Live Auctions

Vintage Wrecker! 1936 Ford Tow Truck

So the question is, have we found a wrecker or a wreckee in the form of this 1936 Ford tow truck? There is no included information regarding the model, chassis, capacity, etc. as it pertains to this tow truck, and I have proved that I am lousy at guessing, so I’ll ask for some input from our esteemed readership on that particular item and stick with what is known. This Ford is located in West Hartford, Connecticut, and is available here on eBay for a BIN price of $5,950.

The seller states that he is handling the sale of this truck for a family and he is, “Happy to answer questions, though our knowledge is limited.” That line and the paucity of listing specifics would make one think that this is just a flip. This Ford has supposedly has been in storage for years and is largely intact. It has a very southwestern “burned” look about it but the rust is clearly more than the surface variety as there are places in the fenders and running boards where there is rot-through. How extensive? Don’t know, you could try asking the question, however… The sheet metal is all in pretty reasonable condition, there are dents and dings and what-have-you but there is a definite Mad Max vibe going on here. I can’t say for sure what the spreader-bar thing attached to the front bumper is for. The images aren’t too good so it’s difficult to get a good look at it.

The 85 HP, 221 CI, flathead V8 is non-operational but the truck rolls, and we are told that it is mechanically and largely intact. As for the towing equipment, which may have been produced by the Manley Wrecking Crane Company of York, Pennsylvania, there is quite a byzantine arrangement of gears, chains, winches, booms, and arms in place, again unknown if any of it works. And if it does, it’s not likely that it would be appropriate for a run of the mill towing job on something like a Hyundai Sonata.

There is one poor image of the interior included and it looks rough, but that’s to be expected. The seat is ripped and surface rust abounds but there is no way to get a revealing glimpse. What is known is that trucks of this generation had a primitive and bare-bones interior environment and this one is probably that much more so considering its lot in life.

As for the purchase transaction, the seller advises, “Any cash transactions to take place at our local police department and on videotape”. Really! You would think this truck transaction might somehow be a magnet for counterfeiters or get confused with some sort of dope deal. Anyway,  the seller suggests that this truck is, “an excellent candidate for restoration, distressed hot rod or novelty mascot for your business”. Perhaps, but it is an expensive piece of business yard-art and some municipalities might just consider it an abandoned vehicle. The specific nature of this truck, a wrecker, parses it down even further, to a class of uniqueness. There’s probably not another one around and not an abounding interest. Unfortunately, we all recognize vehicles of this nature and opine about how they should be saved but saved by someone else. And I’m as guilty as the next person with that position. Yeah, it should be saved and/or restored but by whom and for what purpose?


  1. Howard A Member

    Here’s a neat one. I read, this is a Model 51, 1.5 ton, and while the winch appears to be hand cranked, there is a hydraulic pump and control for something, possibly a plow on front. The hoist is missing the rubber bumper lift part, and you won’t be lifting any Hyundais, or any other car with a plastic bumper, these were mean’t to lift Cadillacs, and such, with massive front steel bumpers. It’s a great find, and an important piece of history. Back then, travel was a lonely deal with break downs a regular occurrence and seeing this coming to help saved the day, lives even. I’d simply vomit if it gets turned into anything else. I’d rather it was displayed out front a towing company than to resto-mod it. The 30’s had such neat designs.

    Like 17
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Total agreement, Howard. You use these to drive over Hyundais. Fix it up, drive it occasionally and have some fun with it. The guys who operated these trucks back in the day earned their pay. Can you imagine arriving at the scene of a couple of crashed freight trucks with one of these?

      Like 11
  2. BlondeUXB Member

    This thing has such great lines.
    Loose the boom and front bumper business. Then add a tailgate and do some errands around town…

    Like 4
    • Leland

      Where do you buy tires like those? I really doubt my local Pep Boys or Walmart has them in stock.

      • Skorzeny

        Not sure what size these are but if Coker doesn’t have them, maybe geomechs would know…

        Like 2
      • Howard A Member

        These are tube type 20 inchers, like 7.00×20 and are pretty common still. I’d try and update to tubeless somehow. Not sure they make tubeless 5 hole 20 inch wheels.

        Like 5
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        First suggestion I would’ve made would be Coker Tire; they’ve supplied many old truck tires in the past. Like Howard says most tire shops will sell you tires that are 7.00 to 7.50 x 20 or larger but small ones could be somewhat of a challenge unless you’re dealing with an antique supplier such as Coker. I would imagine that this truck would have 5 inch rims, which would’ve fit 6.50 tires back in the day. You could get away with 7.00 or even 7.50s. There are some specialty rim shops that will adapt those wheel centers to newer (safer?) rims. They charge a small fortune but almost any tire shop will fix/change your tires after that. So many shops won’t touch a split rim these days. You can’t blame them because if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could have a deadly bomb when inflating them. On the ranch we either wrapped a chain around them or else set the loader bucket on top while inflating; we never had a problem…

        Like 7
      • BR

        I would buy this if it was closer!
        Tires for this rig are plentiful. The wheels are not a problem because they aren’t the Firestone RH-5° “widowmakers”. You can even get new DOT tubeless wheels from Wheels Now or American Wheel Specialties, who will also take the centers and put them on new tubeless “outers”. It’s not that expensive, but they aren’t DOT certified. I had six 8.25×20 widowmakers on my truck and replaced them all with new 9R22,5’s, wheels included.

  3. dogwater

    Sorry this old truck is just to far gone bodywork would be a nightmare door don’t fit rust etc. its yard art

    Like 1
  4. hugh

    Cheap way to get in the repo business. Should handle BMWs.

    Like 3
  5. Ed Nash

    Wise seller in this day and age!
    “Any cash transactions to take place at our local police department and on videotape”. Really! You would think this truck transaction might somehow be a magnet for counterfeiters or get confused with some sort of dope deal.

    • Little_Cars

      Probably following the advice people used to give when Craigslist was in its infancy. Us early adoptors were supposed to allow a potential car buyer the opportunity to meet us at the local precinct to thwart “shenanigans.” Not sure with this truck anybody would try to pull anything. And, of course, police departments the world over stopped using videotape a long time ago. Most likely a time lapse digital file that some IT guy can scrub once its reached its destroy date. Tell ya what, ‘mater, those two horns under the hood wouldn’t hold up to a couple Claxton or diesel train horns. They look slightly bigger than bicycle horns!

  6. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Real deal and hard to find this complete – most were crushed. Just do an up grade the a 49 – up flathead and 39 up brakes and your good to go. I’m lucky my 1965 F-350 came with a newish Holms 440.

    Like 2
  7. Phlathead Phil

    My take on this is it should be reborn.

    It’s a classic old motor mule that could have probably pulled the Space Shuttle without a sweat.

    Drop the tow goodies, the bed and cleanse it’s soul of all rusty sins.

    Next drop in a period correct power plant, repaint in red with black fenders.

    Next build a custom steel, aluminium diamond plate touches, and oak bed. Get an extra large oak wine barrel and mount it dead center on the bed. Tourists will flock to it for photo ops.

    Sell it to a Winery on the west coast.

    Now, that’s YARD ART fit for a wine Barron !!!

    Like 1
  8. Steve RM

    Is this body factory? Ford built a Model A service truck that looks a lot like this one. If it is factory, it’s one rare truck.

    Like 3
  9. FordFixer Member

    I have a 52 F6 Cabover with 5 lug rims, also were 7X20s when I got it. Had a $$$$$ of a deal getting tires changed, like you say. Found that Winnebago of the 70’s had right bolt pattern in 19.5 tubeless. Found one W/no title with good tires (and a spare ) traded wheels/tires, sold the remains. Still running these wheels/tires. Should have kept the disc braked axles and 440/auto.

  10. Bill

    I think the positive thing about this truck is it already has a late model flat head engine. Which gives it more cubic inches displacement and even more if it is a Mercury with the long stroke. Hopefully since it has the factory oil filter someone did the regular oil changes. I will place my vote that someone PLEASE restore it.
    Someone tell Jay Leno about it.
    Thoughts from a 82 year old who already has way too many cars.

  11. H C Member

    This is a great piece of Americana, but will take some guy with very deep pockets, and passion to bring her back to life and working order

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.