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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJuly 17 - July 23, 2019
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Wheelie Wizardry

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By George L. Nitti

There's a long-standing creed at Chelsea Wrecker Service in Chelsea, Oklahoma: "If it's not old, it's not any good!" Roger Melson owned Chelsea for 29 years before retiring; his passion was collecting, restoring and retrofitting antique cars, hot rods and tow trucks.

One of his restorations included a red 1949 International KB7 tow truck with two Ramsey electric winches.

"I was nicknamed 'The Wizard,' " Melson said. "I built racecars and fast cars. You name it. My daddy was chief of police and used to borrow this truck in 1959 to sell watermelons. I was five years old then. I had no idea that I would own it. I traded for it about 20 years ago and fixed it up. It could pull anything out of a lake, and a house if it needed to be moved."

The wrecker is still in working shape. It operates with many of its components like the suspension springs, pedals, steering wheel, dashboard, original headlights and more.

Melson claims to have had the oldest tow trucks in Oklahoma's history.

"I wanted to go to work in an antique truck every day," he said, "and I did not want to spend a whole lot of money on new tow trucks because it's a small town where some days you make money and some days you don't. I didn't want a struggle. I think it helped my business. Nobody ever rode in a '30 or '40 model (truck)."

Part of the retrofitting included shortening the frame, putting a back seat in, adding a swiveling bed and most extraordinarily, a heavy winch box that has enabled it to do wheelies.

"The winch box added about 5,500 pounds of weight," Melson said. "You can put it in different positions and wheelie down the road. It's very forgiving and goes straight."

At that vantage point, the wrecker is clearly eye catching, even drawing the interest of kids.

"I had a mouth that bolts on front with teeth. I put that on the truck for a show. The kids think that it is 'Tow Mater.' I tell them that it is Mater's father," he said, referring to another classic tow truck he owned that resembled "Tow Mater" from the hit "Cars" movie franchise.

On the front, under its right standard headlight, are the words "Cheapers Greapers."

"If people remember the movie, it was an old truck running people off the road," Melson said.

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