Jerry Lagod | 2013
Jerry Lagod | 2013
Our first inductee into the NTPA Hall of Fame has made a major impact on the sport of pulling that was as prevalent in 1970 as it is in 2013. He developed a mystique early in his career as a developmental engineer for the sport of pulling, eager to squeeze more horsepower out of a proven system for his International Harvester customers. Ironically, Hypermax Engineering’s creator, Jerry Lagod – our first inductee into the NTPA Hall of Fame - was impacting the sport of pulling before he even knew what the sport was about. Multitudes of Super Stock championships won by the red persuasion would not have been possible without his decades as a driving force to advance more horsepower out of a binder’s turbocharged engine.
At a young age, Jerry Lagod enjoyed bicycles, motorbikes, and race cars – anything that had moving parts and could create power and/or speed. Lagod drag raced on the street in high school, and later raced road coarse cars. Jerry was very curious, and quickly recognized that the things he enjoyed most were engines.
During high school, Lagod drove a gravel truck with a P&H diesel engine for a couple summers in the latter part of the 1950s. Some drivers made fun of the powerplant and Jerry’s enthusiastic propensity for driving the old Ford truck with the two cycle diesel. However, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and Lagod was full of mechanical intrigue, imagining what improvements and modifications could be done. This experience, in part, led Jerry to pursue his mechanical passion as a career. After spending a couple years at the University of Illinois of Chicago, he moved on to Angola, Indiana’s Tri-State University where he wrapped up his degree in mechanical engineering.
With diploma in hand, Jerry began working for the International Harvester Engine Division, located in Melrose Park, Ill. in 1962. “IH” built their diesel engines for many applications. During his interview with the company, Jerry learned of a need for bodies in the fuel injection area. That sounded like a great place to begin, so he took the job and remained with the company for nearly a dozen years.
Jerry worked primarily with the 300 and 400 series engines for IH during his tenure. They were looking to phase out the 407 engine with the newer 414 and 436 versions. The IH tractor sales group was looking for something more powerful in the field, so marketing the new series of workhorse tractors of the day to the farmers was paramount. After many of these models sold, bragging rights for agricultural power over your neighbors’ began to really take off at tractor pulling contests at the county fairs. Much to the chagrin of the IH brass, farmers began complaining about the older 407 series engines “kicking ass” (as Lagod characterized it) at these contests over the newer, more powerful production counterparts. “The higher ups did not like this situation,” Lagod said, “so the job was given to me to make the 436 engine outperform the 407 engine.” From this new task grew additional research and development responsibilities for Jerry as the 1960s rolled into the ‘70s.
Even with his racing background, Jerry did not know what a tractor pull was – he had never seen one. Lagod thought that two tractors were chained back to back. After seeing the first one, he was hooked, and made a number of pulling contacts. Every puller seemed to want a part of Jerry’s “IH power” touch. Lagod finished the project in IH’s view, as the 436 project found power gains that the brass were looking for to satisfy the farming segment of their business. However, Lagod had so much more on the table to implement. He had an in-line pump package drafted, as well as the first water injection system diagramed instead of the ice chest for the bulky intercoolers of the day. He could not convince the brass at IH to continue the project, as the liability of this was of major concern.
Lagod saw the large, untapped market in the sport of pulling, and decided to part ways with IH to start his own full-time, high-performance shop called “Hypermax.” The first full year of operation for Lagod’s new business was in 1972 in a shop behind his home in Illinois. The name was discovered on the day that Jerry and his wife Linda were debating what to call the business while driving to file the incorporation papers. Their young son, Max, repeatedly interrupted the grown-ups’ conversation, and Jerry finally peered into the back seat and asked, “Why are you so hyper, Max?”
Jerry considers John D. Thompson his first pulling customer. Once Jerry opened his business, John D. was ready to be the Hypermax track tester. Thompson ended up with that special in-line pump, and stuck a pair of silver side shields on so no one could see the new technology, even the early NTPA tech inspectors of the day. The Hypermax tractors began to be known as “Silver Shields” as Jerry handed out a pair to every customer asking them to always have them on. The winning came in droves, the customer base grew, and so did the mystique.
In 1973, Thompson debuted the first water injection system that Lagod had perfected for high performance diesel engines after seeing it used in World War II applications. These set-ups were two-turbo, two-stage IH diesel engines. The 9,000 lb and 12,000 lb Super Stock classes began seeing “big red” coming on strong with Hypermax’s advances.
The next big development came when Lagod moved up to three turbochargers in the late 70s. These powerplants with a trio of turbochargers were known as “left hand power” as the exhaust came out the left side of the tractor versus the right. Danny Dean and “The Rooster” really took off with this set-up winning seven championships in a five-year period.
Another big step in the Hypermax program occurred when Jerry finally put together a four charger system with three stages. Dickie Sullivan was the Hypermax track tester, and although it took a while for Lagod to master it to his liking, it is still having an impact in today’s sport.
Hypermax Engineering has a catalog of more than 1,700 parts for the sport of pulling’s diesel divisions, and it has expanded to include everyday work trucks to competition diesel applications. And in a “back to the future” moment, Hypermax now manufactures the 400 series IH engine as it was originally designed. Jerry continued a project he started along with his son Max on a triple turbocharged DT-466 on a dragster known as the Top Diesel class. In 2012, the Hypermax dragster set the world record at the NHRDA World Finals on a blistering pass with a top speed of 216 MPH in 6.69 seconds. Although Max passed away two years earlier, Jerry knew that he was enjoying the moment along with the entire, tight knit group of Hypermax employees – many of whom have been with Jerry since the beginning.
“I am very appreciative that I made my living helping pulling and supporting the NTPA,” Lagod said. Undoubtedly, decades of pullers and fans feel the same way about Hypermax Engineering. Without Jerry Lagod, the sport may not have blossomed in the 1970s as it did – from the “silver side-shields” and dominating performers such as Danny Dean to this year’s Super Stock Diesel championship by the Blagraves - many competitors have relied on the contributions of Jerry Lagod. Tonight, he joins several competitors who have utilized his technology and hard work in NTPA’s Hall of Fame.