The History of Pulling

The sport of pulling can trace its roots back to the early part of the 20th century when folks got together to do draft horse pulling.

The first recorded "motorized" pulling events took place in 1929 -- one in Bowling Green, Mo., and one in Vaughansville, Ohio.

As man and machine grew together, the sport of pulling started taking shape.

It grew by fits and starts throughout the '50s and into the '60s. But what it lacked through these years was a uniform set of rules. From state to state and county to county, competitors never knew what the rules were going to be from event to event.

Then in 1969, representatives from eight states met to establish uniform rules and to give the sport the structure it needed. With these meetings, the National Tractor Pullers Association was born.

In NTPA's early years of pulling, the tractors used were no more than farm vehicles, pull on Sunday, plow on Monday.

In the early '70s, there were basically two divisions, Stock and Modified.

The tractors in the Stock division were standard types: John Deere, International, Ford, Case, Deutz, Massey-Ferguson, Allis-Chalmers and others.

Modifieds then were single-engine tractors that were powered by non-tractor type engines.

The Modifieds stayed single-engine vehicles until the mid-1970s when a couple of Ohio pulling brothers introduced a mechanism that changed the sport forever -- the crossbox. With this device, pullers could now hook up more than one engine to a single driveshaft.

Fans now saw tractors with up to four engines. Still, despite the number of engines, the look was still tractor.

The Stock division soon caught up as well when the word "Super" was added. Competitors started adding turbochargers to their vehicles. And the 'pull on Sunday, plow on Monday' idea slipped quickly into history.

By the mid-70s, pullers had tractors with staged turbochargers and intercoolers.

The Modified division continued to dazzle fans with the piling of engine upon engine. Vehicles became less tractor-looking and more comparable to "Top Fuel" dragsters. By 1980, a tractor was introduced supporting four 524-cubic inch Rodecks. The limit was reached in 1988 when a seven-engine tractor was brought out.

In 1986 a triple-Allison was brought out and a few years later a four-Allison tractor was introduced.

Jet turbine engines appeared on the scene in 1974. Legendary motorsports figure Art Arfons campaigned a twin-turbine tractor. In 1989 a four-turbine engine tractor was introduced.

With the changes in the Super Stock and Modified divisions, the sport really rocketed. Then in 1976, another group of vehicles entered pulling and captured fan loyalty immediately. This new division was the Four-Wheel Drive.

This was the first truck division to be associated with pulling. As competitors looked for the competitive edge in this division, the size of the engine grew from the 450 range to 600 and 700. Finally in 1989, engine limitations were established that exist today. They are 650 cubic inches, naturally aspirated. No blown engines.

To find blown engines, fans need only to look at the Two-Wheel Drive division. This division became official in 1984 and is sometimes referred to as NTPA's "Funny Car" division because the vehicles look like "funny cars." Blown engines are de rigueur in this division.

Two other divisions played their part in the NTPA story. They are the Pro Stock division, and the Mini Modified division, whose ancestor is the family garden tractor.

Pro Stock vehicles started out like Super Stock vehicles, but stopped at one turbocharger. Minis started out as garden tractors, then evolved into a chassis with a frame structure with a supercharger V-8 providing the power.

The other actor in the NTPA story is the other half of the pulling equation -- the sled. Starting out in the early days, sleds were simple deadweight pulling. Another early type was the step on, in which people were positioned along the track and would "step onto" the sled as it came by.

In these early years, vehicles had to maintain a speed limit as part of the rules. That is a far cry from what takes place today, with top Modified vehicles turning their tires in excess of 125 mph. But of course sleds are no longer the antiques of yesterday.

Today's sleds are marvels of engineering technology, with sophisticated gearing systems that move up to 65,000 pounds of weight to stop the powerful Modified tractors that prowl the tracks every summer.

What began back in NTPA's infancy has grown into a major motorsport, with some 1,500 members who compete on four different levels of pulling throughout the United States and Canada. Pulling is now a major sport in more than 10 countries throughout Europe.

The NTPA has come a long way since its humble beginnings to become the recognized sanctioning body in the motorsport of truck and tractor pulling, stressing safety and fair competition.

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