Carl & Paul Bosse
Pulling, just like any sport, has it's legends. Those individuals whose names will forever be associated in the public's minds with their individual sport.
Mention Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb and you think of baseball. Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas call to mind football. With Joe Lewis and Jack Dempsey it's boxing. Don Garlits and Don Prudhomme call to mind drag racing.
With tractor pulling the names are just as legendary, even if the number of fans is not as large. For example, pulling fans recognize the names of Ralph Chamberlin, Lloyd McVey, and Wheeler Rittinger. And of course any pulling fan worth his salt knows the Banter Brothers. But there is another pair of brothers whose name should also bring instant recognition.
Long time fans and pullers know them well. It is time young fans and young pullers met them, too. Their contribution to the sport of pulling is enormous. Their contribution changed the sport-forever.
They are Carl and Paul Bosse and they introduced to the sport of pulling the crossbox, without which no multiengine Modified would be on the track today.
Elected to the Pulling Hall of Fame in 1988, Carl and Paul Bosse started pulling while still in their teens. They were active competitors up until the late 1970s. Their 4-engine tractor was a familiar sight to pulling fans everywhere.
The Bosse Bros. were one of the premier pulling teams, with Paul usually pulling in the light classes and Carl pulling in the heavier classes.
Between the mid 50s and 1978 (the year they stopped pulling), they captured many of pulling's top prizes. In 1973 and again in 1974 Carl was crowned NTPA points champion in the 12,000 lb. Open class in the Modified division.
In those rough and tumble years of pulling-before helmets and firesuits pulling fans everywhere knew they were going to see a battle when the Bosses, along Ralph Chamberlin, Lloyd McVey, Wheeler Rittinger, and the Allison Team hooked to the sled.
However, for all their grand accomplishments on the track, their grandest and most noteworthy remains the introduction and application of the crossbox to the sport of tractor pulling.
It was because of this that I traveled to Ada, OH one Saturday to talk to Carl, 46, and Paul, 44, about their contributions to pulling and their experiences in the sport.
What follows is a wide ranging interview that introduced me to the sport of pulling when the NTPA was still a young whippersnapper. During the interview Carl did most of the talking.
Q: What year did you first start pulling?
A: I think it was in 1954. I drove a neighbor's tractor at Ada, Ohio.
Q: What kind of sleds did they have back then?
A: Those were tug pulls, block pulls for 15 feet or inches whatever you got.
Q: Did you ever pull any of those step-on sleds?
A: Oh, yes. Then we went to the weight transfer sleds. We also ran some brushpulls. They were timed. You had to trip a clock. Run and get on your tractor. Go 300 feet and then run back and trip the clock. You had to be good on the tractor and good on your feet. It didn't last too long. Only a couple pulls.
Q: They had pace tractors at one time, didn't they?
A: Yes. That was one of the reasons we built the 4-engine tractor. They had an 8 mph speed limit. One of the ideas of the 4 engine was the torque curve of the engines and to have enough torque to start in real low rpms. The Allison Team and Ralph Chamberlin were running then. And we needed something.
Q: For competition with them?
A: Yes, that's about it. They had Allisons then.
Q: Let me ask you this. If you are the ones who brought out the crossbox, whatever gave you the idea-how did you ever put it together that you could hook these engines up and make the crossbox?"
A: The transfer case between the two engines is really something that had been out for a time. The military used them. They had twin Cadillacs side by side in the light tank one time. There was some Detroit diesels set up on the transfer case between the two engines to build extra to come up to the horsepower they wanted for their application. We were the first ones to apply it to tractor pulling.
Q: So really you might say the transfer case was the first step toward the crossbox?
A: Transfer case, crossbox, whatever you want to call it.
Q: Oh, the transfer case and the crossbox is the same?
A: Yes. We were the first ones to apply it to a tractor pulling tractor. Before I built my first transfer case I went and looked at transfer cases on other applications but there was nothing practical to use. So I made my own.
Q: What did the other pullers say when they saw you building one and therefore able to hook up more than one engine like that?
A: We pretty much kept it a secret. Ralph Chamberlin and Jack Walters caught us one day when we were working on it. We had it pretty well along before anyone found out about it. We never mentioned it to anyone when we were building it. When the Allison Team brought out their Allison I was thinking about running a Packard engine. In the meantime, the State of Ohio had an 8 cylinder limit. So I put in a 1100 cu. in. Ford tank engine. So they decided the 8-cylinder limit wasn't the answer. In the meantime, they opened the rule back up. Then, too, there had been several Allisons come out then and I didn't want to build anything somebody else had already built. So I came out then with the 4 engines.
Q: People were quite surprised then, weren't they?
A: Not too many found out about it. Only a handful before we ran it the first time at, I guess it was, at Bucyrus.
Q: Did you win that pull at Bucyrus?
A: We broke the weight exchanger. About five or six or us ended up in a pull off and so they split the money among the six of us. Then the next day at Bascom, Lloyd MeVey beat us. But after that we had a streak going for 8 or 10 wins until, I think, Larry Gerdes of Illinois broke the streak and beat us in the 12,000 Open. I was 47 or 49 points down when I first started with it. But by the end of the year (1973), I won the points champion in the 12 Open.
Q: So I suspect after you brought out the crossbox and showed that it was possible to hook up more than one engine to another engine, everybody jumped on the bandwagon?
A: Ralph Banter was the second one to do it. I showed him how to build a crossbox.
Q: Let me ask you. Do you ever get the urge to get back into tractor pulling?
A: If you get around one and you watch one, it gives you the fever. But if you start thinking about all that work you can lose that fever, too. The pulls I've gone to since I quit, some of the classes I haven't even seen run. I go to visit. See the people I've known for so many years.
Q: Back in the early days when you were pulling, did you ever cut your tires?
A: I cut several tires.
Q: That was quite an innovation, wasn't it?
A: Yes it was.
Q: How did you know how to cut your tires? Was it just experimentation?
A: We had ground tires. We started with a buffer years ago when we were tug pulling.
Q: Oh, they were cutting tires even back then?
A: No, we weren't cutting them. We were using body grinders and coarse sander disc and grinding the backs off them. But the biggest thing was when Firestone started building hard tires for us special for pulling. Then our tires started holding up. I've got a set from the first batch they built. Something like 13 or 14 sets in the first batch. That set that I got is on the tractor now. I got a setandI think Ralph Banter got a set.
Q: I notice from looking at some old pictures of tractors that the exhaust pipes were so long. Not like today. Was there a reason for that back then?
A: They used to have a rule that exhaust pipes had to extend beyond the highest point of the tractor. The
reason those exhaust pipes were so long on our tractor is that exhaust pipe came in 8 or 10 foot lengths. So we just cut them in half. Later on we sawed them down.
Q: I guess it was challenge to balance your tractor back then in the early days?
A: One tractor we built, we pulled it in every class. We just added wheel weights to make the class.
Q: Did you have more than one tractor that you would pull with during the season?
A: Three. Towards the end we dropped down to two. But for several years we run three tractors. We pulled in all the Modified classes. We built the M first. Then we built the tank. Then the H. In '67, we built the M. Second year of Bowling Green, we built the M. I was pulling a 2-cylinder JD 8 before the M. Small block engines at first, but we finally put a 462 cu. in engines in the largest one around. There was a rule that said you couldn't pull a tractor unless there were 150 models made by the manufacturer. That rule should have never left NTPA. That should a stayed in there. Then it would still be tractor pulling instead of driving a machine down the track. Today they're driving machines down the track. Your Super Stocks are tractors. The Modified are not tractors anymore.
Q: Years ago did they prepare the tracks like they do today?
A: No, not really. They didn't dig tracks up like they do now. Back then tracks were hard and dusty. You didn't get a good bite like they do today. I think it was Russell Case that showed us how to dig and prepare a track. Russell put on a pull at Columbus, an early NTPA pull. He used trucks with brakes to stop you, not a weight transfer sled. As you went down the track, the truck would apply more brakes. And if about 3 or 4 strong tractors pulled ahead of you, the brakes heated up and you had a pretty easy pull.
Q: You say you pulled with a tank motor. Where did you ever get a tank motor?
A: When Ohio went to the 8-cylinder motor limit rule I knew of the tank motors from being in the service. That fall when I first run with it up at Wauseon, after I found a tank motor in a junk yard in Akron, I knocked the rods out of it. There was a farmer in the stands and he had a tank motor. He had it from a piece of equipment he used to clear some woods. I guess it didn't prove practical, so he junked everything, but kept the motor. He sold me his motor.
Q: Who were some of your strong competitors on the circuit when you were pulling?
A: Ralph Chamberlin was one. We used to haul him. When we went to two tractors we used to haul Ralph. Then there was Lloyd MeVey and Bob Bend and Wheeler Rittinger. We all used to hang out together. We knew one of us was going to win.
Q: What was your hauling vehicle?
A: We used a Peterbuilt truck and Great Dane 42-ft. trailer.
Q: What kind of strange things did you see at pulls?
A: We saw it all. We saw things we didn't want to see. Unpleasant things. Tractors upset before wheelie pads came in. A puller upset his tractor at Louisville one year and it came over on top of him. He survived. But he was injured pretty badly. I didn't think it (wheelie bars) was a good thing at the time because people would depend on them too much. In Canada we saw a set of pads that weren't adequate break off. He almost lost because he was depending on a wheelie pad that wasn't there. We started NTPA out with 13 rules. Negligence added a lot of rules to it. The flywheel factor. I tried to tell people about that. The race was running hotter and horsepower was getting higher. We needed something to protect, something for safety. Standards changed during the season. We tried to bring it out during state meetings. I served for two years on the board as co-State director (of Ohio) with Ralph Chamberlin from 1975-77. But people wouldn't listen. So we made rules so they would listen.
Q: What kind of prices did you have wrapped up in your tractors? Today pullers have as much as $100,000 or more.
A: We had around $30,000. With our first V-8, our M, we had $900. The tank engine ran about $1800. The H about $2700 or $2800. Our 4-engine tractor was the same tractor. We just rebuilt it. In fact we rebuilt the 4-engine tractor four times, every time they'd change the chain rule. We'd move the engine forward or backward depending on the rule governing the length of the chain.
At this point the interview moved from Carl's home to the shop where Carl and Paul's tractor is housed. Yes, they still have their old 4engine tractor. A little dusty, but almost raring to go. As I examined it, I asked Carl and Paul questions about it.
Q: How did you know about tire cutting? How did it all come about?
A: We found out over time that tires run on the road, the backs wore off and they (the tires) got sharp and they pulled better. We used to go out and buy used tires that had been run on the road a lot and get a sharp tire.
Q: Is that the original transfer case, the first one you built?
A: No, that's the second one I built. The first one I built was one of steel. This one here is aluminum.
Q: And those are the 460 Lincolns?
A: Yes. It was the biggest engine we could find at the time.
Q: Those tires are enormous. Are those the ones you got out of that batch of 14?
A: Yes. I got a pair. And I think Ralph Banter got a pair. And so did Bob Bend. It was a harder tire.
Q: And a harder tire is a better tire?
A: Oh, yes. It gives you more bite.
Q: Why did you go with Firestone?
A: Well, I always thought it was a better tire.
Q: But aren't all tire companies about the same?
A: Yes, I suppose so. But the Firestone tire was about one and one-half incheswider. That was its biggest advantage. It stood taller.
Q: And that made a difference?
A: Yes, I think it did?
Q: What if you wanted to run with this tractor. What would you have to do to it to get it ready?
A: Well, it would take a whole lot of money. When we quit back in '78 this here tractor had run its course. We had cam shaft problems and the rear-end wasn't as strong anymore. We kept breaking rear-ends. Also, this tractor only has about 2400 horsepower. You need more than that these days. I always lived by one rule. No use playing with them. I never tried to build anything anybody else built. That's why when there was that 8-cylinder limit, I went with the 1100 cu. in. tank motor.
Q: Looks like you would probably need a new paint job, too. Many of the Super Stock pullers have beautiful murals painted on their tractor.
A: We never worried about paint. Paint never made it run any better. Also, we would have to balance the tractor a little better for today.
Q: When you say "balance" your tractor, what do you mean?
A: On a hard pulling track -a power track- harder a track pulls the more front end weight it takes. Because you're getting more bite, you're making your tractor be more of a lever. You're using more leverage out of your tractor. On a slick track or easy pulling track, it takes less front end weight you spin out quicker so you move the weight back to give the tractor bite.
Q: Was it hard to balance this tractor?
A: No. It was easy to balance it. We just added weights to make the class. It's easier to balance a light tractor in the heavy class than to balance a heavy tractor in the light classes. With the heavy tractor you have it stripped to make the class, so you have no weight to play with.
Q: What are those kegs on the outside for?
A: That's the water for the radiator.
Q: Looking at this tractor, you can sure tell how the sport has changed over the years.
A: Yes, many things have happened. I remember pulling at pulls where there would be 50 or 60 in a class, especially in the lighter classes. One time up at Ada a pull started at 8 in the morning and didn't get done till the afternoon of the next day. We pulled all night, around the clock. Something like 28 hours.
Q: How is that possible?
A: Well, it was one of those tug pulls or something like that. You pulled 15 feet, hit a stake, backed up and pulled again. I also remember one time over in Mercer, PA. I ran against Lloyd McVey. Lloyd and I just run until one of us broke. I had that old tank engine. I could run that thing forever. Lloyd had his Super Banana, I think. He called it that because he painted it the color of Chrysler. His wife said it looked like a big banana. Lloyd finally broke. When you talk to legends, you learn things. I certainly learned a thing or two. Carl and Paul Bosse. Living legends in our time.