Admin Post The following is an interview with the current maker of the Rotoray, Richard Slepetz, who is member Sarge619's uncle. The questions were composed by me, John Marcson. The interview was conducted via phone by eLightbars user Sarge619, as Richard is an extremely skilled but private person. I will refer to the interviewer as "eLightbars". I am extremely grateful for being able to get so much great information directly from the company. Special thanks to Richard and Sarge619. Here is the contact info to purchase a rotoray. Serious Inquiries only. This interview is Richard's way of sharing his products, please respect his privacy. Richard V. Slepetz, President Roto Rays Inc 722 Park Ave Herndon, VA 20170 (703) 437-3353 I started by having Sarge thank Richard for his time, and for continuing an American fire/rescue service tradition. eLightbars- What do you know about the original company and production version, the buckeye iron works rotoray, it's beginnings and progression? Richard- Buckeye Iron and Brass Works of Dayton, Ohio was issued the patent in 1929 and began production in 1930. They produced the lights until either 1962 or '63, then sold the rights to another manufacturer, Machine Products Corporation, also of Dayton. Machine Products only produced the lights for a few years, then sold the rights to Mr. William G. Grether, who was president of a local machine works company that produced tools, dies, jigs and did metal stampings, foundry work and electro-plating. He never produced any Roto-Rays. eLightbars- When and how did you acquire the patent? Richard- I contacted Grether (owner of buckeye iron works) in 1971 to convince him to sell him the patents. Grether was elderly and ailing at the time, and wanted $2500.00 for the rights. I could not afford the asking price. After Mr. Grether passed away, I obtained the patent rights at the estate auction for $500.00 along with various spare parts. I did not produce my own first prototype 6 inch sealed beam light until approximately 1978. At that time, Fairfax County Fire/Rescue had taken delivery of a Seagrave pumper which did not possess the customary Federal "Q" siren mounted on the center of the sheet metal of the cab face. It was equipped with an electronic siren, beacon and flashers. The department members were not happy with the configuration and were given the go-ahead to modify it to become the "standard" for future deliveries. I proposed flush-mounting the Roto-Ray in the center of the cab face where the recessed "Q" normally was mounted and got the approval. In addition, the truck received a bumper-mounted "Q". The department administration liked the new configuration and decided to put Roto-Rays on new apparatus deliveries. Several area departments saw the county pumper and asked Richard to produce lights for their new deliveries, and thus, the Roto-Ray was "reborn". eLightbars- What changes have have been made? The most significant change, other than updating the internal workings was developing new mounting solutions. Buckeye had only provided for a pipe-mount configuration. I developed front-mounts for the cab face of various manufacturers apparatus, be it Seagrave, Maxim, Hahn, Sutphen, American LaFrance, etc. (and later E-One, Pierce, other current builders) placing the light more directly in the plane of vision of motorists ahead of apparatus running with the lights activated. eLightbars- How many different models are currently offered? Current models include the 200 (three red sealed beams) 200W (two colored sealed beams with one white sealed beam), 1000 (PAR 36 LED's) and the newly released 4000 (PAR 46 LED's). eLightbars- What is the most popular setup? The most popular setup these days is the front-mount chrome light heads with LED's (1000 or 4000). eLightbars- What's your favorite rotoray setup (color, speed, mounting etc)? My favorite configuration is all-red (sealed beam or LED) in the center of the cab face on modern apparatus, and all red (sealed beam) pipe-mounted units with the "bullet" shaped motor housing on antique apparatus either located on the fender, or above the windshield on open cab trucks (like his restored 1955 GMC/American pumper formerly of Great Falls, VA). eLightbars- How fast do they rotate? Has that changed? The current lights are spec'd to rotate at 180 RPM, though due to calibration discrepancies with the motor supplier, they sometimes spin as fast as 200 RPM. That is something I want to rectify and is working with his suppliers to do so. The original Buckeye and later Machine Products lights could spin at anywhere from 30-120 RPM because a) there was no true "specified RPM" and B) there was no consistency with what type of motors they'd mount in each light. They utilized several different manufacturers motors at once. While the gearing was the same for each unit, you literally could have two lights, built one right after the other that spun at different speeds! eLightbars- Where is the farthest away you know one has been delivered? There are Roto-Rays currently in service as far away as Canada and South America. eLightbars- Will you rebuild or restore an older rotoray? I will rebuild/restore any Roto-Ray, be it Buckeye, Machine Works or any of his versions. I currently have several restoration projects on the workbench. eLightbars- Is the "stop rotation and flash" feature your modification or an end user/vehicle builder mod? The "Stop and Flash" is a factory option. With the newer LED versions, it can be set up that when the apparatus brakes are applied and also when the transmission is put in "park", the motor for the light is deactivated, but the LED's will continue to flash. eLightbars- Do you offer any other customization options? The only real "customization" offered is the colors a customer can choose. Choice of mounting configuration is a standard feature. eLightbars- Do you have any plans for the design that you can or will share? The most exciting development is a new partnership with Whelen, who developed and are supplying him with a new PAR 46 LED cluster that he can mount in the existing light housings. These are far brighter and more effective then those from his previous suppliers (including Tomar) used on the model 1000 (and the short-lived model 2000). This new system is the basis for the model 4000, which was just recently released. Many departments are requesting he retro-fit their existing PAR 36 LED-equipped Roto-Rays with this new system. eLightbars- Is there anything else you would like the industry to know about the rotoray? The most important thing I would pass on to the industry is this: FOLLOW THE INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER!! This includes not only apparatus manufacturers but independent up-fitters as well. He has encountered several instances over the years where installers did not follow the instructions properly, or tried their own "shortcuts". Inevitably, down the road, something goes wrong with the light and in every instance it can be traced back to improper installation. I am excited about the new developments and the growing popularity of Roto-Rays. The initial $500.00 investment back in 1971 as a future "retirement hobby" has blossomed into a booming business with some recent years showing close to 250 orders. There were orders for 105 lights so far for the first part of 2012 with more expected. I invites inquiries and enjoys talking to customers; past, present and future. With more units being purchased in other parts of the country (other than the PA/MD/VA/DC area where they have become traditional), there has been more exposure and more orders for "new territory". Roto-Rays will definitely continue to exist and improve and I will be hand-building them in his workshop in Herndon, VA for sometime to come.