Building tractors and other sport


The Manager of Catts Information Technology Roland Geilen is self-taught when it comes to mechanical and automotive principals. He built his own tractor. He made from the ground up, with his son Brendan. The tractors, “SHOCKWAVE” and “AGRAV8”, Modified Tractors have won awards but, more importantly, have built strong family ties.

Roland Geilen originally attended modified tractor pulls as spectator. It is a Motorsport competition which requires multi-engined modified tractors to pull a heavy sledge. The aim of the game is to pull an ever increasing weight further than your competitors.

The inspirational idea to build his own tractor came up to Roland, and his Mini Modified ‘2-Tuff’ made its debut at Quambatook in late 1993. After sharing the ride for many years, he purchased another mini modified tractor that he ran in 1997 season. After that season a rebuild was required and work commenced on building a completely new open mini modified tractor from the ground up. ‘AGRAV8’ was completed two years later and first competed in 1999-2000 season.

The tractors compete for points and its accumulate determine the National ATPA Championships in each of the 8 classes of pulling vehicles: Mini, Open Mini, Limited, Super and Open Modifieds, Pro Stock (Diesels) and 2WD Truck.

AGRAV8 competes in the Australian Tractor Pulling Association (ATPA) Open Mini Modified Class. These Pulling Vehicles are restricted in dimensions to a maximum width of 6ft and length of 8ft measured from the centre of the rear wheel to the vehicle. The aim of the game is to pull an ever increasing load down a 100m dirt track. When a tractor gets to the end this is known as a “full pull”. If more than one vehicle completes the course, then more weight is added to the sledge and these tractors run again. The winner is the one who can pull the sledge the farthest. Often, the difference between tractors is as little as 1 or 2 cm. “AGRAV8 finished 4th outright in its class for the 2009-2010 Season. So far, two 2nd places at Finley and a 2nd at Waaia have boosted our confidence”.

Originally, it is said that around the 1860s when farming machines were pulled by horse, farmers would challenge to prove who had the strongest horse. A barn door was removed and laid flat on the ground, and the horse was then hitched to it. The people jumped on the door until the horse could no longer drag it. The horse pulling the most people the greatest distance was judged the strongest. The activity evolved and tractors remained single engine until two Ohio brothers, Carl and Paul Bosse, introduced the cross box which could allow multiple engines to be attached to a single drive shaft.

Over the years Modified Tractor Pulls got popular in Europe, especially in the Netherlands, Brazil and Australia. In the latter, it is held predominantly in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. The Australian Tractor Pullers Association (ATPA) governs the sport. The season usually starts in late September through to end of March.

“We did more than 30 years ago a track pulling in Wyndham Vale, when that was empty of houses. It was a successful competition and by 6 pm the concert started!. We discussed several times with different Council the idea to run again a Championship and wasn´t the problem to get the room to do it”, the tractor driver says.

In the search for strategies to promote and improve family relationships, experts recommend performing some simple activity that allows family interaction.The Junior Modified Mower class was introduced in 2006 to offer the kids of tractor pulling families and opportunity to join into the action. There is also a special section for junior competitors, which are governed by the Junior Modified Pullers Association (JMPA) – 8 to 15 year olds – and utilizes modified ride-on mowers to drag a smaller sled. Its aim is to teach the kids vehicle control, maintenance and repair, in a safe and risk-free environment. All modified mowers must comply with the JMPA rules and are inspected prior to each event by his members – the kids themselves – under supervision by the adult members. “Brendan learnt a lot about security during training sessions run for JMPA. It provides a great learning environment, not only in terms of understanding the rules, safety uses of silt belt and how to apply them but also in interacting with peers to communicate issues and how to correct them,” Roland says when asked about the risks involved. “In 38 years I never saw anyone hurt in a big way.”

SHOCKWAVE was completed in 2008. “We started building my tractor, Shockwave, when I turned 10 and I got to add some personal touches like the graphic on the back and my helmet and race suit. I helped with building a special trailer to carry both of our tractors. I also helped Dad when he rebuilt his tractor and added the supercharger,” Brendan says. SHOCKWAVE has competed in the junior class since then.

Roland adds that they made minor improvements to the reliability of the engine and made some changes to simplify operation. “We encouraged newcomers kids to come and have a go at Modified Tractor Pulling events.” Father and son attend all modified tractor pulling competitions sanctioned by ATPA and also display their vehicles at various car, agricultural and community shows each year. In Werribee they attended the Weerama festival, and for the past three years, they have displayed at the Victorian Hot Rod Show and also at the Cora Lynn “Last of the Chrome Bumpers” and Car Show taking out “Best Presented” in the tractor category.

The learning power for discovery lies in the direct contact that children have with the environment. Through the experience of their senses, the internal connections are favoured, benefiting the optimal biological maturation, awakening the desire to learn and explore, enabling the physical development and stimulating the imagination.

Even though this activity started only for fun, both vehicles have been custom built specifically for Modified Tractor Pulling, and all the work has been performed at home by themselves. “Of course if you have more money to spend, you could build bigger tractors for competitions”, the IT consultant says, who is looking for sponsorship for it offers an unique opportunity for company´s promotion via their vehicles. But perhaps, what will attract the public more than nothing, will be to see how father and son discovered together their skills, preferences and skills while playing at being builders of tractors.

The game encourages creativity, socialization and it is an important way of communication with children. The experience of feel the efforts together and the pleasure of achievements, the freedom to express trust in each other, and the quality of the good moments, were challenging them to continue the growth. 4) Earlier this year, Roland made a decision: “Well, the shed’s empty (sort of) and the tractors have a new home. SHOCKWAVE and AGRAV8 have been sold. It will continue to be a part of the Junior Modified competition with a new owner. Brendan and I are getting ready for a new project…” and Brandon adds “to build my first car, A Ford F100 1970 Ute. We have three years to build it, which is when I turn 18”.

Looking forward to seeing what more will bring this new experience!

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