Whelen Centurion a deep dive

1968

Member
Aug 13, 2021
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CT
Not much out there about it but it looks like it served as Whelen's halogen rotor sandwiched between the era of the Advantedge and Delta. They weren't used by any law enforcement agencies here in CT but a fire Dept. or two had them. Wonder what timespan this model ranged and it's purpose. They seem rare.
 
From my research they were discontinued around 2008/2009. Introduction was probably around the mid to late 90s. I remember FDNY used them in the early 2000s and they were very popular as off the shelf options on type 2 ambulances.
 
We had 2 engines from SMEAL come in around 2004 that had them.
Co bars. They seemed like they had the possibility to be very versatile. Many years ago I found numerous pdf files on Whelen website for options for the bars.

A couple years after the delivery of those 2 engines, they were both swapped out with the 3 mini NFPA bars.
 
The centurion basically replaced the advantage (in combination with the delta) and also filled the void for a large footprint rotator bar. They were very common on base model ambulances and fire apparatus. They were commonly extremely under populated/optioned, with some of the NFPA models having three rotators and insufficient mirrors leaving giant empty spots.

When outfitted properly, these were actually very effective light bars. I would argue that they rivaled the XL5000 in rotator brightness. I think the main problem was the sorts of applications where they were used commonly did not need a lot of the options. These applications called for a low amp draw basic rotator bar, which again, I think this particular bar didn't necessarily excel at due to its lack of mirror options. In order for a vehicle to be a good candidate for this light bar you needed something that required a high profile bar. While not always true, by the time these came along, high profile bars were not commonly packed full of a bunch of options. Near the end of the halogen rotator era most rotator bars were on fire apparatus and not fully optimized; they represented an economy option.

That said, if one were so inclined, these bars could be absolutely stuffed with very visible rotators and 600 series strobes "on top" while still having unobstructed lower level stationary lights. A local fire department actually fully optimized an NFPA sized bar. They ended up with each section having multiple rotators or a single rotator and a 600 series strobe. They also put a large line of flashers and corner strobes in the lower level. It was kind of like upsizing an MX7000 into an XL5000.

Unfortunately, the timing of these bars wasn't great as the halogen era was drawing to a close. By the time these were discontinued, a large footprint bar was the freedom which would have been considered lowish profile when this bar came out. Had this bar been offered 10 years sooner I think you would have seen it become a lot more prolific in the fire and EMS markets.
 
My township ordered almost everything with them for a few years. This truck I believe was retrofitted with it before it was scrapped. Looks like 6 rotators on this.
 

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2003 GMC pretty basic, 4 rotators V mirrors in the center and takedowns and alleys.
The fire dept still has one in-service on a 2002 F250. Also basic other than a traffic advisor in the rear
 

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When this video gets done uploading it is my loaded Centurion

 
The centurion basically replaced the advantage (in combination with the delta) and also filled the void for a large footprint rotator bar. They were very common on base model ambulances and fire apparatus. They were commonly extremely under populated/optioned, with some of the NFPA models having three rotators and insufficient mirrors leaving giant empty spots.

When outfitted properly, these were actually very effective light bars. I would argue that they rivaled the XL5000 in rotator brightness. I think the main problem was the sorts of applications where they were used commonly did not need a lot of the options. These applications called for a low amp draw basic rotator bar, which again, I think this particular bar didn't necessarily excel at due to its lack of mirror options. In order for a vehicle to be a good candidate for this light bar you needed something that required a high profile bar. While not always true, by the time these came along, high profile bars were not commonly packed full of a bunch of options. Near the end of the halogen rotator era most rotator bars were on fire apparatus and not fully optimized; they represented an economy option.

That said, if one were so inclined, these bars could be absolutely stuffed with very visible rotators and 600 series strobes "on top" while still having unobstructed lower level stationary lights. A local fire department actually fully optimized an NFPA sized bar. They ended up with each section having multiple rotators or a single rotator and a 600 series strobe. They also put a large line of flashers and corner strobes in the lower level. It was kind of like upsizing an MX7000 into an XL5000.

Unfortunately, the timing of these bars wasn't great as the halogen era was drawing to a close. By the time these were discontinued, a large footprint bar was the freedom which would have been considered lowish profile when this bar came out. Had this bar been offered 10 years sooner I think you would have seen it become a lot more prolific in the fire and EMS markets.
I think that was Whelen's only miss in the 80s-early 00s. They didn't really get the halogen market right compared to Federal and Code 3. They had some effective models and interesting tech but they never had a model that had the right footprint or style to compete or surpass Streethawks and MX7000s until that era had reach it's climax. The Delta expecially in my opinion is one of the finest halogen lightbars of all time. The footprint was just right, the effectiveness was excellent, I think it's everything the Code 3 360 tried to be but fell short. Those Whelen rotators combined with the latest strobe tubes would have made a spectacular combination and would have been perfect for many fire-rescue and even law enforcement agencies in the turn of the century.
 
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I think that was Whelen's only miss in the 80s-early 00s. They didn't really get the halogen market right compared to Federal and Code 3. They had some effective models and interesting tech but they never had a model that had the right footprint or style to compete or surpass Streethawks and MX7000s until that era had reach it's climax. The Delta expecially in my opinion is one of the finest halogen lightbars of all time. The footprint was just right, the effectiveness was excellent, I think it's everything the Code 3 360 tried to be but fell short. Those Whelen rotators combined with the latest strobe tubes would have made a spectacular combination and would have been perfect for many fire-rescue and even law enforcement agencies in the turn of the century.
In the 90s Whelen was engineering strobe technology and always seemed a bit behind on halogen. Their modular directional footprint for their bars made them ready to take on LEDs quickly though. On the flip side Federal and Code 3 were always putting out strobe products to compete with Whelen that didn't measure up. I liked the Delta too, I just don't think the timing or marketing push was there; they were focusing on strobes then LEDs.
 
I picked up an NIB Red/Clear/Blue with rear flashers for cheap when they were still being produced, mostly because they just weren't cool; kinda looks like something from Europe.

I keep it because, yes, it is extremely bright, and the colors, especially the blue, are really nice.
 
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I love this forum for many reasons, primarily the preservation and display or early vehicular warning equipment. There is still some cool $#!t out there…and we are the stewards!! Having traversed the development of incandescent-halogen-strobe-and, oddly, the “VitaLite” rotator era of warning systems, LED technology has made all previous attempts of effective warning equipment moot...the first being 911EP followed by Whelen with their awesome Liberty bar! Thanks for sharing @JohnMarcson.

oldfartrant/off
 
I love this forum for many reasons, primarily the preservation and display or early vehicular warning equipment. There is still some cool $#!t out there…and we are the stewards!! Having traversed the development of incandescent-halogen-strobe-and, oddly, the “VitaLite” rotator era of warning systems, LED technology has made all previous attempts of effective warning equipment moot...the first being 911EP followed by Whelen with their awesome Liberty bar! Thanks for sharing @JohnMarcson.

oldfartrant/off
I'm definitely one that despite missing out on the era of it's prime, I sure have a soft spot for the old rotating incandescent and halogen rotating light systems. While Liberty IIs and Justice bars I see most often these days are extremely effective, innovative and some cool flash patterns can so easily be programed there is nothing like having the pop of a rotator. There is some magic when seeing a Twinsonic's sealed beams flashing and going around in circles that new style lights can never duplicate.
 
My favorite Whelen product of all time is the 99x series beacons. My local FD had those 994s in a clear lens in the 80s and 90s on the engines. They were really fast and had a very potent pop and had a good looking profile. Probably my favorite all time beacon.
 
When i was with middletown ct OEM i built there truck 5. I put on a fully loaded centurion. 6 rotar red/white front. white had an amber half filter to the rear. front corner strobes, center leds red and cruise lights in red
 

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In the 90s Whelen was engineering strobe technology and always seemed a bit behind on halogen. Their modular directional footprint for their bars made them ready to take on LEDs quickly though. On the flip side Federal and Code 3 were always putting out strobe products to compete with Whelen that didn't measure up. I liked the Delta too, I just don't think the timing or marketing push was there; they were focusing on strobes then LEDs.
John do you know roundabout when these were introduced as well as when the advantedge was discontinued?
 
John do you know roundabout when these were introduced as well as when the advantedge was discontinued?
I would have to confirm by catalogs, but I think the advantage last appeared in the 1999 main catalog, the 2000-2001 NFPA catalog, and then a mini version with the "lighthouse" style rotabeam rotators was offered by Austin/Amber division until 2002. The Centurion was in the next catalog in both cases and the Advantedge wasn't. The Advantedge plus and 4500 transition was a bit less cut and dry, but around the same time. You could still get lenses for a few years for that reason.

The Centurion had some very similar NFPA options when compared to the Advantedge. It lacked stepped mirrors so it suffered a bit on that front. Most of the options available as "external" lower options on the advantedge were able to be transferred into lower "internal" Centurion options. From the standpoint of options, the bars were similar, the centurion just increased the profile of the rotators significantly. FDNY replaced the Advantedge with the Centurion on their ambulances, with pretty good results considering the "less than fully loaded" setups they used on both bars.

I have a few catalogs for specialty products, like the traffic advisor, where one year the built on traffic advisor was shown on the advantedge and the next year a very similar version of the centurion replaced it with an internal lower traffic advisor. Whelen really did make an effort to transition smoothly between them. The 80h/90h and Advantedge had been the only rotator options for decades (the 6000 had them too briefly). I don't know, but I would guess the delta was meant to directly address the significant footprint size difference between the advantedge and centurion. I would think the relatively tall and boxy centurion wasn't a great option to replace the advantedge in all applications; the advantedge was closer to being a rotating version of the edge while the centurion was more of a Whelen version of the XL5000.
 
Here are a couple of Centurion bars I have. The amber bar came to me used. The original power supply went bad and was replaced with the larger current one.
 

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This smaller bar is one of two identical ones. They were mounted on the rear of a fire truck so the black out filters pointed to the front of the vehicle to reduce the lights flashing in the rear view mirrors.
 

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