Tow Trucks and Towing: The History

August 19, 2021 4:54 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Ever wonder how and why towing started? Did a horse and buggy break down one day and someone hitched up their own horse to tow the other cowboy home? That’s not exactly what the history of tow trucks looks like, but it’s close. Here’s the story of how this industry got started.

Before the days of cars…

The reason why towing started goes back to the days before cars were even invented. Towing has been around since vehicles were first developed. Before engines ran the vehicles, animals pulled them. If a vehicle broke down, became stuck in the mud or was unable to get through the snow, additional large animals were essentially used as “tow trucks” to get the vehicle moving again or bring it somewhere to be repaired.

One day down by the river…

Once cars entered the scene, things began to change. Horses and oxen were no longer on the roadways to help pull vehicles out of jams, yet no one had come up with a good system to provide towing assistance. That is, until one day when Ernest Holmes Sr. was called on to help a friend.

Holmes’s friend’s car was stuck in a river. With no tow truck available, Holmes, his friend and six other men worked for hours using bricks, wood and rope to move the car inch by inch back to the shore. After this experience, Holmes was determined to come up with a better solution for vehicle owners who found themselves in similar situations.

The first tow truck

Holmes was successful in his venture, although his first prototype did fail. He did not give up, though, and in 1919, Holmes introduced the first tow truck, the Holmes 485. In modern dollars, the vehicle would cost around $250,000.

Early tow trucks

Based on Holmes’s invention, early tow trucks used pulleys and hooks to move vehicles. They made it possible for one man to do a job that it previously took eight to do. Over time, the components and processes were improved and streamlined. Eventually, a “V” towing coupler was introduced, which allowed tow trucks to pull cars at higher speeds without causing damage.

Modern tow trucks

This history of tow trucks has continued to evolve with modern innovations. Designs have been based on Holmes’s original, and you can still find new Holmes models on the roads today. Many of the basic components, such as cranes, are still used in modern tow trucks. However, we’ve come a long way since that day down by the river. Today, one person operating a heavy-duty tow truck can lift a full-size semi with a full load attached! Modern tow truck companies are able to offer innovative towing solutions to quickly and safely help drivers in a full range of settings and situations.

Making history with unparalleled service

Since we opened for business in 1983, Complete Truck Service, Inc. has been the premier truck and trailer repair shop in the area. Our professional staff is dedicated to meeting your towing and repair needs. We offer 24-hour towing, lockout and jump-start service, plus truck and trailer repair, diesel work and more. Call now for a free estimate!

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