Machinery in the pulling competition must be restored to the same level of performance as when they were built
Part of the fun in rebuilding a vintage tractor is when the motors are turned over to see what kind of power these antiques really possess.
Each year, the Calgary Stampede invites vintage tractor owners to test the metal in a pulling competition in six weight classes. For Carbon, Alta., area farmer Allen Hazenberg, switching over from his modern, air conditioned tractor to an antique is a refreshing experience. These are simpler machines from another era compared to modern computerized tractors where farming is done from a laptop.
He owns about 10 Oliver and Massey tractors that are restored to the same level of performance as when they rolled off the factory floor. In competitions such as the Stampede, there are no souped-up monster vehicles pulling a weighted sled up to 200 feet.
“Whatever the tractor came with from the factory is what you use,” he said.
All the tractors at the Stampede competition must have been built in 1960 or earlier. The oldest at the competition held July 5-6 was made in 1939.
This year’s categories included tractors weighing 4,000 to 4,999 pounds to giant machines weighing 8,500 to 9,999 lb. The tractors and the driver are weighed before the competition for the final classification.
Hazenberg’s 1952 Oliver weighed in at 5,990 lb.
“You want to be right under the maximum weight because that is your traction,” he said.
Restoration takes time and patience. There are still parts available, mostly from the United States. Engine parts are becoming more rare, but tires are fairly easily found.
“There are enough people restoring them that you can still find parts. It takes time. You may have to wait two weeks,” he said.
Many people interested in restoring these machines often try to find two tractors of the same make so one can be used for parts.
Most of the tractors in this event run on gasoline, but a few are powered with propane or diesel.
The earlier models had a moulded iron seat that heated up and scalded a few bums in the old days, but the newer ones had padded seats, which offered some comfort to farmers who worked in dusty fields under intense sunlight.
Hazenberg is also a volunteer at Pioneer Acres near Irricana, Alta., north of Calgary, where vintage tractors are on display, restoration work is carried out and annual competitions to show off the power of these machines are held.