhood on the family farm, where he operated the big steam engine tractor that was used for saw milling. As the steam engine gave way to diesel tractors, Don dreamed of working for the John Deere Company. After high school, Don worked as a hired farm hand where his mechanical skills were very useful.

World War II loomed on the horizon and when Don got his induction notice, he asked his sweetheart to marry him. Don and Ardath started their lives together as many young couples of the day did, with an ocean between them. After the war, Don started a custom farming business where he took his farm machinery from place to place to assist with planting and harvesting. After several years, Don was offered a position as maintenance mechanic at a feed products plant. He left that position when he purchased the repair shop and he began to put his plan into action.

Smeal Fire Apparatus Co.

In 1963, Snyder Rural Fire Board asked Don to fix a leak in its fire truck tank. The tank could not be repaired so Don, being a volunteer firefighter himself and knowing the needs of the community, offered another arrangement. If the Board would buy a new chassis, Don would design and build a new fire truck that would have a portable and a PTO water pump, a 1200 gallon water tank, a body with an enclosed crew cab and a 42′ hydraulic aerial ladder. This was the first fire truck to have all these features on one truck. Actually, this was the forerunner of today’s quint, minus only the ground ladder storage.

Soon other communities were requesting that Don bid their firetrucks and thus began Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. Today, Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. has 26 dealers throughout the United States and Canada. It offers a full line of fire fighting apparatus including aerial ladder platforms at 85′ and 100′, aerial ladders at 55′, 75′, 105′ and 125′ as well as pumpers and tankers.

Smeal is a major competitor in the fire and rescue industry and has thousands of firetrucks and aerial ladders protecting lives and property throughout North America. The Smeal companies are family owned with five of Don and Ardath’s children working in the businesses along with their spouses and their children. Don did not stray from his roots and built his companies with folks who have the same values and work ethic as his pioneer forbearers who settled the Nebraska prairies. Donald died October 19, 2004. He left his companies in the hands of his family and his long-term dedicated employees who share the same commitment to our customers. The Smeal products that are in service across the continent and around the world are built with pride and integrity in the heartland of America.

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