The Week's Features
Seven of the industry’s finest to be inducted to Hall, October 12
Herring Motor Company keeps classic line alive
Recovery management and technology services now one
Delivers Class 6 capability in a Class 5 Super Duty package
Recovery “dance” lifts overturned truck
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingMay 15 - May 21, 2019

Tow Americana

0 ed4e7By Al Rogers

During a recent magazine photo-shoot assignment to Clio, Mich., for a publication specializing in antique tractors, I did a quick double-take when I saw a rare vintage tow truck parked in the driveway.

Owner Mark Felton seemed surprised when I asked about the green and black 1947 Dodge wrecker. He said it was purchased new by his late uncle Ken Safford, who owned and operated a successful body shop.

This 1947 Dodge WF-31 cab and chassis was built by Dodge, but the towing equipment was built by an outside supplier. Stafford didn't like the design of the original boom, so he came up with a design of his own and installed it on the truck. A skilled body man, Stafford welded each of the steel pipes himself. His design reduced the rear overhang by a foot and allowed the boom to function in a less restrictive way.

The boom is operated by a Garwood winch and powered by the truck's power take-off.

After 20 years of owning the truck, Stafford sold it to a person who held onto it for two decades. Then, Stafford's son Ron purchased the wrecker with the intent of giving it a full-blown restoration. Ron had the truck repainted and overhauled the engine. The truck sat awaiting the final touches when Felton contacted him and they worked out a deal for Felton to become the sole owner.

Felton has restored vintage tractors for nearly three decades. He soon realized the '47 Dodge WF-31 had an engine knock from one of the pistons. Felton decided to go through the engine even though he'd been told it had been rebuilt. During the engine teardown, a valve was contacting a piston just as he'd suspected.

He went onto install the interior then ran into a headache while looking for the driveshaft U-joint. It was the single hardest part to find, but a company in Africa eventually was sourced who reproduces the parts. Original style brake cylinders are not available, so the ones he took off the truck were rebuilt.

The '47 Dodge WF-31 wrecker is all truck and it drives and handles like one. There's no creature comfort items in the cab ... it takes some effort navigating it along the roadway.

It has a four-speed transmission, but no two-speed rear axle. The engine is a 236.6-cid side-valve six-cylinder that puts out 109 hp. Due to the low gearing required for a tow truck, top speed is somewhere between 45 to 50 mph. When driving at the maximum speed, the engine revs extremely fast. Felton usually has his eyes glued on the original 1947 Sun tachometer mounted on top of the dash while driving the truck above 45 mph.

When Felton drives this truck on the local roads in Michigan, the response from onlookers is thumbs up. It gets approving nods from muscle car, classic car and truck owners. Felton has encountered many bikers who like to cruise next to it.

Photojournalist Al Rogers lives in Livonia, Mich., and travels the countryside searching out the unique and interesting in vintage vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Contact him at

A Classic with Outstanding Pinstripes

0 7203fBy George L. Nitti

Herring Motor Co. of Somerset, Pennsylvania, has been in business a very long time, operating several trucking-related businesses spanning four generations.

At one point in time, the company served as a distributor/dealership of the Marmon Motor Co., which was a low-production, handmade truck sometimes referred to as "the Rolls-Royce of trucks." However, due to an overcrowded American truck industry and the lack of a nationwide sales network, the last Marmon was made in 1997.

Fortunately, Herring collected a number of Marmons over the life of the motor company and is still using them in their towing and recovery units, including their sprawling, classic 1989 Marmon/Century 5230.

"Over the years we sold a lot of glider kits," said owner Pat Herring, "which included the truck frame, the hood, cab and the sleeper while the other components were added later."

In the vein of their other trucks, this one is painted red, and carries a couple of distinctive features: the classic Herring Motor lettering on the side of the sleeper and the superlative pinstriping done by Casey Kennel of nearby Paint Chops.

On the sleeper, the company name stands out in super-large white lettering like on a billboard. The lettering itself recalls another era, further distinguishing it while its phone number and address sit underneath.

As for the pinstriping, Kennel prides himself as a master pinstriper of East and West Coast new and old school style ... since 1974.

"We have always used pinstriping on our trucks," Herring Manager Ernie Devine said. "The way he (Kennel) sponges it on is old school. He puts paint on a sponge and sponges it on. The paint is real thick."

The lines are done in colorful pink around the unit for a pleasing aesthetic with a timeless feel.

In the world of design, it's the little things that matter next to a name that is bold.

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