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Better one wrecker than two wrecks: the origin of the HFOD Roadmaster wrecker

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That didn’t take long. Just a day after we featured an unusual 1950 Buick Roadmaster-turned-wrecker as our Hemmings Find of the Day — and in turn touched off a mile of speculation about the car’s origins — we heard from the seller, who heard from the son of the car’s original builder, who filled us in on how the Buick got its boom.

Harper Honea and Clark Burr were a couple of friends who often worked together in the town of Susanville, California, so when Burr decided to go into business as a Buick dealer in 1948, he enlisted Honea’s help in building the dealership on Susanville’s Main Street.

It wasn’t a big Buick dealership — the two of them alone apparently did all the construction work on the building, and Honea was the dealership’s only full-time mechanic.

A couple years later, Honea and Burr found themselves with a pair of wrecked Buick Roadmasters, both 1950s, both originally sold through the dealership, according to Darell Honea, Harper’s son. So over the course of the next few years, Honea pieced the cars back together, shortened the greenhouse, and added the bed, boom, generator and motor to turn the Roadmaster into a wrecker, all according to plans Burr had engineered.

As seen in the photo above, it served as a pretty good rolling advertisement for Burr’s dealership, and Burr often entered the wrecker in local parades. Darell Honea, who went to work for Burr after he graduated high school and often drove the Buick on service runs, said it was a good looking rig. “We were all really proud of it,” he said.

It didn’t work all that well as a wrecker, however.

“The only time we ever used it as a tow vehicle, dad took it up to Feather River Canyon to pick up another Buick that had crashed,” he said. “He extended the boom out, hooked on to the car, and it lifted the front wheels off the ground to the point he had very little steering. After that, they rigged up a towbar system that was a heck of a lot more safe and kept all four wheels on the ground.”

According to Darell, the wrecker remained in service until about 1973, when Burr retired it. From there it eventually made its way to the current-day seller. He said he’d like to buy it back and his family has started to raise some money toward that purpose.

That dealership building, by the way, still stands, though as a fitness center rather than a dealership.