Floyd Hilton | 2009
Floyd Hilton | 2009
Some men have entered NTPA’s Hall of Fame with multiple championships and laurels. Other men have entered due to their specific contribution toward the betterment of the sport. Floyd Hilton fits a third criterion: perseverance with personality. Although he didn’t bring a bona fide championship machine to the track every year, he epitomized the spirit of NTPA competition, having a good time while competing, and making friends along the way. Consider Floyd Hilton as NTPA’s original “Hard Charger” dressed in purple.
Hilton farmed near his Winamac, Ind. home. His love for motorsports began at the tender age of seven as an engine builder’s helper. By age 15, Hilton owned his first modified stock car. Once managing his farm began to conflict with his racing hobby, Hilton began tractor pulling.
Floyd’s pulling career spanned over four decades, with his start coming in the early 70s – NTPA’s early years. Hilton pulled farm stock, and had one of the first big block aspirated Minis in pulling, but he found his pleasure in the Modified class behind the wheel of a single Chevy engine.
His next creation was a twin engine Modified featuring supercharged 427 cubic inch Chevrolets called the Green Weenie. As NTPA National wins in the Modified class were concerned, Hilton claimed just a single victory – an upset win at the Fort Recovery, Ohio rainsoaked event in 1979 in the 7,000 lb. class. “All the hot shots were pulling after me,” said Hilton in a 1986 Puller magazine interview, “so I went to bed after I pulled. They woke me up the next morning to tell me that I had won.”
Although Hilton saw some success in the Modified division, his Hoosier State playing field in the late 1970s included the Banter Brothers, Don Harness, Tim Engler and Bruce Hutcherson – all NTPA Hall of Famers. Hilton continued to pull because he enjoyed it, but the writing was on the wall in the Modified class, as it was becoming an expensive division with most competitors going to costly multiple engines.
In 1983, the NTPA introduced the Two Wheel Drive Truck class. Hilton saw the class as a way to keep pulling more affordable, and by 1985, he had disassembled the Green Weenie, using the pair of Chevy engines to build a pair of Two Wheel Drive Trucks. The first Floyd’s Toy was a 1952 Chevy delivery van; the second was a 1981 Dodge Omni called Floyd’s Toy II. Unique to these machines were the purple paint schemes. The color was chosen simply because Hilton’s last race car was purple, and besides having a lot of luck with it, and the fact that no one utilized the color in pulling, Floyd fully embraced it right down to his socks. The gregarious, down-to-earth Hoosier with the pair of purple trucks became a fan favorite. Many fans could relate to Floyd Hilton’s modest operation, and Hilton always made time for the fans, gaining mutual admiration.
Floyd decided to take a run at the NTPA Grand National Circuit on a fulltime basis, and after a couple seasons, found himself in a quandary. NTPA Grand National level two wheelers were mainly utilizing hemi engines to consistently compete in the upper echelons of the class. In 1987, Floyd obtained an Arias engine, and his “also ran” status changed to contender. His pair of top five finishes earned Floyd Puller of the Year honors that year, and a second place finish in the first ever Enderle Pull-Off.
A few wins continued over the next years. Floyd’s son, Ed, handled the driving chores with Floyd’s Toy II, while Floyd took the wheel of a new and interesting Porsche bodied vehicle. Floyd Hilton was a fixture on the Grand National Circuit and from 1985 through 1993, amassed 21 top 10 finishes in two weight categories. Hilton’s highest finish was second in the Grand National point standings in 1989.
Uniqueness of the popular vehicles was commonplace for the Hilton Team. A long nosed Jeep found its way into the pit area, as well as the last Floyd’s Toy edition – a T-bucket truck that finally earned Floyd his only NTPA National titles in 1999 and 2000 in Region II point competition.
In 2001, Hilton decided to sell Floyd’s Toy and retire more permanently to Arizona. At the final hook of Floyd’s pulling career, Floyd received two standing ovations. The first occurred after his competition pull and the second as he exited the track area. Leaving the sport on his own terms after 30 plus years had to be gratifying, knowing how much he accomplished on and off the track.