Federal FIRE BALL Family History

dmathieu

Premium Member
#1
108427_44bfe2f23e9569ce11b4d744b64911de.jpg 108428_1d9f4b5b4181ff76eb8e0bc36d338063.jpg 108428_1d9f4b5b4181ff76eb8e0bc36d338063.jpg Following is my stab at the history and products of the Federal Fire Ball family. I hope to make this a good reference thread.
Similar to the ROTA-BEAM Family History thread in the pinned section, it will be a work in progress, and will be updated and edited as necessary, to improve with any new info provided by other members or myself. Please post your information, or PM me, and I'll add your info in the posts below.

The Federal Fire Ball is probably the most popular and most imitated portable warning light to this time.

The first production run of the Federal Sign And Signal Fire Ball "teardrop" light was in August 1956 and was mfg. through 1991, in the "teardrop" design. Not a bad run.

The first model was FB-1, series 2A12-12 Volt and 1A12-6 Volt. (This may have changed, see post dated 1/25/2015, on page 7, for earlier model S/N 2A10. In the pictures and text please note the differences between the 2A10 and the 2A12). The 2A10 may be the 1st Fire Ball put into production. This is the 1st and only 2A10 that I have seen in over 50 years of collecting.

The domes on these earlier version 1 Fire Balls had a darker color, Ruby Red, Deeper Blue, and Darker Amber, and had no number or letter markings on them.

Below are some of the early Federal FB-1 brochures, and product bulletins with dates starting November 1956.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#2
Here are some pics of the FB-1 2A12 NOS original magnet mount Fire Ball with Eye Shield Cover.
The red cigarette lighter plug was typical of lights of this time.

This design was made from 1956-1975.
Note the clip on the front underside of the light. This clip was meant to slide over the screw taped to it.after the screw was fastened to the roof of the vehicle. This gave extra mounting security to the magnetically mounted light when the vehicle was in motion.
2nd picture is a pic of all the items shipped with an original Fire Ball.
1. The light itself
2. Instruction sheet
3. Eye shield hood
4. Metal mounting plate
5. Cloth protective storage bag.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#3
The permanent mount Fire Ball was designated FB-2. This one happens to be a 6 Volt model, so the series is 1A12 instead of 2A12 for 12Volt.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#4
The Fire Ball was also made as a Military Spec. light.


To accomplish this, capacitors were added at the power and motor connections under the dome, to reduce radio interference..


The following pics are of a mint FB-1 2A12 magnetic mount Military Spec light.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#5
Here is a FB-1 2A12 used by my Dad as a Sergeant on the Grafton, Massachusetts Police Dept. from 1960 - 1970, in his personal car, Cruiser 17.


This still has an original older deeper blue unstamped dome, and the original eye shield cover.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#6
Federal, in rare cases, rebadged the Fire Ball for other companies. Here are the 2 that I have that have a Black Label for J. W. Speaker Corp., Milwaukee 12, Wisc, U.S.A.


FB-1, 2A12, 12 Volt, Magnetic mount


One has a very rare clear dome.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#7
The Fire Ball series was changed at some point from 2A12 to B1. This change reflected a change in design from using a pre-focused bulb # 1507, with a flange to focus the bulb correctly in the reflector, to the use of a easily acquired # 1195 bayonet base bulb. To accomplish the focusing in the reflector, there were 3 tabs attached to the socket to hold the bulb in focused position. Both types of sockets and bulbs are pictured here.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#8
Federal Sign And Signal also made a light called the Flash Ball, Model FBF series F. This has been called the "poor man's Fire Ball" because it was lower in cost than the Fire Ball.


The light looks the same as the Fire Ball, but has no motor and does not revolve. It has a stationary reflector and a flasher, producing a singal directional flashing beam of light.


There don't seem to be many of these Flash Balls around, so are fairly rare, especially in good condition.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#9
In the appx. 1975, Federal Signal changed the design, but not the shape of the popular Fire Ball. This new design was made into 1991.
The changes included a new friction drive, instead of the worm gear/brass gear drive, a halogen bulb option (Super Fire Ball), a larger, more secure magnet, and a standard 90 FPM or fast 150 FPM motor.
Below are pics of some brochures and product bulletins.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#10
The most popular 2nd version Fire Ball was the FBH11. It had a large rectangular magnet on the bottom, a H1 55 Watt halogen bulb, and a friction drive.

This new version with the halogen bulb was called the "Super Fire Ball".

This model was advertised as having twice the brightness of the original design FB-1, and definitely more magnet holding power.

The permanent mount was the FBH12.
The retaining bands on the new lights had the New Federal Signal logo.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#11
Also made was an incandescent model using a # 1195 bulb in place of the H1 halogen. The magnetic model was FB11, and the permanent model was FB12

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#12
Federal Signal still rebadged on Version 2 lights.
Here is a FBH11 Black Label Sirac Paris light used by The French National Police in and around 1980.
Here is also a picture of Eric's French Fire Ball with CIE blue dome.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#13
Here is another rebadged example.
This light is specifically made for motorcycle applications.
The tag reads Cycle Signal series C1. Harley Davidson Motor Co. Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
It has a coiled cord to act in conjunction with Federal's extendable motorcycle mount.
These lights were made in the old Version 1, and the new Version 2 Fire Balls.
The Version 2 lights were available in Halogen or incandescent models.
They could be mounted to the front or rear of the bike, and extended up when the bike was not in motion.
First 2 pics show the mast extended up to a 3rd section for more height.

I remember the older FB-1 version of this light with extendable pole mount, with blue dome, being used for many years on the Worcester, Massachusetts tricycle ploice motorcycles.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#14
Federal Signal's 2nd Version Flash Ball was still a non rotating light like the Version 1, with some design changes.
It had the larger magnet, was available in halogen or incandescent bulb, and had a new reflector and socket design.
The reflector was still stationary. The bulb was flashed by a flasher for a directional warning.
These Flash Balls are even more rare than the Version 1 Flash Balls.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#15
Here is a different item.


Federal made up some of these Fire Ball Banks as either promotional items, premiums, or gifts, for a special company occasion.


Blank bottom, no holes, and the dome has a slot cut in it to recieve your cash or coins.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#16
This light is the Version 3 Fire Ball.


I pulled the split dome picture off of this site.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#18
The FireBeam Model FB3 could probably be considered the Version 4 Fire Ball.


This was a halogen 68000 CP rotator.


Available in single speed 90 or 175 FPM, or dual speed 95 or 175 FPM controled by a slide switch on the back of the light.


There was also a UltraFlash 7 flash mirror that attached to the bottom of the light.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#19
The MagnaBeam was an oscillating version of the FireBeam. Same size, same shape.
Two different models were offered. Both had dual speed switch. One, the FB4 had a front facing reflector, with the switch on the back of the light. The other, the FB4S had a side facing reflector, allowing for dual color capability when using snap on colored filters.


The MagnaBeam is extremely effective, but only in one direction. It was advertised as 3 X as effective as a rotating light, because of the dwell of an oscillator vs. a rotator. Great dash light!

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#20
The teardrop Fire Balls were available in Red, Blue, Amber, Green, and Clear.

The FireBeam, and MagnaBeam were available in all of the above and CIE Blue, and Purple, Including 1/2 covers in each color, to mix and match over a clear dome.

The FB2 Strobes were available in R,B,A,G,and C.

The Fire Ball II was available in R,B,A, and C. This also had 1/2 dome covers to put over a clear dome

Added is a picture of a rare split Blue / Red Fire Ball belonging to Lt.214

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#23
FB1 série 2A12 First production/october 1958


FBH11 série A2 Last production 1989 (Lot control 1991)


31 years of production between those 2 lights

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#30
Does anyone know what the original cost of a Fireball was?


I'm curious because of that $10 off promotion.


In 1958 $10 was equal to almost $80 now, and in 1991 around $15. So that seems like a lot of money off of a product that wouldn't cost much to start with.
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#31
Zodiac said:
Does anyone know what the original cost of a Fireball was?


I'm curious because of that $10 off promotion.


In 1958 $10 was equal to almost $80 now, and in 1991 around $15. So that seems like a lot of money off of a product that wouldn't cost much to start with.
That promo was on the Super Fire Ball, so it had to be between 1975 and 1989.


Edit: The date on the ad is 1978
 
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stansdds

Veteran Member
#34
Zodiac said:
Does anyone know what the original cost of a Fireball was?


I'm curious because of that $10 off promotion.


In 1958 $10 was equal to almost $80 now, and in 1991 around $15. So that seems like a lot of money off of a product that wouldn't cost much to start with.
The 1974-1975 Sa-So (SArgent-SOwell, Inc.) catalog listed the Fireball FB-1 and FB-2 at $51.00, the Flashball FB-F at $32.50.
 
#36
stansdds said:
The 1974-1975 Sa-So (SArgent-SOwell, Inc.) catalog listed the Fireball FB-1 and FB-2 at $51.00, the Flashball FB-F at $32.50.
Thanks for this response.


The history of this light is pretty amazing, actually, not this light in particular, but if you look at the last 20 years versus the last 40 years, the progress that has been made in vehicle lighting (not just emergency) is what amazes me.


I was just curious because even at $51, $10 off is a pretty deep discount.


I'd like to see emergency vehicles involved in accidents 40 years ago versus now to see how much more effective modern lighting is over antiquated lighting. That would be interesting.
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#38
Looks like it was specifically targeted in this January 1978 Responder ad.!


That's definitely a Fire Ball in the right upper corner.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
#39
Here is a Blue FB-1 / 2A12 with eye shield cover installed on the dash of out going 1961 Pontiac Catalina station wagon cruiser / ambulance. The original Beacon Ray had already been installed on the new 1962 Pontiac and the Fire Ball used in it's place untill the 1961 was sold.

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stansdds

Veteran Member
#40
dmathieu said:
Looks like it was specifically targeted in this January 1978 Responder ad.!
That's definitely a Fire Ball in the right upper corner.
Most definitely that's a Fireball and not one of the knock-offs. That is very specific targeting of a competing product.
 

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