Holmes Wrecker: 1949 Studebaker 2R17 Wrecker

061316 Barn Finds - 1949 Studebaker 2R17 Holmes 515 Wrecker - 1

You, you.. Holmes Wrecker, you! This very cool and stylish truck is a 1949 Studebaker 2R17 with a Holmes 515 Traffic Master Wrecker on the business end of it. It’s in Cadillac, Michigan, which is somewhat coincidental and if you read a bit further I’ll explain why. This wrecker is listed on eBay with a current bid price of just over $3,000 but the reserve hasn’t been met.

061316 Barn Finds - 1949 Studebaker 2R17 Holmes 515 Wrecker - 2

1949 was the first year for the 2R Series for Studebaker and they made them until 1953. The 2R17 is a 2-ton truck and they also made the 1 1/2-ton 2R16 in the medium-duty line. The light-duty trucks were the 1/2-ton 2R5, the 3/4-ton 2R10, and the 1-ton 2R15. There is no mention what the wheelbase of this truck is but Studebaker offered four of them from 131 up to 195 inches. This particular 1949 2R17 Studebaker wrecker looks pretty solid overall, but it has a bit of rust that will need to be repaired. Both rear fenders are banged up pretty well as are the running boards. I’m assuming that whomever buys this great-looking truck will want to restore it to like-new condition so they’ll need to bring their welding skills to the table.

061316 Barn Finds - 1949 Studebaker 2R17 Holmes 515 Wrecker - 3

This is a Holmes 515 Traffic Master and this rig was a company tow truck for a Studebaker dealership in Pennsylvania since it was new. The seller is only the “2nd titled owner.” A gentleman named Ernest Holmes, a mechanic, was the mastermind behind the modern tow truck. In 1916, he and several other men spent eight hours getting a Model T out of a creek bed and when he got back to his shop he got to work. An already-rugged 1913 Cadillac was outfitted with a pulley, crane, and outrigger system and after refining it, Mr. Holmes had it patented in 1917. He went on to invent several important devices that are still in use today.

061316 Barn Finds - 1949 Studebaker 2R17 Holmes 515 Wrecker - 4

The power for this truck comes from this 245.6 cubic inch inline-six with 102 hp. That may not sound like a lot of power but the standard 4-speed transmission, with a super low 6.4:1 first gear, should be able to handle pulling away from a stop sign with a load on the back. There is no mention as to if this truck has a 2-speed rear end or not, and there are also no interior photos at all, unfortunately. This is yet another vehicle that I have absolutely no need for, but I still want it! I think it would be great to restore it and have it at car shows with a classic car on the back, that would be a pretty powerful display for a powerful truck. How would you use this great wrecker?

Fast Finds


  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    I see this and am immediately taken back to the movie: “Porky’s.” Paint it yellow, tie it to a nightclub you don’t like and pull it down. While you’re at it, disable the sheriff’s motor pool.

  2. David

    What a cool old truck. It makes me wish there was a museum of just unrestored barn finds!

  3. Chebby

    That’s a mighty long truck. Perhaps its the John Holmes edition.

    I’ll show myself out……

    • Scotty G Staff

      Hey-ohhhhh.. Chebby’s here all week, folks; don’t forget to tip the doorman on your way out..

  4. Howard A Member

    Pretty cool truck, but again, what do you do with it? Some research shows, if this is the 245 engine, then it’s a 2R-17A. The 2R-17 had a 226 motor. Either way, this was the biggest truck you could get from Studebaker, a 2 ton rating. I’m sure it has a 2 speed rear, very common. It’s of no use as an actual tow truck, like the GMC the other day, I’d make a dump truck out of it. Everybody could use a dump truck at some point. Cool find.

  5. Ed P

    It may not be of much use for towing cars anymore but, with that low first gear, stump pulling would be a good use.

    Like 1
  6. packrat

    Dress like a Scarecrow, leave fifties vintage commercial tags on it along with old school tire chains. prowl the streets late at night in the ice storms and pull people out of ditches. Accept no money. Hand them a yellowed business card with a five digit phone number, leave em confused with a strange story.

  7. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    saw this earlier….and you know I’ve owned Studes for over 45 yrs….it’s cool…..but at a price…..it’s just not on everyone’s list………sold my running factory fifth wheel Stude with the big six and with title for $750 and drove it on the guys trailer….it was worth the look on his wife’s face…about 4 yrs ago….

  8. Mark S Member

    I guess if everything was in good working order you could tow your own vintage cars around With it. The styling of these stude’s is very cool very nice lines, I’ve always liked the low cab big fat fenders that seam to be a stude only look from this period. This truck is very unique in that it’s been on the lot as a work truck from day one and it would kind of be a shame to scrap the wrecker at this point. I say it should get a quality restoration and be on display at a museum. My second thought would be to modify that wrecker body to be a bare deck with a fifth wheel on it and restomod the truck onto a modern two ton chassie, two speed axle, five speed trans, cumins turbo diesel and put it back to work hauling trailers with various loads. Put in a modern set of air ride seat and some a/c. Nice find.

  9. spankster

    That’s a Holmes model 515 Traffic King. I’ve owned many Vintage Wreckers through the years, and have towed many modern automobiles with them. All I had to do was add a cable operated wheel lift to them. These old Holmes units also have booms that will split and swing out to the side. I’ve pulled many engines like this also.

    • Scotty G Staff

      Thanks for the great info, Spankster!

    • Guggie 13

      there is a Dodge wrecker just like this for sale in Gloversville NY at the now closed Christmans station on Bleecker Street , it sets inside and still is in operational shape , it may even be older than this one 50-53

  10. guggie

    when I was a kid dads friend had a Studebaker, Packard dealership that went bust in the mid 50s, for some unknow reason his wrecker which is just like this one was parked in our yard for a long time . I remember climbing on it and thinking when I get older I want one . Then my Grandfather showed me the 24hour service sign on the wrecker and told me you have to stay awake all the time when you have this on your truck. lol. I also remember when Pete came to get the wrecker and started it up thinking that has to be the most powerful truck in the world . Never saw the wrecker again . I also know where there is a wrecker just like the one in spanksters comm
    ent ,in much better condition for sale .

    • Bob

      Would the “Pete” you’re referring to be Peter Kliment?? If that’s the case, his may be the same truck. I remember he said he bought the truck around the late 60’s or so. It was a ’49 just like this, I spent alot of time around that truck and I’d swear this is it. Being from Pennsylvania jives with it too, although as I said he didn’t buy it new…

  11. Mike Williams

    I love old tow trucks and this one is great, I especially like the 2R17, DCPP UNIT 2 REFUEL #17

  12. Guggie 13

    No, sorry his name was Peter Quinn from Gloversville NY , I belive he passed in the late 70s

  13. Dustin

    Paint it in period AAA guise. Does Cadillac, Michigan have a Cadillac monument or at least a Cadillac dealer?

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