From rusted to ready: Trio restores vintage tractor after years of neglect
May/June 2010 California Country magazine
Story by Steve Adler
Photos by Kari Bohard
With toil, sweat, teamwork and some paint, three young men in Lompoc shine with a 1937 Model A John Deere tractor.
The tractor restoration team of Kyle Pickles (left), Tyler Grossini and Joe Machado poses for a portrait with their gleaming 1937 Model A John Deere tractor.
When Veril Campbell purchased a slightly used Model A John Deere tractor back in the 1940s, he had only one purpose in mind—he needed a reliable machine to do some hard work on his farm near Lompoc. Campbell likely never dreamed that the bright green and yellow tractor that was manufactured in 1937 would enjoy a rebirth more than 70 years later at the hands of his great-great-grandson, Tyler Grossini, and friends.
After more than 700 hours of toil and sweat by Tyler and classmates Joe Machado and Kyle Pickles, that old tractor rebounded from nearly a quarter-century of neglect as it was restored to its original beauty.
“I’d say this tractor is as good as new or better than new,” said Tyler.
He’s right, of course. In fact, the painstaking “from the ground up” restoration was so well done that the old John Deere was chosen as one of 12 national finalists in the 2009 Delo Tractor Restoration Competition in Indianapolis. Not bad for some high school kids with a vision and a lot of elbow grease.
Joe Machado and Tyler Grossini wrestle with one of the tractor’s massive wheels.
For the three young men, it all began with a visit to the local fair a couple of summers ago where, as Future Farmers of America members, they were showing steers they had raised. Walking down the midway, the trio paused to admire an exhibit of restored tractors. The seed was planted.
When Tyler’s uncle, Dave Campbell, got wind of their quest, he told Tyler about an old John Deere that had been stored in his barn for 10 years after sitting neglected in an open field on the farm for the previous 10 years. Because the rusting old hulk was mostly intact, it was the perfect candidate. And so the work of restoration began.
“We started off just cleaning it up, pressure washing it all and then pulling it all apart,” Tyler recalled. “Then we rebuilt the whole motor. Fortunately, all of the parts were still pretty good. It was built to last. We had to replace a few parts, not too many. And then we put it all back together and painted it.”
In describing the process, Tyler almost makes it sound easy; in reality it was anything but easy. There were hours and hours of wire brushing, sandblasting and more before any reassembly could be done.
Kyle Pickles paints one of the wheels the distinctive John Deere yellow.
“The cleaning was the hardest part and most time consuming,” he said. “There were some times when we were worn out and it was kind of hard to keep going, but we pulled through and got it done. It was a real team effort.”
The John Deere’s days of working on the farm are over, but the trio has taken it out for a spin a couple of times for special events including Lompoc’s annual Christmas parade.
Tyler and Joe will graduate this year from Lompoc High School. Their friend Kyle graduated last spring and is now attending Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where Tyler plans to enroll in the fall. Joe’s college of choice is another of the state’s agricultural powerhouses: California State University, Fresno.
So what’s on Tyler’s agenda now? Would you believe another restoration project? This time it’s an old Willys Jeep given to him by a great-great-uncle.
“I can’t tell what year it is because it no longer has an ID tag on it. I know it is between a ’45 and a ’49.”
Good luck with that one, Tyler.
Steve Adler is a reporter for California Country. He can be reached at 800-698-FARM or firstname.lastname@example.org.