Fun In Small Packages: 1961 Mack Model H

'61 Holmes left

Here is a nice tight package that many of us could use. Located in Mooresville, North Carolina and listed here on eBay is this 1961 Mack Model H Holmes wrecker with a BIN of $11,500.

'61 Holmes wheel

Some BF readers may have some experience driving rigs like this. If you do, please let us know. This truck hasn’t been run in years. This truck uses an air start system to breath life to the engine. At this point, according to the seller, some of the airlines need to be replaced. There are only 38,289 original miles on the truck, so hopefully the engine is still good.

'61 Holmes rear

As you can see, this truck was setup to be a tow rig. The cables are said to be in great condition, so you might even be able to start dragging barn finds home with it as soon as you have it running.

'61 Holmes int

The seller states that this truck has been stored inside for 10 years and it does look good inside and out.

'61 Holmes front

Whatever you call this rig we really like it, short & sweet. As it has been said before many car clubs should have access to a rig like this. Would you like to drive this tow rig to pickup your next “roller”?  If a BF reader takes possession of this Model H please let us know!



  1. Mike H. Mike H.

    This is kind of a big truck to be hauling anything decent that you’d want to restore. It’s a “medium duty” wrecker with no underlift so anything towed is getting on the sling and there’s potential for damage while towing. It’s a wonderful recovery rig and the Holmes dual-boom set-up would make dragging ones find out of said barn a hoot, but as far as towing today it’s merely an oddity.

    Although someone could retrofit a winch operated underlift to it, but then it would be an only marginally useful cool old wrecker. It would make a fine collector’s piece, but the number of towing equipment collectors in the country gets smaller and smaller every year.

  2. fred

    I’ll bet the towing museum in Chattanooga would want it.

  3. jim s

    the wrecker body could be sold off to get some of the purchase price back. i think the truck will need new tires plus wheels ( if they are split rims ) and some of the air lines need replaced all of which could get costly. however if the miles are correct this would still be a good deal.

  4. dave

    We have a 1934 Dodge 2 ton with a 490 Holnes duel boom, wheel lift with outriggers. This truck was built at the Holmes factory in 1935. The truck was 4000.00 back then. Has ubder 40.000 miles

    • dave

      1934 Dodge tow truck

    • boxdin

      even the 34 trucks had suicide doors…wow

      • dave

        Up till 1935

  5. dave

    Chain driven wench.

  6. Howard A Member

    Robert delivers yet again. This would be the H67 “Cherry Picker” and probably has the 673 Mack motor and what looks like the duplex trans ( 5 speed main, 2 speed auxiliary). No way on the mileage. And air start. Good heavens. Air starters were used on gas haulers years ago, as they figured, the electric starter could cause an explosion. ( now with “vapor recovery”, that’s not an issue) Problem was, with no air in the tanks ( some had a “dedicated” air tank just for the starter) you were out of luck. They make an incredible racket, and when I was a kid, I used to hear them off in the distance, and never knew what that was. As Mike sez, this towing unit is horribly out of date, but as a historical piece, it’s pretty cool. I never drove one of these (thank heaven) and it doesn’t mention power steering, and probably has manual, or “armstrong” steering. 1st, I’d replace the 10×20 tube tires with 11×22.5 tubeless ( will bolt right on) and lose the air start, but a very nice truck. Don’t see many “Cherry Pickers” anymore. Lot of work on an old truck, but great find.

    • dave Neidlinger

      I owned an H67T tractor, andyes a good guess is a 673 mack engine ad either a duplex 2 stick or a triplex 2 stick. Fun to drive. Air start means you need access to a good compressor to fill it up or pull start it. There is a lot of work involved if it has been sitting. change 13 gallons of coolant and the Hoses. fill the cylinders with aerokroil and tur over by hand for a few days, change the oil after you think the rings are loose from the lands. and air up the brakes and see which ones stick. I would pull start it and keep the fuel off until it had built oil pressure and air pressure. this to make sure you break the rings free from the piston grooves. then turn on the fuel from a can not the tanks with good fresh filter and it should pop off, andbillow white smoke for a while and then settle down. Fun to play with. I would keep the wrecker body on and start taking it to shows. rare to find one that is not rusted to pieces. if this truck is available I would like to know about it.

  7. dave

    Did not need power steering back then. Men that worked these were real men. Not the wooses we have today. It also would be so front end light with a load on it with the short wheelbase. My 1st tow truck in 1984. 1978 Ford F250 extra cab, 300 6 cyl with headers,cam and a 4 barrel. Single rear wheel. That truck was a workhorse. And no power steering or brakes

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Dave, while I’ll agree on the “men were men” thing, I drove an R model Mack with no power steering, and I got “Charley Horses” in my arms after a while. The only way to turn the steering wheel was to be moving. I owned a ’72 Peterbilt with manual steering, but it had what is called “center point” steering, and while it was a little easier than the Mack, it was still a bear to drive.( although, I did like manual steering for running down the road) Steer tire blowouts with manual steering are usually catastrophic, as it yanks the wheel out of your hands. I don’t mean to ruffle any feathers ( and not many women chime in here anyway, which is a shame) but there would be fewer women ( and girly man) truck drivers if it wasn’t for power steering. I’m not sure I’d want to meet a gal that could wrestle a manual steering semi. :)

      • Donnie

        Hi Howard A have you ever heard of Luella Bates she was the first licensed women truck driver no power steering no power brakes no power anything this was in the 1920s no closed in cab ether / my lovely wife made me wright this

        Like 1
      • Brakeservo

        Here at 6000 feet in the mountains, it has been quite cold and snowy. For the past 12 days I had to drive my 1953 Bentley because of brake problems on my Toyota. So the Bentley has sat outside overnight with temperatues in the lower teens. When I lived in a warmer climate I filled the steering box with Pentrite as 90 weight will seep out.

        There is absolutely no way this old tow truck can steer any harder than my Bentley with the impossibly stiff congealed lubricant virtually binding up the steering box. Yet I drive it. After half a mile turning a normal corner is still a work out and I think it would be impossible to park.

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Donnie, yes I have heard of her. In case some haven’t, she was the test driver for FWD from 1918 to 1922 and was truly a pioneer. ( I always wondered how that came about. Little hanky panky maybe?) It would take another 75 years before women were socially accepted into trucking, and now, there are tens of thousands of women truck drivers, and they do an outstanding job.,_FWD_truck,_promotional_photo.jpg

      • Bobsmyuncle

        Nothing Bates drove had the weight or loads like this would have. And the tires were a fraction of the width.

        Just sayin’

    • Donnie

      them is real man shorts DAVE .sorry just had to say that

      • Cassidy

        I hadn’t heard of her, but if you ever want to see a movie about truck drivers from that era, see “They Drive By Night”

      • Woodie Man

        Oh man thats cold…..

      • Howard A Member

        @ Cassidy, I have seen “They Drive by Night” many times. Takes place in the ’30’s, and while the story line veers back and forth, the truck spotting is phenomenal.

  8. Cassidy

    If a car club needs something to move barn finds and vehicles, they would be better served having a nice trailer. Way less maintainence! Seller says tires are a 5 out of 10; more like 0 out of 10 as they are all too old to be used on a commercial vehicle. Don’t like split rims? Then the buyer will need a conversion kit. Then, on top of buying 6 tires, now you will also need to buy 6 new wheels. “Some” airlines need to be replaced? Replace them all, may as go with braided steel airlines, that won’t be cheap either. This Smack will need at least a few thousand in repairs, more if that engine is junk. First question in my mind on any barn find is “why was it parked?” The answer to that, if the seller is the one who parked it and if he/she is honest, will give the buyer a better chance to think through their offer for the vehicle. The seller is most likely a flipper, he/she won’t have a lot of information about the truck and they would be very shy about sending you to the original seller because they don’t want you to find out how little they paid. As we’ve seen on eBay, particulary with the early p-cars, buyers don’t care what it will cost to rebuild some cars, money is no object to some people. However, with a Mack of this age, the buyer market is very small and very knowledgeable. $11.5K for this Mack? Seems way too high for what it will cost to make it road-worthy! I do like this truck, the short wheelbase is very unusual and with only 2 axles, it shows this rig wasn’t built to tow very heavy loads, so it hasn’t had to work too hard for those 38,000 miles. Donating it to the towing museum seems the best bet for this ole hauler!

  9. dave

    I have to disagree with you on this one. I have owned 15 plus tow trucks. I wouldn’t take much to make it road worthy for the local area. These trucks were workhorses and the price is cheap. If I had room, I would buy it in a heartbeat. I have turned down 50.000 for my 34.

  10. Robert White

    If I win the lottery I will buy it for the yard, and to plow snow.


  11. JW

    I agree with Robert if the wife wins the powerball I will buy it and restore it just to say I have it to give my grandkids rides in it and how cool it is.

  12. steve

    If you every see the documentary on the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing…when they show Timothy McVeigh’s car stopped on the highway the towing company has a heavy duty B Model Mack on site.

  13. geomechs geomechs Member

    We used to see air starters on trucks carrying explosives. Obvious reasons. They also used Positive ground (I guess negative ground could arc and set something off). Problem is: explosives aren’t that dangerous to carry as long as you carry detonators in another vehicle (which is mandatory). I might add that detonators are extremely unstable, especially the fuse type. Electric caps are OK as long as you have the leads twisted together.

    We had a Mack R-600 in the shop one day. The air starter had crapped out. Lots of fun trying to locate parts for a Start Master. Two days away for a truck that was loaded with geo-gel in 90+ weather. We drug it out of the shop and parked it by the far fence until parts came in.

    Obviously way off the subject matter here. I like this truck but I’d like it even more if it had a tilt deck. I don’t have a lot of stuff to tow, and if I need something towed, I’ve got a couple of acquaintances who would be glad to oblige–for a fee. Like Howard says, a 673 (672?) motor. Unbelievable lugging power. Can’t work it to death, you’d have to kill it…

  14. Tommy

    If I win the powerball I’ll rip the engine out and throw a 454 big block in it, with power steering, brakes, locks, windows, AC and full customized paint job,,the works! This truck would be bad ass! I’d have Foose design some one-off wheels for it as well! Hell, I would just hire Chip Foose to do the job,,,,if I had that kind of money!

  15. Peter


    (No offense) but I highly-doubt the 454 big block would move this truck as you (apparently) anticipate it might.

    I’m not familiar with this particular Mack engine, but I’ll bet it’s governed to a max RPM of b/w 2,100 and 2.300.

    At those low speeds, most of the HP of the 454 remains UNTAPPED (but THAT’s the engine speed this trucks trans/rear was DESIGNED for).

    And, there’s simply NO WAY the 454 could compete with the torque this Mack’s diesel (no doubt) already develops–even if the 454 COULD pull this truck at engine speeds in the 454’s true power band. In other words, the 454 would be “lugging” and WOEFULLY over-loaded.

    So, to go gas-V-8, you’d have to change the trans, rear-gearing, etc…. And that gas engine would then, still be waaay over-loaded, to move this truck alone, let alone with a towed vehicle behind it.

    Far better to stick with what’s there, or add power (in the form of DIESEL power), and possibly think about a way to raise the final drive ratio, if you want to go about about 50 mph (semi-educated guess).

    An engine with a redline of 5,500-6,000 RPM (your “454”) simply can’t be “plugged into” a drivetrain designed for RPMs of 2,100-2,300, and have anything GOOD happen.

    Now, a modern (turbo’d) Cummins, 5.9, with upwards of 700 ft. lbs. of torque, might make a difference, in the “stop light Grand Prix.”

    Best of luck,


    • Mike H. Mike H.

      Or, for that matter, even an Isuzu Duramax or Navistar Power-Stroke (not the later Ford Power-Stroke as they really aren’t good motors – sorry to all of you Ford Diesel lovers out there!). . . For a while I drove an F-350 wrecker with a Chevron self-loader and some mild fuel management modifications, and that truck would leave many “performance” cars in the dust – off the line – WHILE LOADED.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      You DO realize 454s were used in big commercial trucks right, and that the cam dictates the power band?

      Final gearing may need to be addressed, but that’s easy.

      • dave

        Cam and other component, fuel, exhaust ect.

      • Bobsmyuncle

        No, aside from proper fuel supply neither impact the power band of an engine.

        Drive characteristics…sure but not the power band.

    • dave

      Forget the tiny 454. Its a joke!! Stuff a 1970 Cadillac 500 CU now were talking.

      10.0 to1
      400 HP @ 4400
      550 TQ @ 3000
      Stock form- start tweaking and the numbers go way up.

  16. Leon

    I drove many miles in the New England states in an H-model Mack. Called a cherry-picker. Its tach range was from 1500 to 2100 RPM. When we would go up what is known as Jacobs ladder on the Mass. pike, when it slowed down to 1500 RPM, you would hold your hand on the shifter, but that’s where it developed it torque, and it would just keep on chugging and many times pass cummins etc. going up the mountains. Very comfortable truck for team driving. There is no “dog house” because the body is above the engine so getting out of the sleeper was the same level as the seats and had a very wide “jump” seat so was very comfortable.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.