A Brief History of Tow Trucks

March 5th, 2013 by

Tow TruckHere at Cox Mazda in Bradenton we’re fascinated by all kinds of automobiles and how they came to be. The tow truck has been essential in the history of our country, and it’s come a long way since Ernest Holmes invented it in 1916. After a frustrating day pulling a car out of a creek with rope, blocks, and six other people, he designed the hook and chain for towing. With patent in hand, he started manufacturing the very first tow trucks, and they have been invaluable to drivers in need ever since.

Holmes lived long enough to see his design used during WWII, when hundreds of tow trucks, like the Holmes W45 Military Wrecker, were used for food, ammunition delivery, and of course, towing and vehicle recovery. The largest tow truck ever built, the Holmes W70, is named after him. If you’re a history buff or just like wreckers, watch this video produced by the International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga Tennessee for more information.

The Evolution of Towing Technology Over the Years

Of course, the hook and chain method has become nearly obsolete, almost 100 years after it was invented. Recovery vehicles now often have a boom winch, an adjustable arm of sorts that lets the hook and chain go places that would otherwise be impossible. Here are some of other types of towing technology that changed the tow truck over the years:

  • Tow TruckSling or Belt Lift Wreckers: These are also becoming obsolete because they can scratch the bumpers of cars. They work by having the winch lift the car up to rest it against the heavy rubberized mats.
  • The Wheel Lift: Invented by Frank Casteel and Felming Cannon, Jr., this metal yoke goes under the wheels of the vehicle to be towed, cradles them, and lifts them off of the ground using a pneumatic or hydraulic hoist.
  • Flatbed Tow Trucks: These are the least likely to damage vehicles, as they have a winch near the cab of the truck that goes down the hydraulically operated truck bed. The winch is attached to one end of the car, and it is pulled up the slide, then strapped down for safety. If the car isn’t immobilized, it can be driven right up the truck bed.
  • Integrated Tow Trucks: Using both a boom and wheel lift as one unit, this truck has garnered the kind of nicknames that profess its utility. “Self Loader Snatcher,” “Quick Pick,” and “Repo Truck” are all common names for this type of truck. This style of towing also has the possibility of damaging vehicles, but it is able to move a vehicle that is not in neutral, and the driver doesn’t have to exit the vehicle to attach a winch. Since the boom and wheel lift are integrated into one unit, the driver can literally just back the truck up to the car, lift it, and take it to where it needs to be.

Unsung Heroes of Our Highways

When your car has broken down, and you’re needing help, tow truck drivers are out in the harsh conditions to help you, and the experience they have means they’re able to do it quickly and efficiently.

If you need to bring your vehicle in for service, you can trust the professionals at Cox Mazda in Bradenton to make sure your car is well cared for. Schedule an appointment online or call 941-749-2701 for assistance.

Posted in Mazda Vehicles