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For 100 Years and Counting, Tow Trucks Still the Ones to Call


Who You Gonna Call? – A Tow Truck, Of Course

You never think about a tow truck until you need one. Their calling is that of a guardian angel, silently waiting until they roll into action. It is hard to imagine a time when tow trucks aren’t in service. Over a century ago, the only way to rescue a stranded motorist is with four-legged horsepower. There is no American Automobile Association (AAA) or roadside assistance. So, who you gonna call? Thanks to one Tennessee gentleman’s bright idea, we can always call a tow truck, known then as wreckers.

Celebrating 100 Years of Service

In 2016, the 100th anniversary of Ernest Holmes Sr.’s invention of the tow truck is celebrated in his hometown of Chattanooga, TN. After struggling for eight hours to pull a friend’s Ford Model T out of a ditch using horses, Holmes set out to find an easier solution. His tow truck design features a wrecker bed mounted on a 1913 Cadillac touring car chassis. The prototype struggles to deliver until outriggers are added to help stabilize the vehicle during use.



Holmes 485 Wrecker is Now Worth $250,000

The first model built by the Ernest Holmes Company is the Holmes 680, which sells for $680 and could not generate profitable sales. The Holmes 485, with its lower price of $485, becomes the company’s first successful production model. The hoisting apparatus is built on the chassis of a used 1913 Locomobile. Today, the estimated worth of the Holmes 485 is $250,000.

The Wrecker Goes to War

In 1942, the Holmes Company furnishes the Army with Holmes W-45 military wreckers for active duty in WWII. These transports play a large part in resupplying troops as they advance through Germany. In 1959, the company patents the tow sling and car dolly, a staple for towing cars behind other vehicles.


The International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga is to the tow truck world what Detroit is to the automobile industry. It is the home of the International Towing and Recovery Museum. Chronicling the history of “wreckers” from their humble beginnings to modern times, the Museum features a wall to commemorate tow truck drivers killed while responding to a call. Every year, around 60 operators lose their lives, usually after being hit by 18-wheel trucks. The Museum is working to bring awareness to the dangers of the profession. There are currently 392 names on the wall.

Classic Car Enthusiasts Collecting Tow Trucks, Too

Recently, the popularity of buying personal flatbed tow trucks has grown among car enthusiasts. For those collectors that frequently venture out to find cars to restore, it is an ideal solution. They no longer need to arrange transport for the car back to home base. Whether a classic or a new-fangled model, their trusty tow truck can take care of it.



Vintage Wrecker Like a Life-Sized Tonka Toy

Restored vintage wreckers are popping up at auctions across the country. A beautiful 1927 Chevy Wrecker 1-Ton crosses the auction block at a resent Mecum sale. Part of the Bob McDorman Collection, this beautiful green truck has wood spoke wheels, hand painted signage and a crane built by the Manley Manufacturing Company. It’s just like a life-sized Tonka toy truck, and has to be one of the legendary Chevy aficionado’s favorites.

America’s Tow Truck Operators Always Ready to Rescue

Sometime in our lives, we’ve probably been rescued by our local tow truck operator at least once. Sitting on the side of the road in the dead of night, theirs are the headlights we rejoice in seeing. For this 100-year-old rite of automotive passage, tow trucks have come to our aid, 24/7/365. So, for these underappreciated, overworked individuals and their great trucks, extend a hand of thanks for keeping America rolling (and for saving our bacon!)

Collector and Classic Car Insurance for Less

When your newly restored classic breaks down, the last thing you want is to worry about is damage caused from towing. At Classic Auto Insurance, we understand. Our standard coverage includes flatbed towing to help protect your precious cargo. From tiered mileage plans to agreed value, our knowledgeable staff can answer all your questions and tailor the right policy to fit your needs. Visit our website at or call and see how we can help safeguard your dream car.



Coming Soon from Classic Auto – Project C-10

From vintage wreckers to hard-working pickups, we love all kinds of trucks. Which is why we are devoting the entire year to restoring a 1965 Chevy C-10 Truck. Stay tuned for video updates on Project C-10, powered by American Modern. It’ll be a classic. To help whet your appetite until then, enjoy this blog on the first-generation C-10 trucks and why our passion for them hasn’t waned.
Posted: 4/20/2017 12:00:00 AM with 0 comments

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