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Our Heritage: The Return of "Big Bruiser"

Lee’s Garage, Inc. is known for being world class paint and collision repair specialists.

In 1937 Lee’s Garage, Studebaker Sales and Service was incorporated. Soon after Anthony and Angela Sgro purchased the property and the business. It was quickly evident that the business was in need of a tow truck of its own. So, Anthony found the 1941 GMC tow truck in the backyard of a service station in Neptune, New Jersey. He purchased the truck for $25.00.

After making the much needed repairs and repainting, “Big Bruiser” became a workhorse for the quickly expanding business. The name “Big Bruiser” was given to the truck because it was the name of a toy tow truck of Anthony’s son, Paul. Paul wanted a “Big Bruiser” of his own. The truck was never accused of bruising a vehicle but the name stuck and was painted on the hood.

Big Bruiser does not have all of the bells and whistles of today’s generation of high tech vehicle recovery machines, but it got the job done. Towing for Triple A, Diner’s Club, the local police, or regular customers. Whether it was pushing a vehicle with its wooden front bumper, lifting for a tow, performing roadside assistance for customers, or helping with snow removal, Big Bruiser was there for the job. She towed vehicles from as far away as Connecticut back to New Jersey. It’s hard to imagine going that distance, especially with a heavy load on the back. Paul says: “My father talks about towing a Pepsi truck, which was far too big and heavy for the Bruiser, and which left the tow bar in a bent position.” But, again, the Bruiser did the job.

Due to the growth of the business, and its dependency on collision repair services, Big Bruiser was retired to its own backyard. Then in 1981 Anthony’s son, Paul, took over the business and implemented better technology. Over the years, Big Bruiser rusted out and had trees growing through the body.

However, the employees at Lee’s Garage kept encouraging Paul to take on the challenge of restoring the old girl to her original condition. About 60% of the repairs are original to the vehicle and now she has a place of honor at her home at Lee’s Garage in West Long Branch, New Jersey. She recently won the best of restoration, in her class, trophy at the Long Branch Vintage Car Show. She proudly displays her award.

Big Bruiser Specs:

The Big Day

In early 2017 Paul knew that it was important to his family and everyone at Lee’s Garage to give his father Anthony, who had grown sick, another memory for him and the staff. The team at Lee’s Garage rallied to get the tow truck done for Anthony to drive it one more time. That time came August 21, 2017 the day of the eclipse. Paul thought that would be the perfect day for Anthony to drive Big Bruiser, as he felt that day would be a date everyone would never forget. Paul explained, “I said, ok Pop this is the day and he was like what do you mean? You’re driving the tow truck today!” Anthony had a smile on and said “ok let’s go.”

When Paul and Anthony arrived at the Shrewsbury location, they jumped in and started to smile. This would be the first time Big Bruiser was ever driven (since being restored) out of the shop. Paul wanted his Dad to drive it out of the shop the first time. “[My pops] started it up and he started to smile, a smile I will never forget.” said Paul. “He pulled it out of the shop, and we headed downtown to our main facility. As a kid I remembered days like this, me and my dad in the tow truck. I felt like that kid again. He went thru the gears like it was nothing. I had to remind him we never road tested the truck so take it easy!”

Paul and Anthony pulled up to the West Long Branch location where it all started. With their family there, Anthony’s smile made everyone so proud. “Pop was so excited he couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t stop talking about it all day. That made my day with my Dad the best.” explained Paul. “It was also my first day to ever drive the truck back to our satellite shop with my Pop! We were so blessed to be able to do this for him. We went to a car show in Long Branch, NJ that next month and won a trophy. He sat at the truck all day talking to people who came by, shared his stories of all the tows he did with Big Bruiser with many friends and lecturing everyone on the importance of hard work and dedication to achieve your goal.”

Paul and Anthony with Big Bruiser

In Memory of Anthony Sgro

It was a short time later, December 25, 2017, that Anthony passed to be with the Lord. “He picked a day that everyone would never forget. We are so blessed to have been able to do the things we wanted to do before he passed.” said Paul. “We are incredibly proud, grateful, and appreciative, celebrating his legacy and life every day.”

One of Anthony’s last requests was to make sure a little prayer he cherished reached as many people as possible in the world. This prayer speaks volumes, touching the hearts of all, in many different ways.

Good Morning this is God,
I will be handling all of
your problems today,
I will not need your help.
So relax and have a great day!

May you all be blessed – The Sgro Family