On Sandy Feller’s first trip to a tow show in 1986, it was more along the lines of a reconnaissance mission than as a spectator. Not being in the business of towing at the time, his “mission” was not directed to buying towing equipment or any of the bells and whistles that went with it. He was interested in an industry. More precisely, he was interested in why towing operators were placing orders for a Garwood Universal Sheave Block Assembly being sold by his company, Garwood/Feller of Sloatsburg, New York.
The Universal Sheave Block Assembly was originally designed for telephone and power company pole-setting trucks.
“I noticed we were occasionally getting orders from towers,” says Feller, “so I called around to see what they were doing with them.” He soon learned that car carrier operators were using them to direct tow cables when winching loads. His 1986 tow show reconnaissance revealed a need, a market and little competition. Sandy Feller took that first Universal Sheave Block back to the drawing board and a new American industry was born. Two years later, the first “Side Puller” made its debut at tow shows around the country.
For car carrier operators, the Side Puller is an option best described as a quick connect/disconnect pulley that fits into a special socket installed on the bed of the carrier. By directing the cable around the pulley, it is designed to pull at various angles for an assortment of situations: vehicles stuck in parallel parking spots, unloading repo vehicles without keys and off-loading a wrecked vehicles (sic) without assistance to name a few. Unlike trees and other outside anchors to run cable around, the Side Puller, users say, is always available no matter what the terrain. And better positioning of the cable makes for less winch drum breakage.
The Side Puller was well received at five tow shows in 1988. Sales were brisk, but Feller saw that some changes were needed. The pulley was heavy and sat too high off the bed for some carriers. As an answer, the Side Puller Junior was created. This version was smaller, lighter and sat only one-half inch above the bed. Later came the Side Puller 2000, which accomplishes the same tasks but sits flush with the carrier bed.
Ernie Lindbo of Ernie’s Towing Equipment in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, became the first Side Puller distributor with the advent of the Side Puller Junior.
“I saw Sandy at several shows and I liked his product,” Lindbo says. “I sell hundreds every year and have never had a return. I don’t do much business in spare parts because the darn things never break down.”
Mike Bax operates a one-man operation, Finast Towing, in Nanuet, New York. His favorite Side Puller story happened two years ago when he was called to remove car number 15 from a 15-car pile up on a state highway. He was told to remove the car but not to touch the inside until a state police investigation team could look it over.
“The accelerator was stuck,” Bax says, “so I couldn’t do anything with it anyway.”
He hauled the car on his bed to the police impound lot with no problems. After he arrived, 14 other towers and several state troopers wondered how he was going to get the car off his truck. Bax inserted the pulley into the rear assembly, ran the cable around it, hooked it to the front of the car and winched it off. Minutes later, several of the devices were sold to the crowd.
Bax says he gets the most use from his Side Pullers when doing repo work, or when he doesn’t have the luxury of ignition keys. He also uses them to pull cars from parking spaces. Bax installed Side Puller Juniors to the left and right of his winch to pull vehicles from several angles and to accommodate loading cars with wheels turned.
Other companies have used them in jobs such as loading and unloading small vacation cabins. A standard tow truck company in California uses the first Side Puller model to winch caterpillar tractors from deep ravines without blocking the highway.
Kilar Incorporated, a car carrier manufacturer in Hubbard, Ohio, offers the Side Puller as an option on all of its units installed at their facility. Tom Kilar, Jr. saw advantages of the device over a snatch block.
“It’s great for pulling a car out of a ditch without having to angle the truck around for leverage.” He also cites cast iron construction and easy installation as advantages of the Pullers.
“I’ve got several hundred of them out on the road and I’ve never had a complaint.”
From their first appearance in 1988 until the present, carrier operators have come to find the family of Side Pullers to be yet another option to choose from in making their job easier, more efficient and safer.
— Originally published in “Tow Times,” Volume 10 Number 9, April 1993