If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time (or you got here because of the email), you know that I’ve been a fan of tractor pulling since I was 8 years old. So, when Wasted Nights showed up on Allen Henslin’s auction for Jeff Janke this week, I was pretty excited. Finally, a pulling tractor to write about!
Wasted Nights is a mod with a good storyline, and a neat connection to a county fair staple from the 80s. More on that in a minute…
Back in the late 90s, Gene Brend and Jeff Janke partnered up on this tractor, which came from a couple of local truck pullers who weren’t doing anything with it. They repainted it, got it into shape, and campaigned it pretty successfully for about 15 years! As Gene was a die-hard Chevy mechanic, and it always sported a big block – usually a 454 punched out to about 477 cubes. Bowtie power won three points championships in the 6200 pound Limited Mod class with the Central Minnesota Pullers with it too! in the 6200 pound Limited Mod and 6500 pound Mod class. I talked to Jeff this morning for about a half hour, and it sounds like he and Gene had a lot of fun with it! They won three points championships with it, too!
Sadly, Gene had some health problems and had to park the tractor. It’s been a while since the tractor has gone down the track – probably 7 or 8 years (maybe more). He’d always had plans to get it back together after his health improved, but unfortunately the health problems got worse. Sadly, Gene passed away in 2019. Before he passed away, though, he left the tractor to Jeff. He told him, “Get it running again and go have fun with it, or get it in the hands of someone who’ll continue with what we started.”
Jeff recently got it back together for this auction. His intent is to give most of the proceeds of the sale to Gene’s kids.
The Wasted Nights mod was really built for the 6200 pound Limited Mod classes in central and western Minnesota. However, it also was pretty darn competitive in the 6500 pound classes when they weighted up.
Today, I believe the class is allowed a 530 cubic inch V8 on gas or alcohol, with one carb, and (this was a new one for me) a single stage of nitrous. Back when Wasted Nights was regularly competing, though, the cube limit was 485. Jeff put it back together using those rules. It’s got a fresh 454 in it, aluminum ‘Vette heads, and a Holley 1050 Dominator on top. It’s also jetted for nitrous, but it’s not currently installed. Gene always figured that the motor was good for 900 horsepower. I got the feeling from Jeff that Gene’s number might’ve been a little optimistic, but with a little tuning, I’m sure it’s within reach.
On the chassis/driveline side, it’s got a planetary rear end setup from a Ford log skidder. The power transfers through a Turbo 400 transmission. In that class, that’s a fairly bulletproof combo. I know the chassis is solid, and it hooks up to the track really well.
What it needs
Overall, Wasted Nights has good bones. Most importantly, it’s got a good chassis that hooks. You can have the best motor and driveline in the world, but if the chassis isn’t right, none of it’ll do you any good. That said, there are a few things that need some attention before you can go waste nights of your own on the track!
Jeff has most of the wiring finished, but I know he didn’t get around to the kill switch. There might’ve been one or two other things too – maybe the tach and some dashboard stuff.
The motor would definitely benefit from a trip to a race shop with a dyno. Pulling motors are pretty high-strung, and to run their best, you really need a professional to dial ’em in. Jeff advised that the heads should be re-torque’d, the timing should be checked. Furthermore, this motor has a pretty high-lift camshaft; spending some time finding the sweet spot with valve lash would definitely be time well spent. Aside from snapping a rod, breaking a rocker is about the most destructive internal failure you can have. A good engine builder can probably get this motor lined out fairly easily.
Lastly, I think I’d probably recommend giving the tires a once-over. They look reasonably good to me in the photos, but I’m sure it’s been a while since the lugs have been sharpened. Sharp, smooth lugs definitely bite the track better – and in the sport of inches…you take every advantage you can!
The County Fair Connection
So how many of you have heard of The Silver Bullet? No, not that one.
THIS one. The Coors Light-sponsored Silver Bullet “jumping combine”.
The Silver Bullet was the brainchild of a guy named Ernie Brookins, an event promoter from Fargo. At the time, Ernie and his wife Gail were promoting combine demolition derbies in the midwest, but Ernie had a crazy idea to jump a combine over a car Evel-Knievel-style as a promo thing for the derbies. What’s even better was that he got Coors to sponsor the build!
The “combine” was basically a tube-frame chassis, a big block, and a hollowed-out combine body sitting on top of it. Ernie would jump the 1450-horse monster during the intermission of his demolition derby shows. It was a weird form of entertainment, but it definitely got the crowd’s attention! It got the attention of Hollywood, too – in 1987, it was featured in a movie called Race For The Harvest!
Anyway, Ernie and Gail ran this combine all over the country for about five years, from 1985-1990 before retiring it and moving on to other ventures.
So what’s the connection?
Shortly after Gene & Jeff started pulling Wasted Nights, they windowed the block of the motor they’d been running. They were in a bind, because it was the middle of the points chase, and they needed a new motor in a bad way. Well, Gene made a few phone calls to some of his circle-track buddies in Fargo – one of whom had ties to Ernie. A day or two later, Ernie brought one of the backup combine motors out and sold it to them! They bolted it into the chassis and away they went!
Here’s the best part…some of the parts from that motor are STILL in the tractor today! Jeff couldn’t remember if it was the camshaft or the crankshaft, but one of ’em came from the Silver Bullet! I think that’s a pretty cool little tie to the past, don’t you?
What’s it worth?
I have no idea. Our Iron Comps database covers millions of points of data from all kinds of farm equipment, but I’m pretty certain this will be the only modified pulling tractor in it! It’ll be fun to watch this one sell on Monday, June 28!