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The Ex Kauffs Mean Machine Restoration ( 5 Years on )


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Topic Originally Created on Tow411 in July of 2006:


I had gotten round to take some pics of the Famous twin steer AUTOCAR I had been Restoring for several years on and off !!

I had a call from Bill Ludewig of Ernies Towing Service and he kindly sent me some pics of the a/car working stateside and confirming that it came from the Kauffs Stable in Florida.......
Thanks Bill You are a Star!!!








t Does not look like it but I had spent hundreds of hours making up new panels for the doors and A posts as they had gone quite rusty.
Unfortunately, I have not moved along as quickly as I should have done there is always more urgent things to do!!
like Painting the house, laying a new driveway, fitting a new kitchen, fitting a new bathroom etc etc !


Any way I am Back on the Case, all of the Junk that has accumulated around it is now being moved and we are making up new front mud shields and steps.


I hope to finish the panel work in the next 3 months and then we will get it into the paint booth.................................. A nice paint Job..........Bucket loads of Chrome and it will be ready to roll.

I do need some parts for it and I will post a want list soon if anyone can help me, as autocar parts in Europe are as rare as Hens Teeth !!


Be Safe, Be Lucky.
May all of your Punctures be little ones, 'cos it's only flat on the bottom.



Rotator60 said:

Thank you for restoring that ole girl. That 850 Holmes was a bad ass unit and that whole truck was awesome.

I spent many days admiring her and what she did in the canals of South Florida.
Scott Hedgcoth


Hoover said:

My boss,(Darrell Johnson Sr) has a photograph on his office wall of that truck at the first Florida tow show, where Thomas Butler(now our night dispatcher) won the driving contest.
I will try and get it re-produced to fit on here.


showtime93 said:

When I worked at kauffs in the early 90's I remember seen pics , That is one bad ass truck. I hope you send us pics when your done. Harvey Spencer

TOwBoY88 tubegreen.gif said:
Can't wait to see any old photos of this brute...
"60% of the time, I am right every time."
GrayA4 said:
Looks like youve still a bit of work to do yet John! Did you do the work yourself?
I know how easy it is to lose days/week on a project like that! But it will all be worth it in the end !
Cant wait to see her all painted and ready to rock!!
mushspeed tubegreen.gif said:
es Guys I have managed to do some more work on it and have sent quite a lot of stuff off for Chrome plating and Powder Coating.

Gray.......My Son Graham and myself have done most of the work on it so far....BUT.....Every time we get stuck in, something more urgent crops up. I really want to get'er done as soon as possible.....this truck WIIIIIIIIIILLLLLL be restored to its former glory as soon as time permits and I will be proud to drive it, How I get it round corners is another matter!!!!Be Safe, Be Lucky.

May all of your Punctures be little ones, 'cos it's only flat on the bottom.
David Boone said:
Great Old truck John. Be sure and post new pics as you get the chance.
jrtowman said:
I found this pic of it
Rotator60 said:
Somewhere Larry Lemon is smiling. Right Mike?
Scott Hedgcoth
mushspeed said:
Thanks for your kind words.....It Will be restored to its former glory. We are well advanced in the job now, We have had to make both front mud shields out of new 1/8th plate because the originals had gone very rusty and when we took the front end off we discovered quite a lot of accident damage on the drivers side and it had been badly repaired. We ended up making a whole new sub frame assembly, the end of the frame rail was cracked and twisted. Anyway we have now repaired all of that and it is taking shape nicely.

I am unsure exactly how the truck got into the UK but i understand it was in the early 90s and it had changed hands a couple of times before I got hold of it.......
The English weather had done its work and it was looking a bit sad and quite a few damaged bits and pieces.
You are absolutely correct, it is a real handful getting it round corners, But....that's all the fun of it??

KYLE..........Thanks a bunch for turning up that pic it is Coooool.

I have an Air operated Starter motor with all of the stuff that came with it. But, there is an electric one fitted, Does any one know which one was the original fitment???
Be Safe, Be Lucky.
May all of your Punctures be little ones, 'cos it's only flat on the bottom.
Mike Scheidt said:
richard tells me that when we bought it it was air but we converted it to electric if you need any of the oerp specs let me know.
Rotatorman said:
the truck look great please send pictres of it my wifes late father drove that truck thanks
i hope this can be a help to you darwin at ryans towing in haines city florida has a yard full of 750 and 850 parts i am sure he would help i dont know his number off hand because i am in iraq right now hope all goes well with you and your truck

john fenshaw - tikrit iraq - lakeland florida
mushspeed said:
How the truck actually arrived in the uk and who's hands it went through is a bit of a mystery. But, I bought it in a retirement sale and it was in a bit of a sad state, hence the restoration.....

John ....thanks for the lead on the Holmes parts ...850 stuff is pretty rare in Europe... what I do need....is some A/car bits, if you know of a company that I could contact to get them shipped to me.
Best Regards Guys
Be Safe, Be Lucky.
May all of your Punctures be little ones, 'cos it's only flat on the bottom.
Towman26 said:
That was an awsome machine herein its day. That was the second 850 in Fl. My dad had the first back in 68 or 69. I would really like to find it. Last time i knew it was in south america just like this truck.
Warren Driscoll
macallisters said:
Hi John,
Holmes 850? I didn't know the model range had an 850 - you learn something new every day. Used holmes 600 & 750 for years and they are still good winching tools.

I have a technical question for the group - when winching with a twin boom - do you split the booms and go straight from the masthead? I was always schooled not to winch from the booms in case they are over strained and bent. The reason for this is that it encourages the weight to transfer down through the A frame to the back axles.

However i've seen images of fairly heavy duty winches on this site - examples such as 6 wheel tipper in florida buried up to the diff being pulled out by two lines two to one but rigged going out from the ends of the booms - it seemed to go fine but I'm curious what the opinions are to these techniques.

Wreckeruk said:
Love to see that when ur done John.
I found this in one of my books,

the text reads, Ivan Chant's 8x4 autocar came to uk in the early eighties having previously served in the fleet of Howard Kauff of Florida.
The Holmes 850 equipped truck soon became a regular sight on the roads and country lanes around Frome, Somerset base where its owner ran Berkley Commercial Vehicle Repairs. Weighing in at over 20 tons and over 30' long, the cummins powered monster is fitted with the largest of the Holmes twin boom cranes and has dual controls fitted to either side of the bodywork. Ivan has since retired and the truck has been sold on.

Don't know if this is any help, the book is Recovery Vehicles by Mick Waite, published in 1998.
Not just a job, its an adventure!
mushspeed said:
Kieth..........Thank you for that Photograph I haven't seen that one before but I can identify where it was taken, that was outside Ivan's place at Frome in Somerset probably before he put the place up for auction.

Mark...........there are very few Holmes 850 in the UK about three to my knowledge, However, there are quite a few in exsistence Stateside, the power of the 850 is Awesome!!! almost unstoppable if is set up and rigged properly. there are a lot of folk who still swear by them and are reluctant to use anything else.
there has been quite a bit of very interesting discussion recently elsewhere in this forum ( I dont know how to post the link) I think it is in "Equipment" somewhere, but cant find it right now. some for the twin booms and some for the big hydraulics, opinion is divided, but well worth the read.Be Safe, Be Lucky.
May all of your Punctures be little ones, 'cos it's only flat on the bottom.
hpgtowing said:
When it comes to winching power and strength? The Holmes 850 is unequaled. If you rig a 3 or 4 part line? Set those 2 speed winches in low gear? It will winch like NOTHING you have ever seen before.It will NOT be out winched by any hydraulic or mechanical wrecker on the planet... The only exterminating factor? Is it's holding ability... Either the wrecker will slide back? The disablement will come to the wrecker? Or it will tear what ever it is winching in half!
Thanks.. Steve
mushspeed said:
Steve ....You are right on the money with that.... and thanks
Regards JohnBe Safe, Be Lucky.
May all of your Punctures be little ones, 'cos it's only flat on the bottom.
mike scheidt said:
Steve you are right that truck would pull very hard but to compare it to a modern day truck and since ive run that one and my new 70 my seventy will out pull those or should i say sit there longer the problem with the 850s was the winches were held there with wedges and they would actually turn the whole drum and break the chain they only have 5/8 cable so your really comparing apples to oranges but it was a great truck just rough to drive if you cut your teeth on a holes or any mechanical you really apreciate the hydralics but i will riun a good recovery mind lol
unknown Member said:
I understand what "Rotatorman" is talking about --the mounting wedges/bolts @ the base of the crane supports.

Had to retighten them every six months or so on our 750'/600's--until finally, the bolts stretch out--you have to cut them off-replace all the hardware & hold-downs.

Much better to catch it in ur shop on a ranny-day PM, then out winching on a jack-knife job in rush-hour traffic.,

Bad thing, I never heard our local Holmes dist. tell anyone about any kind of preventitive maint. like that----had to learn through trial/error....
njChuck said:
Please post pictures when done. For a short time I owned the one that George Logan in No. Brunswick NJ. had. He sold it to another local tow co. .and when I bought them out I got the A-Car which I had wanted since I was a KID. But it figures I got it in my hands , then had to sell it cuz I needed a HYD. unit, twist of fate uh! Good luck cant wait to see it done.
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It was a long time ago when I started this restoration and because we had so many other things going on and always something more important to do .....And it was put in the waiting room  ( so to speak).....

I  almost gave up and nearly cut it up at one stage ....I knew the historic importance of this iconic truck  so ....persistance prevailed and finally we got it done 

I have added a photograph which is already posted on this site ....just to demonstrate where we are now ...I shall post some more pics when I have all the finishing touches done ...my Sincere thanks go to Bill Ludwig , Richard Kauff ,  Billy  from Pendell  Towing , Kramers Towing ,  The Autocar Historic Society ,  and lastly but not least , all the Tow 411 members for their kind comments and encouragement  to see the project through..

John.  😊😊😊😊😊20180722_081433.thumb.jpg.6e3baccde3ac6489df90173a1473892c.jpg

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