by Heather Miles Austin
Fifty years ago Jerry Brock was a young man working in his father's auto salvage yard in Tempe, Ariz. Today he has built a reputation as a national leader in the wholesale auto parts industry through Brock Supply Co. which has over 335,000 shipments a year and growing. The catalyst for such tremendous success is an unlikely source, a 1958 Chevy, Holmes 525 Wrecker.
In the late 1950s Brock was responsible for towing wrecked vehicles that he had bought for his salvage yard. Soon however, with the addition of reliable radio equipment, Brock was busy towing for the Tempe Police Department, Maricopa County Sherriff's office and the Arizona Highway Patrol. As word spread of Brock's responsiveness and availability, demand for his services grew.
"I didn't miss a call day or night" Brock explained. "Even if we went out to dinner we took the tow truck. We simply bundled up my six-year-old daughter Alex and the whole family would go along for the pick-up."
While towing was a source of extra income for the young father, it also provided tremendous salvage opportunities and Brock capitalized by purchasing some vehicles from his towing jobs. But after five or six years, Brock had to make a decision. He had just implemented a new hotline service and he needed to be traveling much more frequently. He couldn't keep towing and meet the increased demand of both the hotline and auto salvage yard.
"I enjoyed towing so much, but I had to make a decision to dedicate myself completely to the auto salvage business and capitalize on the opportunity the new hotline created," Brock said. "I sold my beloved truck for $2,500 and from then on focused completely on the new hotline and salvage yard."
His decision paid off, Brock Supply Co. now provides new aftermarket parts to customers all over the nation through nearly 50 employees in two locations. But even after years of success Brock hasn't forgotten about that tow truck from decades earlier.
"That truck was so important to me early in my career and I loved the towing business." said Brock. "I have restored several cars and often wondered if it would be possible to find and restore my truck from 45 years earlier."
Inspired by long-time friend Ronnie Bauman, of Bauman Tow Services in Riverside, Calif. who had been collecting and restoring cars for decades himself, Brock started the long journey of tracking down his truck. Unbelievably, he located the original buyer, Marvin Tipton in Tacna, AZ and found out that he had sold it to another gentleman that had since passed away. From there the trail went cold for months. Brock contacted customers and friends from all over the nation to try to find the original truck. In doing so, he enjoyed many stories and made new connections with other tow truck owners answering the call for information, but his original 58 Chevy, Holmes Wrecker remained out of reach.
Brock decided to move forward with a restoration and upon Bauman's urging purchased a truck to restore and three others for parts including one with an old Holmes Wrecker. He also utilized new parts from all over the country, including some from Brock Supply Co.
"It was given a much needed frame-up restoration. A 350 Chevy crate motor was installed and all the modern conveniences."
After many months of hard work, the results have been rewarding to Brock as he is finally able to give proper recognition to a vehicle that launched his career. The truck was also recently entered into Tempe's Veteran's Day Parade and in addition to providing Brock with a new set of wheels, it will be displayed and entered into various car shows.
In addition, just a month or so after the restoration was complete, Brock got a miraculous call from a gentleman in Phoenix. After describing several unique characteristics, including the initials JB cut into the steel plate on the back plate of the wrecker, Brock was finally convinced that it was his original truck, Chuck McBee had seen it on YouTube. He met with Chuck and although the vehicle wasn't for sale, he was able to come full circle and finally close the mystery to what happened to his original truck and now Brock will follow it through Chuck's restoration efforts.
"The entire restoration process has brought back so many memories of what this town and this industry used to be like," said Brock. "It is nice to remember all the individuals I've worked with and learned from over the years. This truck isn't just a tribute to my business success; it signifies the efforts of hundreds of individuals who have supported me through the years and reminds each of us about the values this industry was founded on - hard work, entrepreneurship and teamwork."