“Cars” was released in summer 2006. Before that, apparently extensive research was done to create some of the characters.
And Mater was one of those characters.
His voice had the signature saying of Larry the Cable Guy: “Git-R-Done!”
But the actual physical appearance of Mater was a little more complicated.
Kenneth Furr, who lived up in the hills near Charlotte, N.C., was having a difficult time trying to make a living with a wrecking service.
He was using a one-ton 1959 Chevrolet 35 Apache with a towing rig to haul, but his wrecker was limited to what he could haul.
“About seven or eight years ago, some guys pulled up beside him and asked to take some pictures of the wrecker,” said Rodger Holmes, who is a cousin-in-law to Kenneth. Holmes lives in George West.
“They got some big, high-dollar cameras and took every angle you can think of,” Holmes said.
Kenneth, who talked really slow and obviously a backwoods sort of person, according to Holmes, asked the men why they were taking pictures.
“They said they were from Disney-Pixar and they were going across the country looking for old wreckers to get pictures to design a character in an upcoming movie,” Holmes said.
He said the men never said what the movie was.
“About a year or so after that is when the movie ‘Cars’ came out,” Holmes said.
Then a year or so later, Kenneth said people kept asking if that was Mater in his backyard. By this time, Kenneth had another wrecker.
So he took a closer look at his old wrecker, and the paint scheme and everything matched from the cab back.
The back of the character Mater – from the cab back – was unmistakably the back of Kenneth’s wrecker.
“The front end of Mater was a ’56 International Harvester wrecker with single headlights, big open grill and a missing hood that showed a big air cleaner,” Holmes said.
Holms said he had done some research on the compilation-wrecker that movie viewers know as Mater.
“They got the front end from a truck stop out on Route 66 in Arizona. The truck was out there as an ornament. And that’s where the front of Mater came from,” Holms said.
So you’re probably wondering why this story is about a wrecker in North Carolina. What’s that got to do with George West?
Well, Holmes said he asked Kenneth what he was going to do with Mater.
In his slow Southern drawl that is Appalachian in nature, he said, “Kids climb on it. I don’t know if I’d sell Mater or not.”
As the time came close to Holmes’ trip back to Texas, Kenneth approached him and said this: “I talked to Mama about it. The grandkids say they don’t know – guess they’re tired of it.”
Then there was a long pause.
“Cuz, I hate to ask this much, but do you think you could give me $1,500 for Mater,” he uttered almost inaudibly.
“I couldn’t get my checkbook fast enough,” Holmes said.
In the words of Mater, “I’m happier ‘n a tornado in a trailer park!” Holmes thought.
That was in April 2011. So the next time his Keller cousin went to the Good Guys Car Show in Charlotte, the old wrecker was picked up and brought back to Keller in October.
Later, in January of last year, Mater was brought to George West.
Again, some Mater wisdom comes to mind: “I’m the world’s best backwards driver! Just watch this right here, lover boy. Ain’t no need to watch where I’m goin’; just need to know where I’ve been.”
Holmes said he plans on restoring the wrecker to a young Mater with baby blue markings. Holmes owns 2nd Chance Restorations – 361-449-1314 or 361-318-3454.
He said the wrecker runs fine. It has a 327 horsepower engine in it, but it needs a hydro booster for its brakes. He said he’s having a hard time finding one.
Once restored, he plans on having it in parades and car shows.
He said people recognize it when they drive by his place in George West.
“Kids see it and want to have pictures made with it,” he said
“I will never sell it. It’s a keeper.”