Agricultural history pulled from sloughs

Old tractors abandoned in scrap piles or dugouts are brought back to life by father and son with a passion for the past

CARIEVALE, Sask. — They have more than 200 antique tractors, 150 of which are in running order.

Father-son team Scott and Kevin Stanley have made it their personal mission to rescue as many tractors as possible from sloughs and scrap heaps and breathe life back into each piece of agricultural history.

The pair has spent thousands of hours in this mission, undertaking every step in the restoration process themselves from rebuilding seized motors, machining parts, hammering out body dents, painting each disassembled tractor piece and putting it all back together again.

“It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle,” said Scott, explaining that it can take more than 100 hours just to spray paint the parts of a tractor and reassemble them.

The Stanleys prefer to find their tractor projects abandoned in a farmyard or dumped in a slough, rather than buying them at auction or from antique dealers. The salvaged tractors are not only less expensive, but they also provide a greater challenge.

“The best part is getting them running because we just like to see them come back to life rather than have them sit there and deteriorate or go for scrap,” said Scott, who works full time in the oil field and part-time in grain farming near Carievale, Sask.

Kevin, who works for the rural municipality, said he is passionate about the restoration process, but tracking down neglected tractors, via the internet or by contacting farmers directly, is his favourite part of the process.

“I like finding them, and buying them — the hunt part,” said Kevin, explaining that once he and his dad have secured a tractor, they immediately bring it to their heated shop and try out the engine.

Some of the antiques miraculously start, but most need a complete engine rebuild. With a graveyard of 50 or so tractors for parts, the Stanleys begin the painstaking work of engine reassembly.

They will sometimes order a part from a dealer, but most of what they require is out of production.

When the day comes to start the tractor, it is always Scott who turns the key. If the tractor fires up, then it’s back to the drawing board to fix any remaining issues, like body work, transmission problems or brake failures.

Scott’s favourite tractors fall under the muscle class, which includes four-wheel drives built in the 1960s and later.

His prized possession is a 1967 Versatile that he bought for $1,500 and is now worth at least $20,000.

The 150 tractors, all housed indoors in one of four massive on-farm sheds, come in a variety of brands and a wide spread of vintages from a 1919 Fordson Model F up to a mid-1970s Versatile four-wheel drive tractor. Kevin’s most-prized possessions are Internationals, the 1206 diesel being his favourite.

“I always wanted one because they were the first turbo tractor to hit 100 horsepower and there were not a lot of 1206s built,” said Kevin, adding that he believes he owns one of about a dozen that have been restored.

While the self-taught mechanics estimate the value of their tractor collection at about $250,000, both Scott and Kevin said they’ll never find out the actual value because they’ll never sell a tractor.

“We definitely don’t do it for the money,” said Scott.

Scott’s partner, Sherry, agrees, saying that almost all of their country drives turn into tractor hunts.

“I always say that he can smell tractors,” Sherry said.

The Stanley century farm, which is shared with Scott’s parents, Larry and Betty Stanley, boasts two workshops, four tractor storage sheds and two tractor graveyards, one for parts and one for future projects.

The highlight of the year for the Stanleys is the annual tractor pull in nearby Carnduff, which they started eight years ago.

The point is not who wins the contest or takes home the money, but the appreciation for antique tractors.

“There’s nothing like an old tractor — the older it is, the better it is. If you take one from the ’50s or ’60s and start it, in another 60 years, it’ll still be running. But if it was built in 2010, you’ll have a hard time getting it because of all of the electronics nowadays,” said Scott.

For more information, contact 306-928-4422 or visit the Stanley Antique Tractors Facebook page.

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