Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Let's hook up at the International Towing and Recovery Museum and Hall of Fame

There are people who love every kind of vehicle. Take the tow truck. In theory, this is just a tool to clear wrecks and drag inoperable cars from one place to another. But there’s more to it than that. Tow trucks have a lot of character. Their operators form a bond—a passion—for their trucks and everything that has to do with the towing industry. For some, operating a tow truck is more than just a job. It’s a way of life. And so, it should come as no surprise that there is an International Towing and Recovery Museum and Hall of Fame. We checked it out during our visit to Chattanooga, Tenn., so I wanted to show you some of the interesting trucks that were on display inside.

This thing here is just the coolest. It’s a Chevrolet-Holmes wrecker that holds the distinction of being the “world’s fastest wrecker.” Eddie Martin managed to drive this souped-up Chevy an average of 109.33-mph on the Talladega Superspeedway on August 1, 1979. Even if it wasn’t famous for its on-track accomplishments, this truck has a beautiful restoration that could hold its own at a concours show. Anyway, just look at this thing. It’s like something Bock Yates would have used in the Cannonball Run. You just have to love it.

Now this one was not built for speed, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. The cab and chassis is a 1961 Auto-Car, which in itself is so mean and hideous looking that you can’t help but like it. Out back is a 1953 Holmes W-70 tow rig. This beast takes up a lot of space in the museum because these were the largest mechanical wreckers ever built. They only built four of them, and this is the only one left. That exclusivity didn’t come cheap, as they spent more than $100,000 to restore it. I guess if they ever wanted to relocate the Tow and Recovery Museum, they could just hook the building up to this truck and tow it wherever they wanted to go.

This is probably the prettiest rig in the place. It started out life as a 1929 Packard 640 Limousine. Back in the ‘30s, a used Packard limo wasn’t considered the Classic that it is today, but it was heavy-duty enough to be the basis of a good tow truck. It has a three-ton Manley crane mounted to the back, which would have been plenty of hardware to tow the little Model T sedan they have parked behind it. This thing might have been a tool, but when you look at all that beautiful chrome, opulent styling, and whitewall tires, it sure doesn’t seem very utilitarian.

In addition to all the full-sized trucks, the museum features a great collection of tow truck-related toys and memorabilia. This Smith-Miller cast metal wrecker is a nice piece. Smith-Miller originally built toy trucks of all different styles between 1945 and 1955. They came back in 1979, and still make new trucks and parts for old trucks today. Some of them can be pretty pricey, with values ranging from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. If you compare them to, say, something made by Tonka or Marx, these Smith-Miller trucks are of obvious higher quality. This one in the case looked like a really nice one to me.

There was a lot of really nice stuff in this museum. And it’s different, so you won’t see most of it anywhere else. I took 149 pictures, and you can see them in the slideshow below. Or, click this link for a nicer version.


  1. Super Pics, great subject.

  2. This is super cool that there is a tow truck museum. It is interesting to see each photo and compare how far the idea of a tow truck has come. I'd love to really analyze how different towing has become over the years.