Giving old tractors new life: WC freshman seeks votes in tractor restoration competition


By Randy Sarvis - Wilmington College



In the top photo, Holden Nuhn poses with his restored 1956 Farmall 440. The bottom photo shows the same tractor earlier, rusted and mired in weeds before Nuhn started the restoration.

In the top photo, Holden Nuhn poses with his restored 1956 Farmall 440. The bottom photo shows the same tractor earlier, rusted and mired in weeds before Nuhn started the restoration.


Submitted photos

WILMINGTON — Many people might view a rusted, incapacitated old tractor surrounded by weeds simply as a piece of neglected junk that should be hauled away. Wilmington College’s Holden Nuhn sees it as a relic of the past worth saving — and he’s just the man to do it.

Nuhn, a freshman from the northern Ohio town of Collins, is a contestant in this year’s Chevron Tractor Restoration Competition, a national contest in which he was a finalist last year.

Vote for Holden at www.chevrontrcvoting.com.

The 2022 Western Reserve High School graduate invested more than 500 hours between March and mid-August into restoring a 1956 Farmall 400 that as recently as this winter hadn’t moved an inch in more than five years.

Today, the remnant of mid-20th century American agriculture has been reborn complete with its shiny red finish and chug-along engine.

“This was a nut and bolt restoration going through replacing every O-ring, gasket and seal,” Nuhn said, adding that the engine was rebuilt along with the transmission and clutch housing. Also, many badly worn bearings and bushings were replaced.

The tractor was entirely wire-wheeled down to bare metal to remove remnants of paint and rust and was given a fresh paint job. New tires were mounted. Sheet metal was repaired with body hammers, body filler and filler primer. The gas tank was lined with a tank liner.

“Lots of troubleshooting, late nights and long hours were put into this restored tractor,” he added, noting he learned the necessary mechanical skills from his father and also has gleaned knowledge from a supportive community of auto body repair professionals over the years.

Nuhn is no rookie when it comes to mechanics. He restored his first tractor, a Farmall Cub, as a 4-H fair project when he was 13, and his second, a Farmall H, as a freshman in high school. Last year, he entered the national competition with a restored 1950 Farmall C model.

“I didn’t win but I loved the experience,” he said, noting he told his FFA adviser, Mark Starkey, this winter that he didn’t plan to compete in 2022 since he was saving for college. Starkey, the fourth owner of a 1956 Farmall 400, wouldn’t take no for an answer and said Nuhn could have his abandoned old tractor, which got its start some 66 years ago on a Michigan blueberry farm.

“Last time it ran was five years ago,” Nuhn said. A veteran at tractor restoration by now, he noted that his “biggest challenges” on this project came from supply chain shortages, particularly in securing the right tires, oil and paint. He ultimately found those items as the restoration went literally went down to the wire to when he was required to submit a photo of the finished product for the contest. On that day, he installed the freshly painted sheet metal.

Nuhn stands to win a $10,000 first prize, which he said would go toward his college expenses — not another tractor restoration project.

He said Wilmington College’s “real family atmosphere” attracted him, something that’s continued to be evident in his first weeks on campus as he has embarked upon his studies in agriculture education.

One of his faculty members, Dr. Chad McKay, associate professor of agriculture, comes from a local family of antique tractor aficionados and owners. He cited Nuhn’s experience restoring tractors as having benefits he will continue to realize throughout his life.

“Restoring anything, whether it be a piece of machinery or antique furniture, turns into a labor of love,” McKay said, adding that the term “restoring” means to repair or renovate so as to return it to its original condition.

“Under all the grease and grime (and rust), Holden saw a jewel in the tractor he restored,” he said. “In life, we are not always handed the shiniest tool in the toolbox. We have to reuse and repurpose. In agriculture, potential employers value anyone who can stick with something and see something through — not everyone has the patience to get from points A to B.

“Holden obviously does.”

In the top photo, Holden Nuhn poses with his restored 1956 Farmall 440. The bottom photo shows the same tractor earlier, rusted and mired in weeds before Nuhn started the restoration.
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/09/web1_composite-1.jpgIn the top photo, Holden Nuhn poses with his restored 1956 Farmall 440. The bottom photo shows the same tractor earlier, rusted and mired in weeds before Nuhn started the restoration. Submitted photos

By Randy Sarvis

Wilmington College