From restoring engines that have spent hours underwater to replacing badly damaged wiring, the Iowa State University Antique Tractor Club (ATC), housed in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), dedicates days, nights and hours to bringing antique, worn down tractors back to life.
After many years of work and generations of students passing through the club, their talents and successes have captured the attention of tractor owners all around Iowa. Recently, the club received a very special tractor from ABE emeritus professor Carl Bern – a 1952 Ford 8N tractor that needed a complete rebuild so it could be donated to farm land for underserved communities outside of the United States.
With no electronic parts and being a highly robust machine, this 70-year-old tractor built in Dearborn, Michigan is a perfect fit for a community in Mexico, given to use on their land. The tractor has proved itself time and time again to be highly durable, rolling into the antique tractor club’s shop in 2018 after decades of hard work in Nebraska and Iowa.
“When we received this tractor, there were marks and scars all over it from things that we don’t really know about, but it would probably have a lot of stories to tell if it could talk,” club president Tyler Meyeres said. “It is a tough old tractor. We do know that it has been underwater a handful of times, and we even found sand in the original motor when we took it all apart.”
From start to finish, and after around seven semesters of repairing and at the same time working through a pandemic, the team gained many lessons and experiences from this project. Every part of the tractor has been torn apart, inspected, replaced or repaired. And with students from all around campus, from majors in business to agricultural systems technology and many in between, each student brought a different talent to the table.
“It’s been a really good learning experience for everyone here,” Meyeres said. “Many of us come from many different mechanical backgrounds. I am more of an automotive person who hasn’t really worked on tractors, and there are some people here that have never touched a car or tractor in their life and just want to learn – that is what makes the club really cool.”
Since the club has worked on many tractors before, over time they have accumulated different types of parts that they could use on this tractor. But some parts were either ordered overseas, or donated to the club. Trelleborg Wheel Systems America, a tire company based in Charles City, donated tires to the club, which they then installed on the tractor.
With a value of roughly $1,000 when Bern donated the tractor to the club, after the students’ hard work it has increased in value by about $5,000, now worth $6,000.
“For a small tractor, it definitely required a lot of work, but I think everyone has come out learning quite a bit. Everyone has gotten a chance to work on all of the different parts of the tractor,” Meyeres said. “We have been doing two meetings a week lately, and have spent a lot of late nights working on it.”
Now, the tractor is repaired, restored, freshly painted and ready to travel to Mexico by truck. But before the tractor is trucked to its new home, it will be displayed in the Sukup Atrium to tell the story of education, hard work and generosity.
“It has taken several generations of the tractor club to get this project done,” Bern said. “They have all maintained enthusiasm and they have impressed me with their competence.”
To the students, this project is not only about restoring an antique tractor, but it is also about using their talents to help others.
“This is a great project because it gives us the chance to bring an old piece of equipment that essentially never had the potential to be used again, and turned it into a new piece of equipment that will work hard and help farmers who are trying to get established overseas and hopefully start helping with increasing yields, diversify their economy and increase food supplies,” Meyeres said. “So that is a really fun project to be a part of.”
The tractor will begin the journey to Mexico this summer.