Sled-pulling competitions are a big deal in rural America. Events range from modest to massive as some folks run their Cummins-powered daily drivers while others build dedicated rigs with crazy-huge turbos. It can get expensive in a hurry, no matter which category you fall into. But thankfully for those of us who would rather not dump tens of thousands of dollars (or more) into a hobby that results in heartbreak half the time, there's an alternative: The National Micro-Mini Tractor Pullers Association.
It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Sled pull enthusiasts meet up and run what they brung. In this context, they're bringing 1/16-scale, nitro-burning DIY creations that fit into one of six different classes: Pro Stock Tractor, Super Stock Tractor, Two Wheel Drive, Four Wheel Drive, Unlimited Tractor, and Semi Truck. None of them weigh more than seven pounds, but some of the nastiest rigs can still drag up to 100 times their weight factoring in the transfer.
This is achieved through thoughtful engineering that you'd usually find in the upper echelon of full-size pulling competition. And just like the rules and regulations that are put in place for those events, the NMMTPA has its own criteria that pullers must meet. You'd think some guys had tried to cheat their way to a hefty purse judging by how specific it is.
The NMMTPA monitors not only weight but also parameters like wheelbase length, tire width, and hitch height. Entries in the Pro Stock Tractor category, for example, are limited to an eight-inch wheelbase, a three- or five-pound max weight, and an engine displacement of .07 cubic inches. Bump up to the Unlimited Tractor class, however, and those machines can weigh up to six pounds, have a max length of 18 inches, and a six-inch tire; there are no displacement limits.
Pulling tracks must also be built to certain standards, just like the trucks and tractors. The wooden base has to measure two feet wide by 16 feet long, giving you some idea of the scale. A layer of formica or a sealed polyurethane surface is also required.
Without attending one of these events, it looks like the community is great. Not only are they passionate about the hobby, but they also share resources among competitors so everyone can build better machines. There's an online forum for people to discuss their rigs and whatnot, and if you look on the website, you'll even find the NMMTPA Hall of Fame.
These toy pullers are almost completely scratch-built. Fortunately for all the newbies, there are how-to videos that walk you through certain jobs like making tires out of silicone. It's amazing just how much people are willing to share, from DIY techniques to crucial part numbers.
You can see the result of all this innovation here. The engines run so fast they sound like a ticked-off hornet. It's great!
The NMMTPA sanctions events at toy shows and farm fests alike all across the country. They're neat to see and because they take place on a table, they can run year-round, indoors or outdoors. You may not get all the theatrics of a full-scale sled pull by attending one of these contests, but they still make for great entertainment.
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