Recently we came across a rare golden opportunity—literally. OK, the winch above isn’t actually gold, but rather an ultra-rare brass-plated WARN M8274, 1 of only 5 ever made by Warn Industries in the 1980s. And like many amazing things, there’s a great story behind it.
In 1976, George Adler, then owner of Transamerican Auto Parts, offered a woman named Ruth Mohr a job. She was asked to open and manage the company’s second 4 Wheel Parts store in Oakland, CA. The job offer came at the end of an Oakland Raiders football game. The team was down 16 points late in the fourth quarter, but staged a remarkable comeback win. George told Ruth that if she can handle that kind of pressure, she could surely handle the pressure of opening and managing the new store. She took the job on the spot.
From 1977 to 1989, Ruth sold plenty of Warn product at 4 Wheel Parts. In fact, she said that working for George was one of her best life experiences. However, it helped that she already had a history with Warn products.
Her four-wheel-drive experience started at the age of 14 when her Dad taught her to drive a Willys M38A1 Jeep. She and her former husband, who worked for International Harvester, got their brand new 1967 Scout (which didn’t have a winch) stuck in the snow. She said after eventually getting unstuck, they went and purchased a WARN Model 6000 winch for it. Eventually they also bought a 1970 CJ-5 and a 1969 Scout, which became Warn equipped, too. Then, from 1973-1975 she worked for Berens Associates in Emeryville, CA, who sold WARN hubs, Jeep overdrive systems, and of course, WARN winches.
Outside of work, she and her now ex-husband used their four-wheel-drive vehicles to go off road and for hunting and fishing, so she was familiar with Warn products both personally and professionally. She became even more familiar helping him work on their vehicles. “We always had Warn products. Warn was a part of our life.”
For 12+ years she worked at 4 Wheel Parts selling Warn equipment and also helped test the product for the company. She even had a Warn poster showcasing her and her 1980 CJ5 Jeep, which had license plates reading RUTHS CJ.
In 1989, Ruth decided to retire from 4 Wheel Parts. At Ruth’s retirement party, Warn Sales Manager, Scott Porter (who is still with the company), and George Adler came out of the restaurant’s back room with a surprise gift. They presented her with 1 of the 5 brass-plated M8274 winches.
“For once in my life, I was speechless. I actually cried,” she said. “I was floored; I had no idea I was getting the winch!”
After retiring, Ruth moved from California to Idaho. Knowing how harsh Idaho’s climate could be and how hard it’d be on the ultra-rare M8274 winch, Ruth opted to keep the prized possession in its box. “I couldn’t bring myself to put it on my Jeep,” she said. Then one day while elk hunting, the Jeep rolled; installation wasn’t even an option. So the rare winch remained in the box unopened—for 27 years.
Fast forward to October, 2016. Our Customer Service team gets a got a call from a woman talking about a rare brass-plated M8274 winch. It was Ruth. She explained she wanted to donate her rare winch to us.
“I didn’t want to sell it, I wanted to give it back,” said Ruth. “I wanted it to be somewhere it’d be kept on display and not put on a vehicle.”
Ron Jackson, our Customer Service Team Leader, got in touch with Ruth and asked if he could come out to Idaho and get the winch from her in person. She said she wouldn’t be home, and was headed to Spokane, WA. Ron said that he had some business in Spokane and could meet there. “It was karma!” Ruth exclaimed. Indeed, it was like it was destined to happen.
Ron met Ruth in Spokane, and she not only donated the winch, but a host of testing documents from years past and a set of vintage WARN hubs for a Willys Jeep and a Dodge pickup, circa 1950s, complete with the original green tin storage box.
After getting the winch back to our Milwaukie, OR facility, assembling it, and putting it on its original display stand, it has gotten a lot of attention. After all, it’s not every day you see a brass-plated M8274.
Ruth still drives a Jeep as well as a full-size Dodge truck and her dedication to the WARN brand remains strong. “Warn has always been my baby; still is,” she says.
We’re honored to have this M8274 winch at our Oregon headquarters, and love the story behind this winch, one that many long-time employees didn’t know existed. On top of it, the fact it came from such a proud supporter of Warn Industries makes the story even more golden.