Sweet Wrecker: 1957 International Harvester A160

There was a time when local dealerships had their own fleet of roadside assistance vehicles, ready to head out under the cover of darkness or in the height of bad weather to rescue stranded motorists. Well, perhaps that would only happen if you were stranded during business hours, but it’s a romantic thought. This 1957 International with a Holmes twin boom wrecker body here on eBay belonged to a Pontiac / Buick dealer, and still wears its wicked painted graphics from its on-call days. 

It’s rare to find a wrecker that retains the bodywork indicating it was likely originally put into service as a roadside assistance rig for customers of that dealership. Given these types of working rigs led multiple lives over the course of their careers, livery like the one on display here would be painted over several times before its retirement. Whoever owns this truck next needs to keep these old-school graphics in place.

The seller says they had plans to use this International on an ongoing basis and preserve its patina, but only got as far as using it for a few parades. Now, due to sitting, some issues are creeping up, like the left rear brake being stuck and now no longer in running condition. The interior isn’t in bad shape for a workhorse, with a decent bench seat and good glass. The seller notes that some floorboard rot is creeping in, but that the flat panels make it an easy fix.

You don’t see hand-painted graphics like those anymore – it’s a dying art form, or at least one that owners of heavy duty trucks like these aren’t inclined to pay for. The corners of the cab and the wrecker body (from this side at least) are in good shape, and if rust is limited to the floors, this International is well worth preserving and giving it a thorough mechanical overhaul so it can reliably be used in more than just the occasional parade.

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  1. Howard A Member

    I really like the truck. One of my favorite Binders, one year only. As a tow truck, again, these “sling” lifts require a stout metal bumper, and are virtually useless today. Be fun to restore just as a display truck. I’d pull the wrecker part off, and leave the rear portion, maybe as a goose neck hauler. Once king of the fleet, now just a mere toy,,as is.

    • 427Turbojet Member

      I agree with you, my two favorite automotive designs/vehicles are tow trucks and sedan deliveries. The trouble with old tow trucks is the sling lift. Even if you have sturdy bumpers, you’re probably going to do some damage. I have several vintage tow trucks but don’t dare lift much of anything. One truck is a 67 Chevy C50 that still has the dealership markings on it- Super Chevrolet Service in a circular design, and a very attractive tow body but it’s really worthless as a tow truck. Would make a really cool looking pickup, but also has the killer split rim wheels, not the split ring but the rims that separate in the drop center. I’d be afraid to do any kind of servicing on those wheels.
      I do like this truck a lot, but really don’t need any more tow trucks (until the next orphan follows me home)

  2. geomechs Member

    This is a good one! A lot of trucks similar to this still being used on farms out west. And I never thought I would see the day when 60-year-old trucks would still be in service. Restoration material for sure. I would even be tempted to restore the wrecker although I’d be at a loss of what to do with it. Maybe better off to put a deck on it and use it for hauling treasures back and forth to shows.

    We had an A160 on the ranch. Hauled a lot of grain and a lot of cattle with it. It was geared super low–a real stump-puller of a truck. It would do 50 loaded or empty, uphill or down. That old 240 worked hard but served us well for 100K miles; it was still original when Dad sold out in ’79.

    There was a farmer on the other side of town who had an AC170 (short nose) with the same engine. It was a long wheelbase and they had an 18-foot box on it. Too much of a load for that poor Black Diamond. One day, a piston gave way and the rod went out both sides, broke the camshaft, pounded what was left of the piston into the head, ruining it, and when the rattling stopped, the rod was laying on the road. There wasn’t much left to guess at as to what needed to be replaced.

  3. KSwheatfarmer Member

    Still have a fully functional A-160 grain truck. Seed wheat is its only job any more and not much of that.At one time it was a vital part of getting grain to town,bigger trucks having now rendered it truly antique.

  4. Fred W

    The inspiration for another famous wrecker…

    • Dave

      Good call…I was gonna say that if you’ve got a Doc Hudson Hornet your grandkids are gonna LOVE Tow Mater!

    • Will Fox

      “…like tomatuh…without the “tuh”!”

  5. Mike

    Whoever buys this will probably get endless questions on which shop did the “patina” work on the truck.

  6. ccrvtt

    As soon as I saw the picture I knew I had to comment. I love this truck! Don’t have any use for it, can’t afford it, no place to store it, but I’d still like to have it. Great find!

  7. big mike

    I would clean it up, clear coat the patina, then take it to car shows. The group I run with love to see old car dealer wreckers. Turner Chevy in Park Hills, at one time had a wrecker, but today with all the tow companies in the area, they did away with them.

  8. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Have neither the need nor space for it, but I like it none-the-less.

  9. Otto Nobedder

    Great Survivor.I had a Towing business in the ’60’s, and one like this came with the business. It was pretty tired by that point in its life and usually just moved vehicles around the storage yard. Occasionally we got real busy and had to call on the ‘Binder to do road duty. No one but me would drive it as the others all wanted the newer/shinier trucks. It wouldnt go over 50, but it would do that no matter what it was hauling. We couldnt kill that Black Diamond 6 cylinder. Finally scrapped it because brake parts became obsolete

  10. Dustin

    It’s amazing that this truck still has the original graphics on it beautiful truck

  11. bob

    I’d have thought that a Pontiac/Buick dealership of that era would have used a Chev.or GMC as a wrecker ?

  12. Sheffieldcortinacentre

    Would leave it as is love old wrecker’s.

  13. stillrunners

    Yep nice one there….been debating – to let go of my 65 – F-350 with Holms 440….still think about one more tow……

  14. John

    I worked at a Dodge dealer in the mid-1970s that had an old, (very) tired ’57 Dodge wrecker. Whichever mechanic wasn’t the busiest when a call came was the one sent out on the retrieval. None of us had any training on wrecker use, other than the service manager would ride along on the first call and give a very brief overview of retrieving the car, hooking it up and going. Not very effective or safe, but no one was injured in the time I worked there. There were some bumps, bruises and scrapes on cars that I’d sure could have been avoided with better training.

    This International looks good and it’s amazing that it still has its original graphics. Not much you could use it for anymore.

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