‘Rough, old, beat up’
Career Center restores classic tractor to glory
After 67 years, you might think a piece of farm equipment had earned some rest.
Matt Salapek’s red and white 1952 Ford 8N that had been working in Warren County for all those years was starting to break down. Its motor was on the verge of seizing up.
“My grandpa bought that in the early 80s from a local farmer,” Matt’s brother, Clint, said. “My grandpa had a 30-acre farm. He was quite the farmer.”
“I remember that tractor,” Clint Salapek said.
It served a lot of years mowing hay. He said his brother probably started driving it on the farm in his early teens.
When Matt inherited it, the duty changed from farm to driveway and became lighter and less frequent.
Still, when it started to slip, getting rid of it just wasn’t right.
Clint Salapek suggested that he knew some people that might be able to help.
He is the culinary arts instructor at Warren County Career Center.
He works down the hall and around the corner from the auto technology shop.
“I talked to my brother (about the tractor) and he was having trouble getting it up and running,” Salapek said. “I said, ‘Bring it to the career center.'”
They brought it in in January.
“It was rough — old, beat up,” auto technology student Jesse Gourley said of the tractor when he first saw it.
That’s no surprise. It had a lot of years and miles on its oversized tires.
Gourley, Alex Sanders, and Brandon Braswell took the lead.
“We had to figure out what was wrong,” Gourley said. “We tore the motor down — completely apart.”
The rebuild features all new equipment. “Everything in the engine is new,” Gourley said. “The alternator. The radiator.”
“We put a 12-volt system in instead of a 6-volt system,” Alex Sanders said.
The engine was a nice change of pace for the students.
“We normally just fix cars,” Gourley said. “This came from a farm and this is what I want to do.”
“It’s a lot easier than newer technology — a lot less components,” Sanders said.
“All the new technology in farming has electronics,” Gourley said. “The fanciest thing on this is a distributor.”
With the engine running smoothly again, the tractor was ready to return home.
“John (Winkelbauer) said, ‘Why don’t we thrown some paint on there?'” Salapek said.
The tractor became a project for another shop — collision repair technology — four a couple weeks.
Collision students including Kenny Rowland and Jesse Campbell matched the original paint job, applying synthetic enamel. “It’s tractor paint,” Rowland said. “It’s thicker and holds up better.”
It does take a long time to dry, though.
Like the auto tech students, a half-century-old tractor is not a daily encounter for collision.
“It definitely shook up my day,” Campbell said. “It’s not what I’m used to. There are a lot more smaller things that need to get paint.”
Other shops played a role in rehabilitating the old tractor. Beau Paris in auto tech straightened a bar on the bumper.
The pre-engineering program printed some decals and used the 3D printer to replace the not-original-equipment cup holder that had been bolted to the hood.
“It was wonderful that everybody could work so well together,” collision teacher Bob Smith said.
The participants are pleased with the result, too. “This was in rough shape,” Campbell said. “It turned out pretty nice.”