Classic ROI: 1973 Chevrolet Tow Truck

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Lately, it seems, a lot of my projects end up on a flat-bed. Not for any serious issues, stupid things like a bad starter, dead battery or lacking a working engine. The more it happens (and the more I’m on the phone with AAA), I start to think owning my own tow truck would be a wise investment. I also want a tire-changing machine, but this 1973 Chevrolet tow truck here on eBay is downright appealing as a project vehicle that could earn its keep.

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Typically, tow trucks are used hard and put away wet. I can’t say I would expect it to be any other way, given the stresses they’re under on a daily basis. This example appears to have at least been under the care of a gentler owner, or perhaps it only did tow jobs in the country. In the city where I live, tow trucks are designed to be bruisers and go where others don’t dare to go.

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The manual transmission is a welcome sight to me, but I’m not sure how an actual tow driver would feel about it. The few plow drivers I know prefer an automatic for the tough jobs, and I wonder if tow truck operators feel the same way. Regardless, this interior is in fine shape for a work vehicle, provided those seat covers aren’t hiding anything.

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The mechanical systems on these Chevy trucks is pretty robust and parts are easy to find. Depending on what licenses you would need, offering a classic vehicle recovery service might be a job for which this vintage rig is well-suited, but I’m guessing the lack of a flatbed could prove limiting when trying to pick up high-dollar cars. In a less taxing role, I think it would look perfect parked next to vintage Shell station – like it was part of a full-scale diorama. How would you use it?

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Comments

  1. Paul R

    Purchased for the right price and a wheel lift added it would make a nice truck.
    With the old style sling lift it limits what you can tow.

  2. Greg

    May be a 73 but the interior and headlights and fenders are from newer models

    • Paul R

      You are correct Greg.
      It’s got a 1981 to 1987 cab and front clip.
      73 to 80 the hood was one piece and went all the way to the windshield, 81 up had a shorter hood and a separate cowl panel like this one.

      • Brian

        it has the old dash in it. Maybe its just the front clip on the original cab. If he switched the can then you’re getting into the whole swapping vin tag thing.

  3. dgrass

    @Brian
    Dash is an 83. It has the 85 mph speedo and under the gas gauge is script for unleaded fuel only.

    FYI, leaded fuel didn’t begin to get phased out until 1974.

  4. jim s

    VIN is for a 73, i think.

  5. Jim C

    I’ve always thought these would be a good buy to put a proper pickup truck bed on. They always go for much cheaper than regular pickup trucks, but have heavy duty suspension, bigger engines, usually dual rear wheels too.. could be fun. Tow trucks have such limited use outside of towing, it limits their appeal and keeps the prices down, from what I’ve seen anyway.

    I think it’s cool as a tow truck too of course, and yeah, anyone with an old car should have one haha.. your wife, husband, boyfriend / girlfriend can follow you around in it wherever you go.. fun for everyone!

  6. Jason Houston

    Nice truck, but be careful what you do with it. In many states (like California) it’s 100% illegal to use a tow truck for any commercial purpose, once it reaches a certain age. I haven’t checked lately, but I think it’s twenty years in Cali.

    Here is my 1968 F-350 I’m finishing. (I’m posting one pic, since this system won’t take more than that.)

  7. fred

    Tow trucks can do just about anything. In 2010 I was standing near a flooded car dealership in Franklin TN with a video camera when a tow truck driver offered me a ride, so I shot him salvaging a car and asked a few questions….here it is on Youtube:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4BzHutYsdM

  8. Jason Houston

    What a fascinating vid!

  9. Dean

    Best check the frame right behind the cab for cracks, or for reinforcement. It was/is a weak spot if they weren’t reinforced when they were converted for towing. A local operator broke his right in half one night trying to pull/lift a car out of a ditch…

  10. Rhett

    Back in 1980-84 I drove a 73 Chevy C-30 454 with a Holmes 480 sling lift on the back. Looked nothing like this though, had the 1st gen round headlight grille, which I thought was kinda handsome.

    If you had anything as heavy as an Electra on the back, you could pop the front wheels off the ground. So we did, as often as possible, I think it had something like 5 series rear gears… Also learned to rev match for clutchless shifting. Loved that truck.

  11. alex m

    No pictures of engine;by serial # should be a 454;1973 1 ton cab/chassis…built in Oshawa,Canada.Seller appears to be a GM dealer ;if registering in a state that requires an inspection you would want to verify serial # (on cab door pillar) has not been moved.Cab and front end appear to be newer …but the shell could be original.Not a lot of money if you want to tow a few older cars around…we used slings right up until the late 80’s.Not worth putting a wheel lift on …you would be better off buying a truck already equipped.Appears to have a Holmes 440 …the most popular wrecker ever built.They were mechanical drive so no 2wd automatics…you had to have a PTO to run them.

  12. Charles H.

    I really think this is an 1983, not a 1973…..maybe the add was misprinted?….It’s definitely not a ’73 cab, that’s for sure!

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