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How Tow Trucks and Towing Services Evolved as Essential Businesses

Before automobiles were ever invented, travellers whose wagons or carriages get stuck in mud or snow, solved such predicament by using work animals as towers. However, when cars were first invented, people started using another automobile to tow out a vehicle that gets ditched or stuck in similar predicaments. As the need for a better towing method became necessary, in, a mechanic named Ernest Holmes Sr. of Chattanooga, Tennessee, devised the first towing equipment.

The idea struck Holmes when he had to recover a friend’s Ford Model T that ended in a creek. To save the vehicle, Holmes and six other men worked for eight hours using blocks, ropes, and an assortment of tools before they were able to get the vehicle out.

This led to Holmes inventing the first ever tow truck by attaching different devices to his 1913 Cadillac and started to create a simple crane and pulley system to retrieve stuck vehicles. However, the method wasn’t solid enough to be able to retrieve automobiles safely and with less effort. He then continued to improve his designs by dedicating two years of his life creating and theorizing the most workable towing solution.

Finally, in January 17, 1918, Holmes was able to file a patent for a wrecker outfitted with a “split-boom,” particularly useful for recovering severely damaged cars that landed on steep slopes. Holmes wrecker anchored the truck on one side and then get the wrecked vehicle out of the embankment without the need to tilt the wrecker. After obtaining the patent in 1919, he started the first tow trucking service business by founding the Ernest Holmes Co.

The Evolution of Holmes Tow Trucks

The first ever commercial tow truck that the Holmes Company put up for sale was the Holmes 680 because it sold for $680. Yet it was too expensive, which led to the development of a budget version called Holmes 485, which of course, was priced at $485. Still, the company came out with another, the Holmes W70, but so named because the truck had a 70-ton lifting capacity. At that time, the Homes W70 enjoyed the reputation of being the world’s largest wrecker.

When World War II started, the company started to create vehicles specifically for military purposes, which included about 6 to 7 thousand military grade wreckers used during the war.

Years later and for multiple decades, Holmes wreckers became the standard wrecking equipment used in the country’s racing industry particularly for IndyCar racing and in NASCAR.

Holmes became the prime supplier of vehicles used in transporting and retrieving irreparable cars. In a museum in Chattanooga called the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame various collections and history of tow trucks are on display, showing how tow trucks evolved.

Today the old Holmes Wrecker models can only be seen in museums, as modern tow trucks have improved greatly, and are far stronger despite being smaller. In California, newer tow trucks are used for providing assistance in towing san jose vehicles. Some come wheel lifts and flatbed trailers while some others even combine boom and wheel lifts in one tow truck.