Stan & Johnny Mello
The motorsports road provided an interesting journey for Stan and Johnny Mello. Their competitive ventures began in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Stan, in his early years was a stock car racer. His interest in racing transcended to his son Johnny, and the younger Mello became quite an accomplished driver in the motocross world at a very young age. By the time Johnny turned 20, Stan was looking for a safer motorsporting outlet. That’s when pulling came calling for this Hanford, California dynamic duo.
The Mellos dabbled in stock tractor pulling, but the Mini division really caught their attention. It was the Golden State’s strongest division. “From farming and racing on dirt tracks, I had a feel for what it would take to make good power and get it on the track,” reflected Stan in a 1986 interview with The Puller magazine. With Johnny’s experience on a motocross bike, the reflexes needed and anticipation of a Mini’s unpredictability was a match, and was later proved to be a lethal combination.
In 1977, “Super Fly” was built in three days, featuring a carbureted 350 Chevy. Johnny won his first time out on California’s Pacific Tractor Pullers Association with the only full pull. He also won the 1700 lb. Mini class points title his rookie season. In 1978 came a second Mini called “Wild Fly” with a bigger injected motor, and the Mellos cleaned house by winning all three Mini points titles. Stan became president of the PTPA, and helped the association become an NTPA member state in 1980. In all, the Mellos efforts both on and off the track spelled success at the local level. In 1982, the itch was to take on the NTPA Grand National Circuit. The results were dominating.
The “Flyin’ M Ranches”, as they were known, traveled east to take on the NTPA Grand National Mini competitors with both “Super Fly” and “Wild Fly” equipped with the latest and greatest supercharged, alcohol engines from renowned engine man Joe Boghosian. The Mellos moved swiftly through the field, garnering both the 1550 and 1700 lb. NTPA Grand National Mini class championships and the 1982 Mini “Puller of the Year”.
They backed up their championships a year later by doing something rarely found in NTPA competition. The Mellos went undefeated during the 1983 campaign. The wins were split between the pair of Minis with Johnny in the driver’s seat as usual. The competition was so daunted at one point that a few Mini competitors like Jim Brockmann began coming to events with fly swatters attached to their motors - wanting to swat the California flies! Not only were the pair of Mini titles in the hands of Stan and Johnny Mello and the 1983 Mini “Puller of the Year“ award, but also the Brockmann fly swatter was confiscated and kept as a proud, Mello memento of their unbelievable season.
The Mellos decided to stay closer to home in 1984, as their rotating crop of alfalfa and cotton was a priority. However, once 1985 rolled around, the Mellos were trekking back to the Midwest to earn yet another title - this one coming in the 1550 class. But the big surprise was that the Mellos for once did not sweep both NTPA Grand National Mini classes. They finished runner-up with “Super Fly” to fellow Californian Greer Hamilton and his “Sidewinder” Mini in the “heavy” class.
With the “Super Fly” machine doing all of the title winning with the NTPA, Stan and Johnny explored putting a turbine in “Wild Fly” for the 1986 season. However, they did not see the success with it as they did with supercharged horsepower, so when they decided to venture into the new decade of 1990 in search of a sixth championship, it was done with just “Super Fly” on the tour. Once again, it was a tremendous year for Stan the crew chief and Johnny the driver. They rode into the Ohio State Fair, and won both Mini hooks as well as the Enderle Pull-Off Mini hook. In all, the final points tally showed the Mellos walking away with 159 of the 165 total available points in the division and the crown. Truly remarkable after a five year absence away from an ever-changing class.
Sadly, Stan passed away in 1994. However Stan and Johnny’s legacy continues to endure for those fans and pullers fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the California “Flies” in action.