John Fairbanks Sr
Massachusetts is not the first state one thinks of when discussing NTPA hotbeds for pulling. However, one man hailing from the Bay State made a mark in his division to which he will no doubt go down as one of the greatest competitors the Mini division has ever known. The 2007 inductee is one of New England’s finest NTPA competitors ever, John Fairbanks, Senior.
Fitchburg was the hometown of John Fairbanks, and his love of motor sports grabbed his attention at an early age. Fairbanks was found drag racing for over 20 years before pulling got his attention in the late 1970s. Before making the switch to Minis, Fairbanks raced a ‘46 Ford coupe and later a Hemi powered Vette that once recorded a blazing 139 miles per hour. John qualified for several national NHRA races. However, it was an outing in 1978 that fostered Fairbanks’ love toward pulling.
“I was really caught up with the Mini pullers, particularly with one driven by Gardner Stone,” said Fairbanks in a 1998 Full Pull magazine article, referring to the same current day puller from Vermont who cut his pulling teeth in the Mini Division. The action was all John needed to catapult his interest into the division as well. He built his first puller from the ground up, utilizing the Hemi power plant found in his drag car.
This set up lasted until 1984 when Fairbanks debuted a new, revolutionary power plant in a Mini Mod - the Arias engine. For state level events, Fairbanks would run a fuel injection set up on the 8.3 liter, 575 cubic inch engine. For the NTPA National events, John strapped on an 8-71 supercharger which really created some horsepower. During this early period in John’s pulling career, he notched over 50 wins and in 1984, the first year with the Arias power plant, John won every NTPA sanctioned 1700 lbs. Mini class they entered.
“Rat Poison” was coined for the Fairbanks creations over the years. “We were beating so many Minis powered by Chevy Rat motors, that the name just sort of evolved over time,” said Fairbanks in a May 1987 issue of Pulling Power.
Fairbanks won three NTPA Region I point championships and a half dozen state level titles. John Senior’s netted a pair of runner-up finishes as well as a third place finish in the mid-to-late 80s on the NTPA Grand National Circuit before turning over the driving duties to sons Phil and John Junior after the 1989 season.
With John Senior leading the way, Team Fairbanks have a legacy that few can ever hope to duplicate in NTPA competition. It should be noted that from 1986 thru this past 2007 season, the Fairbanks’ have never finished below 8thplace in the final point tabulation on the NTPA Grand National Circuit. Quite a remarkable record!
The “Original Rat Poison” Team have won four titles between 1994 through 2000, including three straight in the mid-90s. Since the inception of the Enderle Pull-Off in 1987, the team has also made 18 out of 21 appearances and have won five times. Fittingly, John Senior won during that first Enderle year at the Ohio State Fair and again in 1989. Son John Junior had his turn in 1995, while his other son Phil won in 1998 and 2002.
To talk to John, it was like you were talking to a man whom you knew most of your life. He was engaging, eager to discuss the pulling sport, and enjoyed time on the road with his peers and mostly his sons. Sadly, John Senior passed away in 2004 after a lengthy illness. Even during that final summer, John was an integral part of the “Rat Poison” Team success.