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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingAugust 23 - August 29, 2017

Transforming in the Wild West

It was during the early ’80s that Mark Schifo landed in Parker, Ariz., coming from California as a kind of hippie. He worked as a bartender at the famous The Sundance Saloon, later became a rogue tower who impounded vehicles off of private property on nearby Arizona campgrounds and finally transformed himself into a successful businessman with a Christian attitude, creating a fairly large towing enterprise with 22 trucks and six locations.

“The campgrounds would be filled,” Schifo said of his early towing escapades. “It was like working the parking lot of Woodstock. We were doing 300 tows a night.”

Parker was a happening place back then, right smack in the middle of the state near the Colorado River, where tourists arrived to boat and camp out while young people enjoyed some binge drinking in a more permissive state.

“Yuma County was like the Wild West with only five deputies,” he said.

Times have changed as civilization encroached upon this Wild West. Schifo has a couple of old tow trucks to serve as a reminder of years passed, including this 1951 Chevy with a 515 Holmes and butt plate.

“I picked it up in Blythe, California, 10 to 15 years ago. It has beautiful lines and was in pretty good shape. I never used it, but occasionally put it in car shows, where I would hang out and pass out business cards,” he said.

Today, you can find it as marketing vehicle for Tow Truck Mark’s and as a landmark for the town of Parker, as it sits on the edge of town like an advertising billboard.

The truck’s marked characteristic is the bubble nose, a defining characteristic of trucks from the era. Its light yellow body, enveloped by custom flames, gives it a warm vibration.

On the side of the truck you can’t miss Mark’s name, written in a funky script, similar to the writing that you will find on its front bumper spelling out the name Parker Arizona. It’s a ’50s car with a ’60s peace-loving feel.

Today Mark’s business is located on an Indian reservation where working with one’s neighbors is now the goal.

“I started out as a pirate in the towing business, but over time I learned I had to count on my neighbors.”
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The Airbrush Touch

0 0c2d7By George L. Nitti

John Riccio, owner of Max Custom Truck Lettering in Huntington, N.Y., has been putting his personal touch on tow trucks since 1970, with his airbrushing and custom paint skills.

"I'm holding out and don't want to do wraps at this stage in my life," Riccio said. "Vinyl is tough on the body. I have fun painting. It's therapeutic."

It's his customers who keep him in business, those who don't want "a clean sheet of vinyl" to wash and wax; but would rather have the "real deal."

"People really appreciate good custom work."

Tip Top Autobody, located in New Hyde, is one such recipient who has maintained their loyalty to Riccio. They used him to airbrush flames on their units including their newest one, a 2015 Kenworth T370/Jerr-Dan 25-ton wrecker.

According to owner Pat Fanning, Riccio's work is well known in the area.

"He's always painted flames for us," said Fanning. "I've liked the look of motorcycle flames, and went with his design on our trucks. To me, wraps are not as classy. Airbrushing gives it more of an authentic look."

The orange-infused flames at the front of the truck flow along the Jerr-Dan body's bright red background.

"I really like the new aluminum body of the Jerr-Dan. They have come a long way," Fanning said. "They are well-built and don't give you the corrosion problem, and you can easily transfer the body to another truck."

The name of the company, Tip Top, is airbrushed large in a clean, modern style with a complementary color scheme of chrome-silver accentuated with a blue shadow. Just under the company name is "Autobody."

Fanning said, "Although we have five tow trucks, our primary business is auto body and we wanted to advertise that."

At the back of the unit is white pinstriping, adding that special personal touch from Riccio.

Brag @ TIW! 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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© 2017  Tow Industry Week/American Towman Media, Inc.