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Tractor’s needed on the farm

By Staff | Aug 22, 2015

-Farm News photo by Larry Kershner NICK TORKELSON, of Humboldt, gets some last-minute cleaning Friday morning on his 1941 McCormick-Deering Farmall M, prior to the start of FFA ag mechanics judging at the Iowa State Fair.


DES MOINES – A 74-year-old broken-down tractor a father parked in a shed 15 years ago has been restored by the son and sits among 100 shining and operable classic tractors near the FFA office at the Iowa State Fair.

According to Nick Torkelson, 17, of rural Humboldt, his father, Dave Torkelson, purchased the 1941 Farmall M when he started farming on his own in the 1980.

“But it always ran hot,” said Nick Torkelson. “I think it finally stopped running when I was about 2. Ever since then it sat in the shed.”

That is until earlier this year when the tractor was transported to a friend’s home and Nick and others started restoration work on it. The family wanted a general purpose tractor to do small chores – augering grain and silage, grinding feed – around the grain and livestock operation, without hooking up a large tractor.

“It’s something different to do to restore a tractor,” Torkelson said at the state Fair Friday morning, waiting for an ag mechanics judge to discuss Torkelson’s efforts.

Torkelson entered the tractor in FFA judging. It was his family’s first attempt to refurbish an old tractor, he said.

And it was a chore.

What stopped the tractor for 15 years turned out to be a cracked cylinder head.

The tractor was split in two parts so the engine could be completely rebuilt. During that process, Torkelson said he spent more than 100 hours cleaning years of built-up grease and grime from the engine compartment and frame.

Then came another serious commitment of hours sanding, priming and painting each metal part.

“I don’t know how many hours I spent,” Torkelson said, “but I think I spent more in cleaning.”

He used a wire brush and a sander to get the job done.

Torkelson said he looked online for a new hood, since the existing hood was sprung, but, “You can’t find these kinds of hoods.”

“Somebody must have hit pretty hard something with it,” Torkelson said. In the end, he had to settle for trying to straighten out the hood, using bolts during reassembly to force the hood to fit close to square.

That’s after grinding the old paint work to the bare metal, followed by priming and painting.

When one looks at the hood close, a few dents are still visible.

But for Torkelson, it’s not a problem.

“It’s restored, not new.”

Torkelson said McCormick and Deering used to paint the entire tractor red to speed the manufacturing process. But he added a few touches of his own – painting the carburetor black and the radiator fan blades silver.

Painting, that is, with spray cans – Farmall red, of course, purchased from the International dealer in Humboldt.

“I think it helps dress it up a bit,” he said.

Torkelson said he’d like to restore another tractor someday, although perhaps one that does not require engine overhauling.

“That gets pretty expensive,” he said.

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