Meet Mater’s inspiration

It’s been the victim of neglect. The odometer reads 99,372 miles, and there’s no telling whether they’re original. Rust covers the entire body, where it nearly obscures the letters “Tannou” and “Joplin, Mo” on the door. The seats desperately need to be re-upholstered. And it gets its fuel from a storage tank that resembles a beer keg.

But it runs. And the residents of Galena, Kan., threw a party for it Saturday on the 80th anniversary of historic Route 66.

The vehicle is a 1951 International boom truck that served as one of the direct inspirations to Tow Mater, the unforgettable redneck tow truck portrayed by Larry the Cable Guy in the hit summer movie, “Cars.” Residents of Galena hailed the old truck’s rediscovery and sudden stardom with a party at an old Marathon service station at Main Street and Old Route 66 that’s set to be restored.

Nearby resident Dean Walker (top photo), who is one of the templates of Mater’s character, signed autographs. Mater sandwiches were served (it’s tomato, onion and butter or mayo on white bread). A birthday cake commemorating Route 66’s 80th birthday was served. The “Cars” soundtrack boomed from a stereo, and a DVD of the film was shown on a large-screen TV in the station. And since the name Tow Mater is already taken, a local child won a contest to rename the truck the equally redneck name Tow Tater.

The truck will be placed in storage for the winter until the as-yet-unnamed service station is restored and reopens in the spring. However, those who missed Tow Tater this past weekend can check him out during the Galena Christmas parade at 4 p.m. Dec. 2.

But nearly as big of a story is the station. Four women — Melba Rigg, Renee Charles, Betty Courtney and Judy Courtney — aim to make the old service station a Galena tourist attraction. Once the station is restored, it will be converted into a souvenir and antiques store, with farmers’ markets and a children’s play area.

“We keep hearing about how Galena is a ghost town,” Rigg said. “Travelers on Route 66 go through town and keep on going. We aim to put Galena back on the map (for Route 66ers).”

That’s just the beginning of what may be exciting things coming in Galena. I’ve been told that the same group also wants to restore an old Phillip 66 service station across the street and renovate a nearby house into a bed-and-breakfast.

23 thoughts on “Meet Mater’s inspiration

  1. Thank you for the write up, and we would like to thank everyone that came out to our get together…Tater is just the begining of things to come , so please keep your eyes and ears open.

    Thanks again
    Renee Charles
    4 Women On The Route

  2. we like mater and our local garage has a fellow that tows for them and we have been collecting meter stuff for him Instead of girlie pin ups in his garage he has a poster of mater

  3. Yep. That’s you. You were at Webb City for cruise nite at the Bradbury Bishop Deli on Main Street, a neat place to meet and eat.

    1. Mater the buck-toothed, redneck tow truck (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) has a human alter ego: Douglas ”Mater” Keever, a 48-year-old construction superintendent who lives in Sherrills Ford, N.C. Keever hasn’t missed a big race in years at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway outside Charlotte NC.
      Cars director John Lasseter first met Keever at the Lowe’s Speedway in 2001.

      When Lasseter first walked up to him, Keever offered a brewski and introduced himself the way he always does to new folks in his life: ”My name’s Mater,” he said. Mater? asked Lasseter. ”Yeah, like tuh-mater, but without the tuh.” (Does that exchange sound familiar? It should — it’s exactly the way Mater the tow truck introduces himself to the Lightning McQueen character in Cars.) Keever got the nickname as a kid, chucking ”tuh-maters” around a farm run by his mom’s parents.

      So that’s how it happened.

      1. Harley Russell at the Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Okla., also was a big influence, Alfred. If you’ve ever heard Harley talk and compare it to Mater, the resemblance is startling.

      2. I actually met Douglas “Mater” Keever working on a construction project in Charlotte, NC. This is one hilarious dude! When he answers a call on his cellphone, he always says, “what’s up slick?”

  4. I walked into the animal shelter and found the sweetest puppy that had been abandon ……I named him Mater because he so reminded me of Mater in the movie cars… everyone who meets him thinks so too …….

  5. Go Galena……..Just get a drive-in now with a juke,carhops,and real American food. We’ll drive up and visit.

    The Harris’ of Fort Worth, TX

  6. I think Tow Mater looks more like a 1956 Chevrolet 3800 than an International. But Hollywood always allows a creative flexibility.

  7. Sorry but unless you got proof…. dont see it. That aint Tow Mater’s insperation. NO bed. Wrong hood and fender set up. Do some search and find a picture of a real 1955 IH wrecker. There was a Co. out of CA that made wreckers out of IH’s with a similar rear tow bed. Happen to know of one on Rt. 66 too, though it is about to be moved for restoration. Granted this one has veritcle dual headlight BUT that is the ONLY difference where there are Many differences in the one in Kansas.

    Don’t care which truck IS the true insperation but do care that a claim such as yours to be THE insperation has something concrete to back up the claim.

    1. Mogman, the truck in Galena that’s now in front of 4 Women on the Route has been confirmed by Pixar and Michael Wallis, who led the first tour of Pixar on Route 66, as the truck that inspired Tow Mater. For further confirmation, consult the book “The Art of Cars,” which includes a photo of Pixar animator Joe Ranft with the truck in Galena.

      For more background, go here:

  8. I actually own the very tow truck that was used, and that 2 1/2 ton boom truck is a fraud. Sorry, but I think Pixar is pulling a fast one. You have my e-mail, I’ll send you proof!

    Dave Emmons

    1. So … you’re saying Pixar is pulling a fast one.

      That would mean Route 66 author and “Cars” technical advisor Michael Wallis, who was actually there when Pixar animator Joe Ranft became transfixed by the rusty boom truck in Galena nearly 10 years ago, is pulling a fast one. Or that the book “Art of Cars,” which actually contains a photo of Ranft with the boom truck in Galena, is pulling a fast one, too. And that Pixar is still pulling a fast one, even though a film crew is going to Galena THIS WEEKEND to shoot a segment for the “Cars 2” DVD about the impact “Cars” made on Route 66.

      Let me explain something, if it hasn’t already dawned on you. Just because Pixar encounters an old vehicle that serves as an inspiration to a character doesn’t mean the vehicle has to resemble it 100 percent. Pixar has the artistic license to borrow design ideas from other vehicle models for aesthetic reasons. That’s why no one sports car serves as an inspiration to Lightning McQueen — that’s because there’s a slew of them.

  9. well shoot I now live in Amarillo an gots my facebook whos cares what or when just know im alive an well get er dun people

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