By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN For the month of June, the 2009 first-ever Tech Toys calendar from Snap-On features Jeff Gueningsman of Winsted’s five-engine power-packed tractor puller.
Gueningsman’s tractor was chosen as one of 12 of the most interesting and unusual personally owned toys built or restored by a professional technician throughout the US and Canada.
Appearing in the calendar was exciting for Gueningsman. He was surprised and thought it was “cool and pretty prestigious.”
“This is fairly new for Snap-On to do this,” Gueningsman said. “Normally they do cars rather than toys.”
The Tech calendar has a distribution of about 250,000 customers throughout the US and Canada.
It doesn’t take an automotive specialist to know that Gueningsman’s vehicle is unique.
The five blown 540-cubic-inch Chevy engines run on alcohol, which produces the 8,500 horsepower needed to compete in the 60,000-pound, 300-foot National Tractor Pull Association (NTPA) competitions.
With the power pack turning the back wheels at 100 miles per hour and the front end coming up off the ground, the ride is worth the work and money invested, according to Gueningsman.
“It is just unreal to experience this thing, or even fare well against these guys (competitors),” Gueningsman said. “It is pretty rewarding. Not even so much to go out there and win, but just to be among them. To be one of them. That is very rewarding.”
The NTPA competitions begin in May and end in October. During that time, Gueningsman makes it to about 25 to 30 events in one season.
Being the owner of Gueningsman Automotive Specialists in Winsted, he is able to modify his puller into different configurations depending on the competition.
When he competes in what he calls Region III, the tractor runs with three engines.
At some events, after two passes with four motors in the “modified class,” the fifth motor will be installed in the pits to compete in the “unlimited class.”
“Only sometimes do we run all five motors and it just depends on the event,” Gueningsman said. “Each engine starts individually.”
With the five engine configuration, the tractor cannot weigh more than 8,000 pounds, and keeping it under that weight becomes quite a task.
With three engines, the vehicle is allowed to weigh 7,500.
“It is part of the competition to make the vehicle function with all of the components you need to make it complete and still do it at this lower weight,” Gueningsman said.
“So I can’t afford to have any kind of starter equipment on the engines because I will be over weight. We use a remote starter.”
Precautions are taken annually, through regular inspections, to prevent things like major engine failure.
When the season is over, the tractor is taken apart and completely inspected.
“I haven’t had a major engine failure for quite a number of years and a lot of that comes with experience and knowing where to spend the money,” Gueningsman said.
Troubleshooting a problem is rewarding to Gueningsman, as well. Especially once the problem is remedied.
Gueningsman first got interested in truck and tractor pulls in 1987.
The event was hosted by the Watertown Lions at the Hollywood Sports Complex.
“A couple of buddies and myself heard about this event and at the time we had mud trucks and used to play in the mud a lot. We thought we would enter them in this pull,” Gueningsman said.
His truck was a 1976 GMC two-door standard pickup.
Although the group was excited to give it a try, it did not do nearly as well as expected.
However, Gueningsman found himself hooked on the competition.
He also got his wife Kay hooked on pulls. She has her own truck, which she runs in a class called four-wheel drive modified.
Together, the two of them have participated in truck and tractor pulling competitions for 22 years.
They own a semi that has living space in the front of the trailer with a shower, bathroom and a living room, and enough room to hold their pulling vehicles.
Even their daughter Annie, 3, travels to different events with them.
Right now the family is getting ready for another season of truck and tractor pulls.
Jeff’s vehicle has been taken apart and they are inspecting the driveline, looking at all the bearings, and then checking out the motors.
“It is the heat of the battle. This competition drives you,” Jeff said. It’s crazy!”
“It takes so much power when you compete in one of these pulls. So, we do all of this performance work on these engines to get more power out of them. It is just unbelievable how much work and money and horsepower it takes to compete playing in the dirt.”