The original Lincoln Toe Truck, which went from banged-up VW bus to one of Seattle's most recognizable icons, today will finally be getting...

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The original Lincoln Toe Truck, which went from banged-up VW bus to one of Seattle’s most recognizable icons, today will finally be getting its due.

The truck, with giant-sized bright pink toes bolted atop its cab — the big toe reaching to 11-½ feet — will lead a parade that begins at noon from Seattle Center to the Museum of History & Industry.

The Toe Truck will be part of a kind of walk of icons being put together at the museum. It will join such local artifacts as the B-1 Flying Boat, the first plane built by Boeing; a stuffed Bobo the Gorilla, the former Woodland Park Zoo celebrity who died in 1968; and the legendary Slo-mo-shun IV hydroplane.

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It is fitting that the Toe Truck will be included in the museum’s eclectic collection of local memorabilia. Built nearly 25 years ago, the Toe Truck became a local landmark for millions of motorists during the more than two decades it was displayed outside the Lincoln Towing yard at Fairview Avenue North and Mercer Street.

“We’re not exactly the Guggenheim. We’re not the Louvre,” said Feliks Banel, the museum’s deputy director. “We don’t have the Mona Lisa. But we do have things that helped Seattle remain distinctive despite the progress of the last 150 years that makes everything the same, and homogenizes the urban environment everywhere.”

In a procession befitting its place in local lore, the parade organized by the museum will include some 20 tow trucks from local firms. Also in the parade will be a newer Toe Truck built by Lincoln’s former owners. (In a, er, footnote: The original Toe Truck is a left foot; the newer version, built in 1996, is the right.)


The Toe Truck is the brainchild of Lincoln Towing’s one-time owner, Ed Lincoln, 63.

In 1980, a salesman stopped by the towing office to promote framed photos, which Lincoln didn’t have any use for. If only he was selling something related to tow trucks, Lincoln said. The salesman remembered a cartoon on his office bulletin board, and made a sketch for Lincoln showing a tow truck with toes hanging out the back.

Lincoln decided right then and there that he’d build the foot-shaped tow truck, which he envisioned entering in the annual Seafair Torchlight Parade. That night, he told his wife, Connie.

“I told him, ‘People will think we’re crazy!’ He said, ‘I’m gonna do it,’ ” she remembered.

TOM REESE / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Ed Lincoln got his brainstorm for the original Toe Truck, left, after talking to a salesman in 1980.

But Lincoln was following a family tradition. Ed’s dad, Ed Sr., who had run Lincoln Auto Salvage, once constructed a 21-foot replica of the Space Needle out of car wheels.

“Maybe it’s in my genes,” said Lincoln about his Toe Truck vision. “It’s kind of a strange thing to be remembered for, but it is the only one in the world.”

After buying the wrecked VW van, he hired a friend, master welder Ed Ellison, to begin work. Joan McGinnis, who had worked on parade floats, sculpted the toes out of plastic foam, from which a fiberglass mold was made.

The truck has a winch, and could pull a small vehicle, but it’s obviously not a commercial tow truck. It doesn’t have doors, so the driver climbs in through the back.

The Toe Truck was an instant hit, not only in parades. With the money going to charity, Lincoln hired out the Toe Truck for weddings, parties and even to pick up a business executive at the airport.

“It brings out a laugh to people. That’s important in everyday living, a smile,” said Connie.


Think pink




Lincoln Towing’s
pink Toe Truck is expected to arrive at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry just before 1 p.m. today. The museum is in McCurdy Park at 2700 24th Ave. E. and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. On the first Thursday of the month, it’s open until 10 p.m. For additional information, call 206-324-1126 or go to www.seattlehistory.org.

When the Lincolns retired in 2000, they wanted the original Toe Truck to find a good home. Among those expressing interest was a tow-truck museum in Chattanooga, Tenn., a town that claims to be the birthplace of tow trucks, nine decades ago. But the Lincolns decided the Toe Truck should stay home.

Lincoln Towing is now owned by RoadOne West, which keeps the newer Toe Truck on display at 12220 Aurora Ave. N.

Museum officials are eagerly awaiting the Toe Truck’s arrival, where it will join some 100,000 three-dimensional artifacts, and 2 million posters, photos, diaries and other archival material.

The museum’s Banel said it’s one thing to learn history from books, TV or the Internet. It’s another to be able to walk up to displays like the Toe Truck and touch it.

“That’s cool. That’s the heart and soul of a museum,” he said. “You see the real stuff.”

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or elacitis@seattletimes.com