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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingSeptember 19 - September 25, 2018

The 'Johnny Cash Rotator'

0 e3434By George Nitti

"Long. I get up at five every morning and don't get home until around 6 or 7 p.m."

That's what Mark Robbins, owner of I-44 Truck Center in St. Claire, Mo., will tell you what his typical days are like.

And that's on a good day, when no extreme recovery situation beckons him late at night like it did last week when he was called to action on a multiple tractor-trailer recovery that took him into the wee hours of the morning.

Robbins, who has been in business 26 years, changed the name of the company to I-44 Wrecker in 1999 when he added other business locations, which now include the cities of Pacific, Sullivan and Rolla. Ninety percent of their work is heavy-duty, and one of the units often employed is their Powerbilt 70SR 70-ton sliding rotator. Fronted with a Peterbilt 379 chassis, it's a customized wrecker that Robbins builds in addition to operating a truck and trailer repair business.

Robbins calls it his "Johnny Cash Rotator," referring to Cash's song, "One Piece at a Time." In the song, a guy working at GM harbors a dream of custom-building his own car by sneaking out pieces one at a time: "I figured I'd have it all by the time I retired/I'd have me a car worth at least a hundred grand/I'd get it one piece at a time and it wouldn't cost me a dime."

Robbins said that this rotator has been on display at the American Towman Exposition a couple of times, as they built it to sell—but then decided to keep it for his recovery business.

The distinguishing graphics on this unit center on its customized paint job in purple, orange and yellow.

"We have our own in-house painting team," he said. "Vinyl fades out. You can tell when it's vinyl. The paint is airbrushed."

The chain link graphic that sits just under the jagged purple portion of the truck's design is an enduring symbol in the industry that Robbins felt perfectly suited the truck's overall design while helping to accentuate each color.

The writing on the boom promotes the company business name and phone number. Its orange hydraulic cylinder with yellow lettering aptly states "Xtreme Recovery."

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Resplendent Design

0 3aa0fBy George L. Nitti

According to Manager Amy Gibson of Michael's Towing and Recovery in Fredericksburg, Va., their resplendent 2012 Kenworth/Century 1140 is a big hit with customers.

"Our customers absolutely love it," she said.

Gibson said that Michael Powell, who has owned the company for 24 years, takes great care and pride in decorating his trucks.

Indeed, there is much to admire about this award-winning unit, with its bold and bursting array of colors.

"He does it with all of his trucks," Gibson said, which includes 14 units that range from light- to heavy-duty, including transport and service vehicles.

"I call it the 'Elite Fleet.' They are so beautiful to look at," she said.

Like a peacock with its brilliant colors, this unit stands out, beginning with a classic base of white and green.

"Michael went with green because it is not a common color found on many tow trucks and he likes to be different. The colors weren't too overwhelming either," she said.

From that base the unit begins to explode with several other colors, including rainbow shapes, lines, streaks and tribal flames.

"It is kept very clean, like all of his trucks," Gibson said. "You want your trucks to be clean and presentable when you show up at the scene. We believe it makes it more comfortable for someone being towed to be approached by a professional-looking truck."

There are several features that further set this unit apart.

"Michael created a twin steer on a 1140 rotator, which is unique in the industry," Gibson said. "You don't see that on 40-ton rotators."

Then there is the Roto Ray warning light on the grill, which spins and is fully functional, the suicide driver door, and a night scan light tower.

Perhaps the quote on the back of the cab sums it up best: "Tough Act to Follow."

(Note: This article originally appeared in the February 8, 2017 edition of Tow Industry Week)

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Should your truck be featured here? Send a few pics and your contact information to the editor at . You might even be selected to go in print, too, in American Towman magazine!
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