1941 Chevrolet Tow Truck Donated to Local Children's Hospital
June 08, 2020
Vintage tow trucks lived hard lives, and many of them ended up in fields or in the woods after being retired from service. The harsh truth is that vintage commercial trucks are rarely worth a lot of money, so they often get neglected and put out to pasture (literally). Such is the case of a 1941 Chevrolet tow truck, which served the Chattanooga, Tennessee area many decades ago. It was damaged and rusty, but its owners found a great way to revitalize it and help a great cause.
Jasper Wiley Dodd (J.W.) and his brother Bill Dodd started the Dodd Bros. Gulf Service in Rossville, Georgia, just a couple miles south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Around this time, J.W. also met his soon-to-be-wife at Erlanger hospital, and she was one of his biggest supporters. While brother Bill went on to pursue a career with the Georgia State Patrol, it left J.W. to run the service station. In this era, many service stations also had a wrecker service, and in 1955, J.W. Dodd put his first wrecker into service.
It was this Holmes 330 Junior wrecker, with a 1941 Chevy body. It was equipped with a 235ci inline six-cylinder engine and four-speed manual transmission. Compared to today’s giant diesel powerhouses, this wrecker is ancient technology, but J.W. had a “get it done with what ya got” mentality and he used it until 1969. As the service station and wrecker service grew, J.W. became known for his generosity, and his son Mark recalls him always buying people a Coke to drink and giving kids Tootsie Rolls. And while J.W. passed away in April 2017, his legacy lives on with his first wrecker. At the time of J.W.’s passing, the Dodd family didn’t have a plan for the dilapidated wrecker, which had been sitting outside since its retirement in 1969. It was rusty and rotten, but was always a conversation piece for the family, friends and community. Mark Dodd was later given the opportunity to donate his father’s old wrecker to the Children’s Hospital. It was time to get to work!
Jeremy Tankersley, Mark Dodd and Terry Aiken worked night and day to restore the chassis, body and Holmes wrecker equipment, while Richard Pope handled the fabrication of the wood bed floor.
Henry Johnson handled the bodywork and paint, applying white to the cab, hood and bed sides and purple on the fenders and various details. Why purple, you ask? It goes back to the Dodd Bros. Gulf Service, and “Gulf Crest Purple” represented the top tier fuel sold at Gulf Service stations in the 1950’s.
Byrd’s Automotive in Chattanooga, Tennessee provided the paint and auto body materials for the project. Vance Dobbins did the hand lettering, including the Dodd Bros. tagline, “No Ditch Too Deep, No Hill Too Steep!” on a vintage tool box mounted to the wood bed floor. Also, hand-lettered on the door is the name “Sally”, because the folks at the Children’s Hospital wanted the wrecker to appeal to girls and boys alike. That also explains the eye lashes and lips. To get the vintage truck rolling, Jeremy contacted us for a set of period correct Firestone commercial truck tires, sized at 750-16.
The restored truck is now a permanent interactive display at the new Kennedy Outpatient Center, a fantastic addition to the Children’s Hospital at Erlanger here in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Kennedy Outpatient Center is a beautiful facility and it has lots of interactive details that bring a smile to children’s faces. Other exhibits include a vintage locomotive out front, a Fire Truck exhibit on another floor and other interactive displays.
Knowing how much J.W. Dodd loved children, the permeant placement of his wrecker at the Kennedy Outpatient Center at Children’s Hospital is a beautiful tribute to the legacy that he left with his family and friends. Mark, Jeremy and crew went above and beyond to restore the truck in record time, meeting a deadline to present the finished product at a charity event for the new hospital. Then, about a month later, the truck was lifted by crane into the second floor of the new building.
Children have full access to the truck, and they’re able to turn the lights on and off, as well as operate the tow rope with the hand crank. Children and parents that visit the new Children’s Hospital at Erlanger will enjoy this piece of local tow truck history for many years and you can bet that J.W. is smiling down on this valiant effort by his son Mark, grandson Jeremy and friends in the community.