The History of Holmes Wreckers
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The Holmes 850 was the largest commercially produced mechanical wrecker Holmes offered. The first unit was shipped in March 1950 and by 1989 332 civilian units had been built. Serial Numbers on these units start at JB1– 104 (the early 850 code was “J”) and the last 850 I know of was shipped in October of 1989 – unit number 435 – making a total of 332 units built during 40 years of production (later 850 serial code was “RR”).

Another 93 units were built for the US Marine Corp from June 1953 until June 1954. These can be identified by the serial plate number – from MI3 – 101 to MF3 – 194.

Most 850’s were mounted on tandem trucks, but a few were supplied on single axle chassis. Unique among production Holmes Wreckers was the capability of lifting the booms under power and a 2 speed transmission for the winch line speed (6 ft / minute in low; 24 ft / minute high). Early units had the controls up on the deck right behind the winches: later units still had controls up on the deck but also had side controls so the operator did not have to climb up on the deck.

Standard rating was 40 tons (early units were 35 ton) and each drum held 300 ft of ¾” cable so for most recoveries no cable extensions were required.

Many of the Holmes 850 units are still in service as heavy recovery units – often mounted on the second or third chassis. One of the best known 850’s is the Jamie Davis truck “Big Mo” – star of the “Highway Thru Hell” television show. This 850 was purchased new in 1975 through Airth Automotive’s Cliff Airth by Garry Leach of Winnipeg’s United Towing.

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