Jump to content
  • Join the TowForce community.

    It looks like you're not logged in. Register to get started and to receive Tower Down Notices.

"Big Stick" Wreckers


Recommended Posts

Somebody school me on these "Big Stick' Wreckers, with the High Side Service bodies. Who made them ?, what years ? etc. Seems like everytime I see one it's always located in California, & usually on Cabover Trucks. Saw a movie the other night with two KW COE's with these units, ramming a Caddy limo. More photos of them, would be nice also.


Da Wash Boss said:

Is this what you mean?





JRhd34 said:

There were several manufactures. My father built his own. Don Heinz built many. Contenintal built quite a few. 2 peterbilt dealers one in the south and one in north built there own also. I will try to get some pictures. Holmes2Miller has been around in this area a long time maybe he has some pictures. The Contenintal wreckers were all cable operated wreckers and very complex. Ahead of their time with power up and boom out features. My fathers and Heinz were "pin" operated where the boom had to be pre placed and much more operator friendly to use.


Spanky said:

So what you're saying is these units were built by the Companies that were using them, or could a person, or Company go out to a dealer, & purchase one.


michael212 said:

Spanky most were "shop" built (home made). Don Heinz was the "guy' I believe is most credited for these units. Since he turned out more than the others...... I have never seen one up close let alone operate one but some "old timers" I have talked with over the years swore by them...........
Michael Myers
JRhd34 said:
Yes Heinz and Contenintal built many for outside customers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tow1238 added:

kts7.jpg kts3.jpg subw4.jpg subw3.jpg

subw2.jpg subw1.jpg

there are more but I guess this is enough.


Spanky said:

Why would it be enough? Thanks


Pheonix Added:





The very first pic is an interesting piece of history, one of Continentals heavy crash trucks, #36, a cabover Peterbilt which met her fate sometime in the '70's.

From what I understand, the wrecker body was a copy of Continental's other boomtrucks (which were designed by Les Harper and Tex Freeman, and built at the Continental shops, then on Alameda and Washington) but this particular unit was fabricated by the J.T. Jenkins Co. to Continentals specifications. J.T. Jenkins was the local Kenworth dealer in L.A. who's body shop could fabricate any type of special equipment a customer wanted. All these big Continental boomtrucks used two 1" wire rope pennant lines off the mast to support the boom (similar to a Holmes wrecker) in contrast to the "tree" that supports the boom on all these Heins wreckers as pictured. The operator would need to climb onto the deck next to the winches to operate the clutch pedal and controls, with the pennant lines and winch cables only a few feet from his head. Sounds like a PITA to climb up and down all day, but I was told that the original idea was to have the operator up high so he can get a good view of the whole crash scene. Besides, Continentals boomtrucks were designed primarily for heavy crash work, not day-to-day towing. Greg Freeman once explained to me that they even distinguished between "wreckers" and "tow trucks", wreckers being the big boomtrucks and Bulldogs, and "tow trucks" being the little a-frames and the underlift, or "bus truck" as it was sometimes called. Nonetheless, the "wreckers" towed just as much as the "tow trucks" daily.

The story goes that 36 and Scotty, her operator, responded to a call of a loaded cement mixer overturned on the Santa Monica Freeway. While attempting to overturn the mixer, a pennant line snapped, whipped around and took half his head off. After sending two more trucks to flip the mixer, Tex Freeman had 36 towed back to the yard and scrapped.

36 was photographed in front of the Angelus Temple on Glendale Blvd, near Echo Park. This photo appeared on Continental's business cards and advertisements until Will and Anita sold it in the 1990's.

I remember going for a ride in the Pico Pete around 1987 or so, when Anaheim-Fullerton had her. By then she was painted bright orange, the deck was black with a white boom. Don Smallwood was assigned to drive her, but she had a 5x4 Brownie, which he didnt know how to shift. Ol' Don limped it on surface streets all the way from Fullerton to our shop in Montebello, and my dad took him (and me) around the block a few times to show him how to shift the twin sticks. I believe it had a big bad Cummins KT500 in it.

I'd kill for a nice Pete with a Don Heins about now.


Santos said:

"Big Sticks" this link stolen from aths forums, but is a Continental rig now sitting in Mexico..



RedPete said:

Now thats a cool place to visit. I could spend hours in that yard lookin around...


PHOENIX50 said:

My uncles used to work at Continental, when I was 11 years old, the guy who drove 48, Otis, let me climb in there and sit in the drivers seat LOL  If I remember right, it was a 60's KW with a Cummins and a 5-speed main and 3-speed Brown-Lipe.  Wrecker body was designed and built by Tex Freeman and Les Harper at the Continental shop, then located down near Slauson and Alameda in South Central L.A. If you look closely, theres another old Continental crash truck in the background.  This monster, along with it's sisters, owned the freeways and streets back in the 60's and 70's... Continental was THE super heavy duty in LA back in the day.
Continental built about a dozen or so of their big stickboom wreckers over the years, from the early 60's probably into the 70's. They also built a few A-frame type trucks as well. One of their big crash trucks, #36, was built to Continentals specs by K.W. dealer and custom fabricator J.T. Jenkins here in L.A. and mounted on a new Pete cabover. Like all their trucks, the operator had to climb atop the deck to use the controls, which were on port side of the deck, near the winches- the idea was that the operator had a better view of the crash scene (mind you, Tex built these trucks primarily with super-heavy duty crash work in mind, not operator comfort). One of their men was killed on 36 while uprighting a mixer that had rolled on the Santa Monica Freeway, one of the pennant lines snapped while he was on the deck working the controls and struck him in the head. Tex Freeman had 36 towed back and scrapped, his son Will had a pic of that truck on his business cards until he sold the business in the 90's.

The 2 KW's in Cleopatra Jones belonged to Howard Sommers in the Valley, but they were built by Continental. When Howard Sommers got the heavy duty contract for the San Fernando Valley, Tex Freeman from Continental had his crew build 2 heavies for Howard, which were nicknamed "King Kong" and "Mighty Joe Young". They were slightly differernt from the Continental bodies, the side panels are a little different, as were the boom supports: Continental had pennant lines holding up the boom, the Howard Sommers rigs had a "tree" holding up the boom from underneath.
Phoenix Towing Company
1505 Bluff Rd.
Montebello, CA 90640
Spanky said:
I looked at that photo several times on the ATHS website, & never noticed that other "Big Stick" in the background. How many of those "Big Sticks", did Continental own? I saw an old movie (Cleopatra Jones) a few months ago, & I believe they used two COE Big Sticks from Continental to smash up a Caddy.
Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...
Please Sign In or Sign Up