Antique Tractor Pulls Are Hoff Family Affairs


October 28, 1990|By Stanley C. Dillon

When motor sports fans see the Hoff name, they mostly think of Steve, Larry, Doug and Mike of drag racing fame.

But not all of the Hoffs are involved in drag racing. Four of them are involved in another motor sport -- antique tractor pulls.

Charles Hoff Jr. of Westminster, his brothers Norman and Raymond, son Rich and nephew Allen Mueller compete in eight tractor pulls a year. They are members of the Central Antique Tractor Club of Maryland, the sponsor of the pulls.

The pulls are conducted throughout central and southern Maryland, central Pennsylvania and in Woodstock, Va. The final pull of the year was last weekend at the Woodsboro Fall Festival in Frederick County.

Charles Hoff Jr., known as J.R. to his family and friends, had his tractors there. Sometimes, he takes as many as six tractors to the meet. On Oct. 20, he placed second in the 6,000-pound class against 17 other tractors. Charles Hoff and three other drivers pulled the sled the entire distance, forcing a pull-off and placed second. He also placed third in the 7,000-pound class against larger tractors.

Antique tractor pulling is similar to the large truck and tractor pulls, with the exception of the sled that is pulled. None of the tractors are modified and are the ones that actually tilled the ground for farmers more than 30 years ago.

You won't find tractors with three motors built especially for pulls at an antique tractor pull. It is not a sport where the one with the most money wins; these pulls are for purists.

When Hoff and his brothers go to the antique tractor pulls, they normally take three to six tractors and compete in 12 to 14 different classes.

The tractors at an antique pull must be from 1952 or before. Hoff has been tractor pulling for 10 years and, if he has time, will take more tractors to a pull for display. At last count, he has over 50 antique tractors and is always adding to his collection.

"I go to sales and if I see one I like I buy it," said Hoff. "I don't buy one that is running. I like to work on it and restore it myself.

"I guess you can call me a tractor freak. I enjoy fooling around with them.

"As a kid, I came up with tractors instead of cars. Where others enjoy antique cars that they drove when they were young, I enjoy antique tractors that I farmed with as a kid."

The antique tractor pulls are divided into different classes according to weight. Tractors can pull in more than one class by adding or removing weights. They compete against one another by pulling a sled down a 150-foot runway.

Weights in the sled shift to the front as it is pulled, making it heavier as it is dragged down the track. If more then one tractor pulls the entire distance, they have a pull-off.

Like every motor sport, there is strategy to winning. In addition to having a strong tractor, the key to winning is being able to read the track.

Hoff prefers not to be the first puller so he can get a better read on the track. This gives him a chance to select the option of running in the same tracks as the last puller or taking another path.

If the previous tractor chokes (comes to a stop while spinning wheels), Hoff will not run in the same tracks since the footing will not be as good.

He looks for a solid base to make his pull.

Most of Hoff's pulling tractors are Farmall and Allis Chalmers. He has several F20 and F30 Farmall tractors from the 1930s that he will take to shows for display. His competition workhorse is a 1949 Farmall M.

There is no big money involved in this sport. The entry fees are less then $10 to cover expenses and the winners receive trophies and points.

Nearly 100 members belong to the Central Maryland Antique Tractor Club.

In addition to the pulls, the club meets every fourth Thursday of the month in the Jefferson Community Hall in Frederick County.

Next week, the club will have its annual awards banquet. Hoff and 18 family members will be present as he accepts his trophy for finishing second in the 6,000-pound class.

Hoff owns the Hoff Lumber Co. in Westminster with his brother, Ralph.

They started the lumber company 35 years ago on their farm.

The farm and the lumber business keep Charles busy, but he still finds time to work on his tractors.

"We work the lumber mill from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and after dinner I work on the tractors," said Charles. "I like the Farmall M the best. They were built from about 1939 to '52. I know them by heart.

"I tear them completely apart when I restore them. The old tractors are tough. I never had a transmission go bad in one."

The oldest of 11 children, Charles doesn't plan on slowing down as he nears 60. He still enjoys farming and the lumber business, but most of all he enjoys fiddling with his tractors.

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