Without a doubt, the most popular wrecker of all time was the Holmes 440. But, not so in the early going because most of the sales reps thought it was too small to be much of a factor. Further, the 440 only had a single service line and boom which limited it to light-duty work.
So, to put this wrecker across, the Ernest Holmes Company leased a number of 440s to the American Automobile Association for a dollar a year. AAA gave them to their field reps who used them for personal transportation in working with service providers. A number of us also attended AAA training sessions where we demonstrated the “new” 440 wrecker and featured it as a combination service truck and wrecker. A combination of those efforts began to pay off as sales of the 440 started to climb.
In fact, due to its lower cost and superior performance, many operators purchased 440s for general use. I know of one major tower with a city contract who had only an antique W45, using instead a “handful” of 440s to do heavy duty recovery jobs. This usually worked well, but now and then when a single service line would snap, the domino effect would take over and the lumbering old W45 would have to finish the job. In fact, due to this frequent overloading, the tower was experiencing a high failure rate of boom end sheaves. I counseled Holmes engineering and they sent me a box full of new sheaves made of higher tensile steel. That solved the problem and made the 440 even more serviceable.
The Holmes model 440 was introduced in 1965 but didn’t begin to sell in quantity until 1969. Thereafter, it became the standard of the industry as every local fabricator across the country attempted to make copies which were marketed under a variety of names, but none duplicated the performance of the real thing.
I’ve personally known of 440s doing amazing jobs but the one that takes the grand prize was a Cajun from South Louisiana who recovered a truck loaded with sugar cane and then towed it back to town. Yep’, it was just a little light on the front end, but he figured a way to get ‘er done.
For a number of years the Holmes 440 was the superstar of the industry.