The tow truck was invented in 1916 by Ernest Holmes, Sr., of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Holmes, a garage worker was asked by a friend to retrieve a car. With the help of six men Holmes, retrieved the car using three poles, a pulley and chain hooked up to a 1913 Cadillac. After patenting an improved design Holmes began to manufacture what is known in America as a “wrecker” and what we Brits call a recovery truck.
As the auto industry expanded Holmes’ business grew eventually his products earned a worldwide reputation for their quality and performance. After Ernest Holmes, Sr. died in 1943 Ernest Holmes, Jr. ran the company until 1973. The company was then sold to the Dover Corporation. Later that year the founder’s grandson, Gerald Holmes, started his own company manufacturing hydraulically powered wreckers in Ooltewah, Tennessee, called Century Wreckers.
Both the Dover Corporation and Century Wreckers were later purchased by Miller Industries. Today Miller Industries still manufacture wreckers at the Century Wreckers facility in Ooltewah, Tennessee.