Wasted Nights!

Wasted Nights Modified Pulling Tractor
The Wasted Nights Limited Mod is part of the Red River Valley’s pulling history…with an interesting connection to a 80s county fair legend! It sells to the highest bidder on Monday!

See the details on the Wasted Nights mod here.

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…

Wasted Nights modified pulling tractor
Wasted Nights is definitely an old-style mod, but who says you can’t have fun kickin’ it old-skool? Click the photo to see the rest of the photos and auction details.


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.

Wasted Nights modified pulling tractor
Here’s the heartbeat of Wasted Nights…a fresh Chevy big block 454!

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.

Wasted Nights Modified Pulling Tractor
It’s not perfect; it’ll need some work to get it in competitive shape, but in the right class, this thing would be a BLAST!

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.

Oops…wrong Silver Bullet.

THIS one. The Coors Light-sponsored Silver Bullet “jumping combine”.

Silver Bullet Jumping Combine
The Silver Bullet was a big hit on the county fair circuit during the 80s!

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!

Get the auction details (and the full sale bill) here.

The Barnyard Brute: The Oliver 990

Oliver 990
This big ol’ Oliver 990 sells at a Nebraska farm equipment auction on August 23, 2020. Click the photo to see the details!

If you’ve read this email for more than a month, then you probably know I have a thing for machines that make cool noises. The Oliver 990 definitely fits in this category as far as I’m concerned. Two-stroke GM Diesel motors make a very unique sound, and I love that.

The late ’50s were sort of a golden age in farming. Farmers were expanding operations and with that came the call for bigger equipment and bigger power. Oliver answered that call with the 990, a straight-up barnyard brute. Rated from the factory at 93 horse, this was nearly the biggest machine in Oliver’s lineup! It was efficient horsepower, too, at least for one farmer from Colorado. He told the folks at GM that he was able to plow 76% more ground per hour with his 990, and it nearly cut his cost/acre in half! Hard to argue with those numbers!

No, I can’t believe that I wrote that a GM 2-stroke diesel was “efficient horsepower” either… #irony

It’s been said that the proper way to operate a GM Diesel 2-stroke is to get good and mad at it; like, slam your hand in the shop door and then get behind the wheel…that kind of mad. To hear what one of these bad boys sounds like under load, check out this little clip from the 2015 Half Century of Progress Show. With a 4-bottom plow behind it, this one wasn’t even breathing heavy.¬†They were big tough tractors then, and they’re still beefy by today’s standards!

They’re also pretty collectible. Oliver only made about 1800 of these tractors during the production run. This one has had an older restoration, and has been living in an Oliver collection in Nebraska. It sells on August 23, and it’s sure to draw quite a bit of attention as the auction gets closer!

If you need more Oliver in your life…you’ll find your next one here.

The Loudest John Deere…in the world.

John Deere 435
The 435 was one of the loudest tractors that John Deere ever made! It sells at an online auction near Philadelphia on July 16. Click the photo to see the listing and lots more photos!

Before we talk about the John Deere 435 in the photo above, let me set the stage for you.

1959 was a hectic year for John Deere. They were six years into their biggest project ever – the New Generation tractors. These tractors were radically different, and nothing (not even the green and yellow paint) was sacred. Nearly every single operating system needed redesigned, and that meant that it was an all hands on deck kind of deal.

Still, Deere needed to keep selling equipment, and farmers were still looking for improvements in the two-cylinder lineup. When Deere needed to buy itself some development time on the New Generation series, they chose to “redesign” the 430 for the 1959 model year. They reworked a few things on the tractor, but when it came to the powerplant, they couldn’t pull engineers away from the New Gen motor development to tweak the two-cylinder just as a stop gap. They needed a creative solution and they wanted a small diesel motor (the 430 didn’t have one); so, Deere called GM in Detroit and worked a deal to use their supercharged two-stroke 2-53 motor. Presto! Now they had a “new” (ish) tractor called the 435 AND one with a small diesel motor! Two birds – one stone!

The 2-53 Detroits are reliable little motors that make somewhere in the neighborhood of 33 horse on the PTO shaft. They’re also INSANELY loud, especially if they’re straight-piped. Fortunately, this one isn’t, so it might be a little more manageable. Still, if I ever meet the buyer, I’ll give them a fresh set of earplugs and a big bottle of Excedrin!

This 435 lives just north of Philly, and our friends at Alderfer Auction are handling the auction. The owner recently restored it, and it’s in great shape! The spin-out wheels don’t appear to have any wear on them, either! They should work about as slick as advertised! The 435 was among the last two cylinder Deeres ever built; and with only about 4600 of ’em out there, they’re not all that common! I’d imagine this one probably gets close to the $10K mark!