PLENTY of car projects are built as tributes to mates or family members that have passed on – fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents. They’ve been vans, rods, trucks, muscle cars and street machines. But I have to confess that I’d never come across a tribute pull truck. Until I visited the Diesel & Dirt Derby in Keith, SA, that is.
Melbourne-based Ross Simpson took 18 years to turn his father’s 1970 Toyota Crown into a one-of-a-kind, tyre-creasing pull truck. Ross’s dad, Ralph was a Valiant man back in the 1960s and fond of towing a caravan. So when he was looking to trade up in 1970 the family first took a punt on Toyota by trading Mum, Ava’s EH wagon on a Crown wagon. Mum and Dad were impressed, so Ralph looked at moving into a Crown sedan himself.
The deal with the salesman at Eastside Chrysler in Nunawading was that the Crown had needed to be able to tow the family caravan up Wheeler’s Hill in Melbourne’s east. Needless to say it did and Ralph’s old Val was history. Ross got his driver’s licence in the Crown as a young fella. And when his parents moved to Queensland in 1983, Ross was handed the keys to the Crown.
The Toyota didn’t stay stock for long; a 283 Chev small block found its way into the engine bay with a Turbo 350 trans, a 9-inch rear and four-wheel discs. Which was awesome for about a decade until a roadside check by the wallopers revealed that the car wasn’t engineered. It ended up sitting idle in the shed, it’s road going days behind it until Ross came up with the idea of turning into a pull truck.
Unusual vehicle choices are encouraged in the wheel standing truck class, as it’s something of a crowd favourite. Australia’s tractor pulling governing body, the ATPA gave Ross’s idea the thumbs up. Work began and the Crown’s body was taken back to bare metal. Underneath, a whole new world of chassis modification and strengthening took shape. The journey from caravan-hauler to sled-hauler was a long and arduous one, but the end result is a very unique pull truck indeed.
The Aussie 2WD truck class is home to big-dollar purpose-built bangers imported from the US as well as a few homegrown heroes. But, in what is a uniquely Australian set-up, the Crown runs a bus diff with planetary gears, an overdrive Road Ranger truck gearbox and a Powerglide.
Under the bonnet lies a 700hp 427ci small-block Chev, which is unusual in this big block-dominated class. Fuel delivery is via a sprintcar-style injection system and the 427 is running a pretty hefty 14.5:1 compression ratio.
All of which adds up to a healthy 636lb-ft of twisty force – important when your main mission in life is to haul heavy things!
Vehicles in the truck class have the sled hitch located above the back wheels. As a result they often roar down the track with the front wheels in the air.
Ross has added 300kg to the front of the Crown to make it a little easier to take it down the track in a straight line.
The result of all this is a dirt-slinging unique sled-puller that certainly sounds the biz in full flight. “It’s been a challenge,” says Ross with a wry grin, “and a learning curve for all of us.” Dad would be proud!