Grin and Bear It

An Inside Look at Jon Bair’s Pro Stock Sled Puller

Indiana is home to lots of motorsports and if you live anywhere near a track, racing can very easily get into your blood. Jon Bair and his son Jacob, farmers in Summitville, Indiana, who are now both drivers in NTPA and PPL sled-pulling competitions, are proof of that claim. A few years ago, Jon Bair decided to transform a rusty old $500 truck into a lean, mean, sled pulling machine over the course of a year of hard work with help from his son and Haisley Machine in Fairmount, Indiana. The Bairs have taken that dream from a rusted shell to a winning team of now two Pro Stock sled-pulling contenders.

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To begin the transformation, Bair would focus on reinforcing the chassis of the 1998 Dodge Ram pickup to fit the setup of a pro puller. The Dodge’s original frame would still be utilized, but retooled and reinforced. Bair welded in bracing similar to the familiar ladder-frame chassis of the Super Stock trucks to stabilize and strengthen the stock steel. Fabricated into the beefed-up frame is the sturdy hitch mount equipped with an adjustable-height hook point to fit whatever regulation height is set at each event. Also welded in the back is the solid rear end, where the rear springs and shocks were eliminated to bear the weight of the sled without squatting and taking weight off the front end. Helping to keep that front end down is the custom-fabricated weight box integrated into the frame, storing the batteries as well as weight blocks and ice water for the air-to-water intercooler system.

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A Pro Stock class puller’s frame needs heavy reinforcement to withstand the massive sled dragging its heels in the clay, as well as driveshaft loops and rings for safety around the entire driveline.

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This stout hitch mount with a variable hook point is fabricated into the bolstered frame, and together with the beefy and solid rear axle it allows no droop when the weight of the sled is on it.

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Looking under the front of the truck you can see the beefy F106 front axle as well as the hydraulic steering ram and the massive amount of plumbing required for a competitive Pro Stock pulling truck.

With the intense rigors of sled pulling in mind, Bair selected a SQHD cast-iron differential for the rear end and a F106 cast-iron differential for the front. Though the rear shocks are gone, dual Pro Shocks coilovers placed up front handle the bumpy clay while keeping the tires firmly planted. Though they’re seldom used, Bair improved his braking power with Wilwood brake rotors. The 15×22 inch wheels up front and 15×20 inch wheels in the back with Haisley Machine hubs are outfitted with the all-important Nichols Pulling Edge cut tires now allowed for the Pro Stock truck class in PPL. These tires allow extra bite into the dirt over the former DOT tires and help get the immense power and torque to the clay.

But before Bair could hit the clay he needed a solid source of power, and the old faithful of the diesel sled pullers was chosen: the Cummins. But this would be no ordinary Cummins, and for help creating the heart of the beast Bair wisely chose Haisley Machine, a puller-proven engine shop. The starting point was a Haisley Super B equipped with Ross pistons and HMR Customs rods. The block was capped with a Wagler Competition Products cylinder head. ZZ Custom Fabrication’s intake manifold was installed to feed plenty of high-pressure air into the Wagler head. To up the ante on the fuel, a Northeast Diesel fuel system was used feeding Columbus Diesel upgraded injectors and a huge 16mm P8600 Northeast Diesel Services P-pump. For increased airflow, Bair opted for a massive Wimer Performance turbo equipped with high-pressure water jets at its inlet, along with a Precision Performance air-to-water intercooler.

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These Pro Shocks dual coilovers help keep the front end from bottoming out with all its additional weight, but more importantly they keep the front tires mashed into the clay during a run.

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It’s common to move the batteries into the weight box itself, where large weights and ice water for the air-to-water intercooler system are also located.

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Running aired-down Nichols cut tires around the 15×22-inch wheels up front and aired-up cuts around the 15×20 inch wheels in the back ensures some of the best grip possible on any track.

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This Haisley Machine built Cummins, cleanly installed into a retrofitted engine bay, is producing over 2,300 horsepower.

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Wimer Performance’s turbo with the mandatory cut-off guillotine makes tremendous boost for the Cummins. Additional aid comes from top and bottom high-pressure water jets spraying away from the inlet for the turbo to suck in a fine mist.

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The sleek installation of the ZZ Custom Fabrication intake, as well as the custom laid fuel lines off the Northeast Diesel Services P-pump, add to the looks and performance of this monster Cummins.

After Haisley Machine wrenched on the engine, Bair was presented with a beast making over 2,300 horsepower and 2,700 lb-ft of torque. But getting that power to the ground would take some more work. A Profab transmission was chosen for the project. To further beef up the trans for the trips down the pull track, a Molinari clutch, billet steel flywheel, and custom floater bell housing were installed. Haisley spec driveshafts were outfitted to complete the driveline. For a show-stopping pulling rig, though, the engine bay needed some finesse. To dress it up, Bair used painted-to-match orange boost tubes, polished the SMT valve cover and added black and orange paint underneath the neatly arranged custom engine bay, along with orange lighting to be seen through the grille as the truck blasts down the track.

Over the winter, while they were building the truck, Bair and son decided they wanted to make a drastic change to the machine. Though the rig was powered by Cummins on a Dodge frame, Bair was a major Chevy fan and wanted to show it. Father and son worked hard that winter to remove the old Dodge body from the reinforced chassis. They found a 1968 C30 that would be perfect for the truck, though it needed some help to get there. With the aid of Baledge Auto Body in Alexandria, Indiana, they were able to restore the C30 back from its rust and dents to a deep, eye-catching orange suitable for a top-performing sled puller. But before the paint was applied, they had some custom fabricating to do. Bair’s rig had a wheelbase of 158 inches, much longer than the C30 they had to work with, so the crew at Baledge Auto Body seamlessly cut and stretched the bed to 10 feet long. Once the restoration and customization was completed came the work of fabricating new mounts for the beefed-up frame and its new skin. By the time winter lost its chill, Jon and Jacob Bair had finished their body swap and were almost ready to hit the track.

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Baledge Auto Body did a tremendous job blending the stretch of the bed to 10 feet and making it look like a factory option for the C30 body.

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This 1968 C30 body looks fit to win a show-n-shine event whether it’s coming or going after its thorough restoration and deep orange paint job.

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All Bair’s hard work with his family and friends to create this machine comes together as he powers down the track, aiming past that 300-foot mark on a regular basis.

Inside, the truck holds a simple black bucket seat surrounded by not-so-simple levers, gauges, switches and more. Jacob Bair modified a custom dash out of the factory steel to fit all the necessary AutoMeter gauges as well as the toggles and pulls for all the machine’s vital functions. Jon Bair completed all the wiring for the puller as all the hard work finally came together.

After a yearlong build, Jon Bair, along with help from his son Jacob and the Haisley Machine team, as well as Baledge Auto Body, were able to bring their dream to life. Complete with bright orange paint, a pun-derful name of Grin-N-Bair It, and an insane smiley face, this truck was ready for the pro circuit. And not only did this rig live up to Bair’s vision, it also lived up to its own hype by winning the 2015 PPL Pro Stock points Championship. Starting out with an on-its-way-out truck and a lofty goal, Jon Bair was able to craft a now-iconic sled puller grabbing attention and wins across NTPA and PPL events.

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Seeing your driveline where the passenger seat used to be could be intimidating to some, but the driver merely grins and bears it inside his function-over-form interior. The Profab transmission, dropbox and reverser transfer the power safely from the Cummins to the stout Haisley driveshafts.

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With a custom modified dash, this interior could be confused with an airplane’s cockpit with all its gauges, levers and switches, but it’s exactly what Bair needs when piloting the sled down the runway.

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From the farm to the track, this truck has become an iconic competitor that is looked for at every event.

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Hurtling down the clay at full tilt, this customized ’68 C30 shell over a rebuilt ’98 Dodge frame, with a Haisley Cummins lit by orange glowing lights behind the grille, has become a top performer in the NTPA and PPL circuits.

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Painted-to-match boost tubes feeding into the Precision Turbo air-to-water intercooler mounted behind the toothy grin of the Grin-N-Bair It custom weight box are some of the subtle touches that make this not only a pull winner, but a show truck as well.