Bill Luecke’s collection requires a little more space than most.
Luecke, 79, has a building full of his collection — restored vintage tractors.
His restoration hobby began in the 1990s when he bought four Oliver tractors to get running and give to his grandchildren.
Two of the tractors were sold when his grandchildren moved away, and the other two were left with Luecke.
“A friend of mine talked me into restoring the other two. That was kind of fun, so I continued,” Luecke said.
The work began in earnest 10 years ago.
“When I retired from farming, there was a tractor I really wanted. That was that 550 Oliver. I bought it and restored it.”
In the past 10 years Luecke has restored about 33 tractors and has about 20 more to work on.
He’s bought a few from individuals, but most like the 1952 Moline Z he’s currently working on, came from auctions.
First comes a mechanical make-over.
“I was a diesel mechanic, so I don’t have any trouble with the mechanics.”
He sometimes calls on his friend Bill Ochs, who retired as the “tire man at Midland Marketing,” Luecke said. “Whenever I need a little help, I call him.”
Last week Ochs helped Luecke take the tires from their rusted rims.
The two men removed the tires, but the job was difficult without specialized tools, Ochs said.
Even though the rims are rusted, Luecke plans to fix them.
The one time he bought new wheels, they were expensive.
When the body work meets Luecke’s approval, authentic paint is the finishing touch to the restoration.
When he first started restoring tractors, Luecke said he had a hard time getting the right colors, but they’re readily available now.
He’s also learned to use polyurethane paint. For the first 15 or so tractors, he didn’t. He used acrylic enamel and acrylic urethane.
“Polyurethane covers in one coat. It costs twice as much, but it takes less paint.”
Luecke built the building that houses his workshop in 1980 for a trailer manufacturing business. It later was used for other businesses.
Luecke’s son John now has an office there for his storage and U-Haul business, in addition to Luecke’s work area.
The quonset building north of the original came later just to house his tractor collection.
In two or three more years, “I’ll have it filled with tractors.”
Luecke keeps a record of his work, when he starts and finishes each restoration, but not the number of hours each one takes.
He completed five restorations from September 2014 to September 2015.
He doesn’t spend all his time working on the tractors.
“I’m glad if I can work on them two or three days in a row.
The oldest tractor in the collection is a steel wheeled 1937 Oliver. Besides the Olivers, there are Farmalls, Molines and even a Ford.
He didn’t plan to restore any Ford tractors, but changed his mind when he found one that was a little different than most.
Asking which is his favorite is “like asking if I have a favorite child,” Luecke said.
He once operated an implement business that sold Olivers and Molines.
“That’s one reason, I guess, why Olivers are my favorites.”
There aren’t any John Deere tractors in his collection, though. Not because he doesn’t like them, but because they’re common among collectors. He wants those that aren’t common.
Even with 18 tractors yet to be restored, he isn’t done collecting.
“If I can find some (tractors) like I don’t have, I’ll buy them, and I’ll sell some that I have too many of, like duplicates,” Luecke said.
He’s restored one combine, and it’s also his last because they’re harder to restore.
Some of Luecke’s collection is on display every year at Carrico Implement’s Old Iron Classic Tractor and Machinery Show. Many have won trophies and ribbons at the show, but that isn’t why he collects and restores them.
When he retired from farming, “I had to do something. I couldn’t see myself going to the coffee shop every day.”