1937 GMC T-16 Cab Over Engine
Owner: Gary Witmer
Original Photo Above
In our Feature Truck of the Month series, we try to show the more unusual GM trucks. This is no exception. It falls perfectly into this category.
Purchased new in 1937, this GMC T-16 Cab Over Engine truck has stayed in the same family almost 75 years. Bought in Williamsport, PA by Arthur (Witty) Witmer as a cab and chassis. It soon was changed into the largest and strongest tow truck in the surrounding counties. Its 20,000 pound winch could handle any truck of its day.
Witty hand built the tow bed from steel purchased in town. It became a true one-of-a-kind vehicle. The boom was telescopic and could raise the vehicle being pulled. It looked factory made. The truck was so well built that he had many contracts from over-the-road freight companies to tow their rigs if trouble developed within a 50 mile radius. Nothing in the area could out pull Witty’s GMC.
The 5 Witmer children always remember the big GMC being kept in a building beside the combination family home / Amoco gas station plus repair garage. They grew up during the Great Depression and it was this GMC that provided a little extra income for the large family during such difficult times. This was a time when the family grew strong sharing and working together as a team. Their strong family ties and appreciation of what they had together followed them throughout their lives. Along with all their helping with the service station and repair garage, plus Witty being on call with the GMC tow truck twenty-four hours a day, they survived with the necessities.
Even during WWII when all of Witty’s hired help joined the military, he with the family ran the service station and garage. The big T-16 GMC was the link that provided the family with just a little extra.
The old GMC was retired in the early 1960’s. It had paid its dues. It had received four inline 6 cylinder GMC engines, various clutches, many brake jobs and numerous other repairs that are given to 25 year old work trucks. Of course, the more modern 18 wheelers were so much larger than in the early years. It was more of a chore for the T-16 GMC to pull the largest tractor trailers successfully. It now is stored behind one of Witty’s grandson’s buildings!
And now, the rest of the story! A few years ago one of Witty’s sons, Gary Witmer of Blue Springs, MO noticed a 1:24 scale model of a 1938 GMC T-16 truck on the market. It was made by Danbury Mint in Danbury, CT. It looked so much like dad’s old tow truck! The details were amazing. Of course, the bed was different but the cab and chassis were like the one Gary remembered during his family’s early years in Pennsylvania. As he looked at this new Danbury model the wheels in Gary’s head began to turn. Would it be possible the transform this scale model into a truck like his father used for so many years?
The more he thought about this, the more enthused he became. Yes, it would be a work of love, a tribute to his family and their younger years growing up during the depression and the lean times of WWII.
Gary is more of a perfectionist, just like his father, so the work ahead to build this correct tow truck was not considered impossible. With his memories of the old GMC and the following photos (the family won’t sell it) Gary created the drawings that would be the blueprints for this one-of-a-kind creation.
Small pieces of brass were formed, connected, soldered, and painted into the exact copy of the real thing. He even shortened the frame of the Danbury model.
Gary spent 400 to 450 hours last year to create this Witty GMC T-16. It is truly a work of art and an honor to his family and their strength. It is the reason they survived so well during difficult times.
You can contact Gary Witmer at: firstname.lastname@example.org.