Tag Archives: Tow Trucks
Dan Strohl of Hemmings Motor News ran into the early history of the tow truck recently and reported the following: “While perusing a recent issue of the Caddie Chronicle, the newsletter of the Potomac Region of the Cadillac La Salle Club, we came across the interesting tidbit that the first tow truck was not built atop some heavy-duty truck chassis, as one would expect, but atop a 1913 Cadillac.”
“As the Chronicle and other sources have related the story, Ernest Holmes, a mechanic in Chattanooga, Tennessee, got a call one day in 1916 from his old business school professor, John Wiley, who had driven his Ford Model T off the road and upside down into a creek bed. Holmes eventually got the T out of the creek bed and upright, but it took eight hours and six men and untold amounts of manual labor.”
“The experience gave Holmes an idea, though: Back at his shop, he outfitted a three-year-old Cadillac – which sat on a fairly stout 120-inch-wheelbase chassis and which used a 365.8-cu.in. L-head four-cylinder engine for power – with a crane and pulley system that would lift broken-down and wrecked vehicles and secure them for a tow back to a nearby mechanic’s shop. After refining the idea with a pair of outriggers to provide stability while hoisting other vehicles, Holmes filed for a patent for his idea (US Patent 1254804) in November 1917.”
You can learn more of what Dan Strohl found out about Holme’s first tow truck, his 1918 patent and his business building Holmes Wreckers on Hemmings Daily. You can also find a a number of early tow truck images here on The Old Motor. The top photo was taken during 1932 in Lexington, Kentucky, and is courtesy of the University of Kentucky.
Surely one of the most elaborate examples of signage we’ve ever seen, Mr. Euber’s ornate mural borders on being folk art. The pastoral scene on the left contrasts sharply with the dire recovery scene on the right which clearly makes the point that no job was too big for his wrecker service. The placard out front advertising five cent beer offers the promise of affordable solace to the poor motorist whose car had just been brought in on the hook.
We do not know location of this distinctive enterprise other than it was in the New Orleans area. If any of our readers can find any of the details of the station or it’s location please send us a comment. You can also find many more photos of service stations and tow trucks here on The Old Motor. Photo courtesy of the Louisiana Digital Library.
*Update* As we mentioned previously this mystery was not going to be easy, but Ariejan Bos was up to the task and has correctly identified the tow truck as a 1917 Chandler. The 1915 – 17 models all shared this appearance and had slanted hood louvers. He also believes that the touring car is also a Chandler and it does in fact have the look of one of the earlier four cylinder models. Perhaps there might have been have been a Chandler dealer in Knoxville?
We are back at it again with another Tuesday morning mystery which might be a bit tougher this time. This photo was taken at Red Seal Auto & Sales in Knoxville, Tennessee on March 13, 1923 and shows the shop wrecker and a touring car posed for a photo out in front of the shop. Take note of the very interesting signage covering both.
The wrecker appears to have been made from a good sized circa 1915 – 1920 six cylinder car of some sort, with both the frame and wheelbase extended. It may have had smaller diameter rear wheels fitted which were then fitted with thin sectioned hard rubber tires. The wrecker boom is a real Rube Goldberg like contraption. Both the uprights and boom appear to have been constructed of wood.
The heart of the mechanism is some form of a gear driven winch which was mounted on the frame. Between the hinged boom and the uprights is a set of chain falls of the type normally used in a shop for lifting engines, which presumably were operated by the winch. A cable and hook hanging from the boom were attached to the car to be lifted.
The mystery touring car seems to be of the same general vintage as the wrecker and may be a four cylinder model. We will wait 24 hours before posting any reader’s answers and as this is a tough one. Please send in any observations you may have about this pair. The photo was by the Thompson Brothers and is courtesy of the Knox County Public Library of Knoxville, Tennessee.