Tractor Restoration Becomes Labor of Love for NEB Teen

Among those who worked on the restoration of a 1941 Farmall tractor with Northeast Bradford FFA member Adam Keir (above, left) were (continuing from left) Gavin Neville, Wyatt Campbell, James Merritt, and Quentin Johnson.

Story and Photo by Rick Hiduk

(originally published in the Rocket-Courier)

A showpiece in Giant Expo Hall at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex this year is a meticulously restored 1941 Farmall tractor. It was recovered from the Keir farm on Painter Road in Warren Township, dismantled and pieced back together by members of the Northeast Bradford High School FFA, led by Adam Keir, son of Samuel and Jennifer Keir.

It’s been in the family a long time. It belonged to my great grandfather,” Adam said in reference to Samuel’s grandfather, Joe Hernandez, who bought the property in the 1930s with his wife, Mildred. The farm is now home to the Keir Family Distillery.

The tractor had sat in a field for more than 20 years before it was moved to the lower part of the Keir’s barn to temporarily protect it from the elements.

When we opened the distillery, we rolled it back out of the barn,” Adam related. “It was a piece of junk. It hadn’t run for over 10 years. That’s when I suddenly took an interest in it.” Photos displayed alongside the bright red tractor clearly showed its deteriorated state. Most of the paint was gone, and the tires were dry rotted.

My dad told me that would start right up,” Adam recalled. “He’d always wanted to restore it.” But the Farmall wouldn’t turn over. Both the engine and the transmission had seized up.

Adam found a used engine online that was in good shape and selling for a reasonable price and got to work. He explained that there wasn’t a bolt on the rusted hulk that wasn’t turned.

We did use the original flat-top pistons,” he noted. “They are very rare. You can’t find them.” Also uncommon was the tractor’s nine-speed M&W transmission, which Adam rebuilt with help from his friends. “We worked on this at school, and our shop was not really set up for it.”

To pay for the parts, Adam took on a part-time job delivering sheds. His parents chipped in via the family business, and some funds from the FFA helped close the gap. “The tires are worth more than the tractor,” he joked. They sure are big and shiny.

At any given time, 10 to 15 students worked on various facets of the tractor’s restoration. “A lot of people had their hands on it,” Adam stated. “I couldn’t have done it without the FFA.”

Adam took on a project that 99 percent of people would not even think of trying, let alone completing,” his FFA advisor, Rob Robbins. “He also started with a terrible candidate for restoration, as everything on the tractor needed to be replaced.”

Robbins further commented that Adam went into the project without any inherent knowledge of equipment restoration. He researched various makes and models of tractors over the course of 15 months to learn what he needed to finish the task, which Robbins termed impressive for a 16-year-old.

If he can complete this type of project as a teenager, I think it bodes well for him and his plans for the future,” Robbins asserted.

The finished product was indeed a winner, garnering a Best of Show/Most Improved award. Adam proudly drove it into the Farm Show Complex in the days leading up to the 108th Farm Show, but the NEB junior actually had trouble finding it when he returned on Jan. 8 with fellow club members for the Pennsylvania State FFA Association Mid-Winter Convention. He was clearly going to have to wait his turn to get the tractor back out, as so many large professional exhibits had been set up since its initial arrival.

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