The seeds that grew into Leader began as a task to retain key manufacturing employees at the motor home builder where Mr. Gary Hunter was employed at the time. His idea was to reach out to another market with the potential to use van chassis based vehicles using skills common to motor homes of the day. With the end of the Cadillac based ambulances looming his ideas for a spacious alternative were met with some reservation… change from a Cadillac to a TRUCK? The first efforts were well received by a local Doctor devoted to better pre-hospital care who spread the word about these new vehicles. When motor home season resumed ambulance production was cutting in on the main product and the ambulance sector was sold off taking Mr. Hunter along with it.
Seeing an opportunity Mr. Hunter ventured out on his own with Leader Industries first coming to life on January 14th 1975. He and one other employee rolled up their sleeves and began very literally hand crafting ambulances, both van type-II’s and not too long after, modular type-III’s. The first customer for the fledgling company was Courtesy Ambulance of Ventura Ca. A pair of 1975 Chevrolet G20 type-II vans each sporting a Federal Signal Q2B siren, twin four bulb rotator beacons and a pair of roof mounted chromed speakers for the Federal PA200 electronic siren. The patient compartment contained a single piece molded fiberglass partition with integrated seating and storage which wrapped around to a partial street side wall. As revolutionary an idea at the time as it is today. The dark wood grained Formica and dark brown upholstery used in them eventually faded from popularity! One of the pair resides here at Leader today.
At the time Stoner Ambulance in Santa Fe Springs was Leader’s only local competition for local ambulance providers in Southern California. Stoner's main product was Cadillac based for the Funeral and Mortuary clients with van based type-II ambulances as a supplement. For various reasons Stoner closed their doors and some of their key people migrated to Leader (along with a trusty Toyota fork lift!). Among them Mr. Paul Hubbard who cultivated sales in the Asian market place as well as home. The change in their commute wasn’t all that great with Leader being in South El Monte just off the 60 freeway right next door to a drive-in theatre which provided a diversion for the late night work sessions to meet the increasing demand for Leader’s vehicles. The Leader plant has moved a few times but never far from where we are now taking residence at the 10941 Weaver Ave. address in 1984. Our expansion in 2013 to the adjacent buildings reunited the lot to its original size when semi-trailers were built here in the 50’s and 60’s.
Through gasoline shortages and changes in the ambulance business Leader stayed abreast of the times and kept our vehicles current and reliable. While many builders went with high-tech problematic multiplex electronic control systems and finicky solid state load switching devices Leader stayed with tried and true rocker switches and relays housed since day one in an overhead console directly in front of the driver. Leader didn’t change for the sake of change but for product improvement and reliability. Input from our customers and the people who work in our vehicles day in and day out is what has made the Leader vehicle what it is today.
Perhaps the biggest changes for Leader began in the mid 1990’s as the Mom & Pop ambulance providers began to disappear into “Corporate EMS”. This writer was involved in one such event. A request was made to Leader to provide a number of new vehicles for a new contact unexpectedly awarded. Being told Leader would not be able to meet the deadline my employer at the time left commenting he knew another builder who could. Within hours was born “InterFleet” a joint manufacturing agreement between Leader and newly formed American Emergency Vehicles in North Carolina. Perhaps needless to say my former employer has his compliment of vehicles in time to meet the new contract thanks in no small part to some non-stop westbound winter driving by four individuals from AEV to round out those vehicles built and delivered by Leader just days earlier.
As the EMS world was growing and changing so was Leader’s. Horton Emergency vehicles saw the advantages and joined in so we became HALCOR, Horton, AEV, Leader, Corp. combining each others buying power and resources to improve our vehicles and offerings to our customers. To this day, now proud to be a part of Allied Specialty Vehicles, many customers are unaware of Leader being anything more than “just Leader”. Leader takes immense pride in handling each customers individual needs and doing our best to accommodate those needs into the vehicles they rely on to serve the needs of their communities.
What sets Leader apart from other builders is the same commitment to meet the needs of a unique market. Each vehicle is truly created for each customer within the confines of the metal container we begin with. Leader has never had the “Take it or leave it” point of view… if the customer has ideas we will do our best to create what they need. Just as Mr. Hunter did in 1975… create a vehicle to serve a vital market.