Lloyd McVey | 1986
Lloyd McVey | 1986
This year's Hall of Fame inductees both hail from Illinois, and both have made their biggest impact on the sport while pulling in the modified division.
"Wild" Bill Newlon, Prophetstown, Ill., and Lloyd McVey, Oakwood, Ill., both have enjoyed long and successful pulling careers. In marked contrast to past inductees, Newlon is an active competitor and McVey may be getting back on the pulling track, soon.
Newlon, 80, still pulls with the Allison-powered Minneapolis Moline he built in 1967. He began pulling in 1952 and continues as a familiar face on the Illinois State circuit. "I'm real fortunate," Newlon said. "The Old Boy upstairs has everyone on a schedule, and mine's been a long one."
Both expressed surprise at joining their sport's most prestigious circle.
McVey said he never expected to be so honored, either.
"Sure, it's an honor, and I might add that it's quite a surprise," McVey ·said. "There aren't a lot of guys around now who remember all that we had to do to get pulling to where it is today." I drove thousands of miles, unloaded the tractor a hundred times for nothing, just to promote the sport. The wife and I have had so many experiences. We've rolled that tractor into TV studios by hand, just to have someone start screaming that the floor was going to cave in and we'd have to roll it back out the door.
"I won my share," the three-time Grand National Pulling Circuit champion said. "But I don't think that's what got me into the Hall of Fame, the people who were there with us remember what it was all about."
This year's other Hall of Fame inductee, McVey, said he has thought about it and may build a new puller.
Of course, at 52-years-old, McVey is still a youngster compared with the senior inductee. When "Wild" Bill was 52, he was still the scourge of the M&W World Championships.
McVey may be on the verge of semi-retirement from the business arena, but it will only give him more free time to possibly pursue his love of pulling.
He recently sold his trucking business and is in the process of re-locating in Naples, Fla.
"It should give us more time for the things we enjoy," he explained. " And we always enjoyed pulling."
When Dick Refshauge bought his four-engine modified two seasons ago, McVey wasn't really looking to sell.
"If you know Dick, you know he can be very persuasive, and when he finally made me the right offer I took it."
When McVey sold his four Hemi "Super Banana" tractor, it had been almost 15 years to the day since he'd built the first " Banana," a single-engine tractor that turned a lot of heads in a hurry.
McVey was one of the first competitors to join the' pulling ranks straight from the asphalt jungle of national drag racing competition.
In the 1960s, McVey drove one of the fastest National Hot Rod Association Division III super stock drag cars, a limited production Dodge Dart built with assistance from the Chrysler factory.
"Chrysler put on a special clinic in Detroit in 1968 and 1969. We were one of only 100 racing teams invited," he recalled.·
McVey's drag racing credentials led to his first involvement with pulling. Jerry Gerdes, one of the toughest modified pullers at that time, looked McVey up after a race· and asked to buy the motor right out of his drag car. Gerdes was a neighbor and acquaintance, but McVey said he wasn't interested in parting with the motor.
The powerplant had been a winner, factory rated at only 425 horsepower, the blueprinted version McVey raced made a dyne-confirmed 550 horsepower.
"It was 100-percent legal, racing against motors with less," he explained.
As would happen years later with Refshauge, Gerdes presented a very persuasive financial argument and McVey eventually consented.
"We sat up one night, from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., talking about racing and pulling. Jerry was just wearing me down. Finally, I put a fantastic price on the motor, and he bought it."
Through Gerdes, McVey became a pulling convert. He attended a few events and liked what he saw. Racing had become a dollar derby, with cars costing $40,000 to $50,000 competing in his class, the independent racing McVey wasn't ready to match that ante.
Pulling hadn't reached the same financial stratosphere, yet. Plus, the challenge presented by pulling appealed to McVey's competitive nature.
"It was still more of a driver's game," he explained. "I could see that there was much more to it, the machinery hadn't become the whole game."
He built his first puller that next winter. With Bob Mitchell's help, he pulled the motor out of his racer and put it in a modified Massey 55 frame. They worked day and night, completing the puller in two weeks.
"We took the tractor frame and broke it in two at the transmission housing, keeping it from there back. For the front end, we built a pair of 6 inch channel steel rails and mounted them straight out from the rear. It rode lower to the ground and we never did break that original frame, I've still got it.”
With the super sweet 426 Hemi bolted to a beefed up 727 Chrysler Torque-flight automatic transmission, McVey was competitive immediately.
" I pulled for the first time at a state pull in Duqoin, Ill., on a wet, muddy track. With the manual control on the Torque-flight, I put it in second and came off the line slow and easy. As soon as the wheel speed picked up, I kicked it into high gear and bogged the motor back down. It locked in and we pulled into the lead.
"They let the last guy try four times off the line, and he was the only one to beat us."
His first NTPA pull was even more memorable. McVey won all three modified classes Though he was disqualified for passing the pace tractor in the Unlimited class, the powerful performance drew some surprise visitors to McVey's pit area after the event.
"I was still pretty hot about the disqualification," McVey said. "Even the pace tractor driver agreed that I hadn't kids on the block, things weren't as well-organized in those days as they are now, and it just happened to us.
"Anyway, after the pull Dave and Ralph Banter came over and congratulated me on the wins. It was the first time we'd met and Ralph asked if he could take a closer look at the tractor. He crawled all over it, using a tape to measure the frame and draw bar.
"I'll never forget that, he didn't put on an act at all, he just wanted to know what we were doing right. We became good friends starting that night."
McVey went on to win three Grand National Pulling Circuit championships with that carbureted 426 Hemi, taking the 9000 lb. Modified class in 1972 and claiming both the 7000 and 9000 lb, titles the next season. But his best was yet to come.
Working with drag racing legend Gene Snow, McVey designed a special twinturbocharger system for his pulling motor in 1974. The new combination made unbelievable power for its day.
The key was the tremendous boost and smoother surge from turbocharging.
"It made double the horsepower of a blown motor," McVey said.
Where this power had been too much in a drag car, with the huge pulling tires and slower starts, McVey found it just right for pulling. "A lot of people asked us about that motor, and the only real secret was in the camshaft. Engineers from Hillborn fuel injection asked me about it, they were the ones who'd originally developed the turbocharging technology with Gene Snow. I wouldn't even tell them what we were doing."
The first time McVey pulled the new combination at Bowling Green he won, but not without some track-side assistance from an unlikely source.
"Back then they had quarter final eliminations at Bowling Green. There were just so many entries. I remember that I had 44 in my quarter final.
" I finished second and qualified for the finals, but I thought I'd have to call it quits. Toward the end of the run I lost pressure and it just quit on me. It turned out that I'd blown a turbo 50 feet down the track.
"I didn't carry a spare and wasn't sure I could have fixed it, even if I had."
McVey was back in the pits, just about ready to fold his canopy and go home, when Super Stock puller John D. Thompson stopped by to see if he could help.
"He'd heard what had happened and pulled an old Mack truck turbo out of his tool box. He told me it wouldn't be as good as the one I'd lost, but that he'd used it more than once in a tight spot like I was in.
"He refused to take any money for it, just told me to give it back when I was done using it."
McVey finally convinced Thompson to sell, not lend, it, and with his help had it mounted to his motor in time to pull the next day.
Running with that old, used turbo, McVey won his class final.
Besides the turbocharging, McVey innovated in other aspects of the sport. He was one of the first to pull with two similar tractors in the same classes.
He built the "Little Tiger" in 1972 to be just like the Banana, and ran both for four seasons. Whichever went down the track first acted as a test puller for the next one, a lesson not lost on Ralph Banter, as his subsequent stable of modifieds would attest.
In the area of appearance, McVey put extra sheet metal on his tractor and sported the Kendall logo and sponsorship.
"We always kept everything cleaned and polished," McVey explained. "Robert Ball, the Kendall representative, was a swell individual who felt very strongly about tractor pulling's future. We put the extra chrome and steel on to make it look good, and he sponsored us for it."
In 1976, McVey went to a side-by-side mounted twin-engine tractor, adding a blown 526 Keith Black Hemi to the turbocharged 426.
"They worked very well together. The blown motor made less power, but it was quicker and got us off the line, then the turbos would kick in and we were gone."
To further increase power, he changed the air/ fuel system with the turbos staged behind a supercharger. The new combination made 65 lb. manifold boost, but he had to keep it all tuned back because there wasn't a fuel pump on the market capable of keeping the alcohol flowing fast enough.
The motor would lean out and pop the blower off.
This was probably the strongest V-8 motor ever mounted in a pulling tractor. McVey said it tested over 3,000 horsepower on a dyno.
"I remember one year we lost the blown motor at Super Pull, and I pulled in the Unlimited class with just this one motor. We turned everything up and I took a third, running in the same gear we'd been using with both motors before."
He went to his first planetary rearend with the twin. The crossbox was designed to hold a third motor out front, which he added the next summer.
By 1979, McVey was campaigning a four-engine tractor that had been built by the Miller shop at the same time they were building Bruce Hutcherson's four-Rodeck "Makin' Bacon Special."
With the fourth one, McVey went with all blown motors and has often wondered if it might have been a mistake.
The blown motors were more interchangeable and the tractor did win several Grand National events, but the power boost from the turbocharged motor wasn't there anymore.
If McVey does build a new pulling vehicle, he said the turbocharged combination might, or might not, be revived.
"If I get back into pulling, it'll definitely be a two wheel drive truck or funny car," he said. "I don't know if the turbo lag would be too much for a single engine vehicle. With the size of motors available today, it might be smarter to just build a very big blown motor."
Regardless, if McVey does get back behind the wheel of his own pulling vehicle, it should be something special. Judging from his past history, the man wouldn't do it any other way.
"I knew TWD would be big when it started, there aren't a lot of guys who can compete with five-engine tractors. TWD puts it back on a more competitive footing, one-engine on one-engine.
"I'd love to meet head on with the factory drag racing teams, only on the pulling track where we could even things up a little. It would be a fun challenge. The most fun we ever had pulling was with the single-engine tractor."
A fun challenge brought Lloyd and his wife Norma to pulling in the first place.
Norma said she remembers the difference, when they switched from racing to pulling.
"I definitely like pulling better, and so does Lloyd. There's more skill to pulling, and the pulling people were always friendlier and more helpful. We mode a lot of good friends racing, but it was never like pulling.
"We drove a lot of miles, and I had to carry a lot of ice and fuel. But it was fun."
Maybe that challenge, that fun, will be enough to bring the Lloyd family back into pulling. It would certainly be interesting, and enjoyable for more than just Norma and Lloyd.
"We think about all the friends we've made, pulling in 30 states. And Norma and I thank them all, friends, competitors, and spectators.
"It's an honor to be included in the Hall of Fame.”