I’ve recently noticed a new hobby out there – buying a classic car from the year you were born and restoring it.
My birthday is coming up and I've reached the age where a certain level of impracticality is acceptable. I’ve never really had a hobby, but I’ve been thinking it might be time for me to acquire one. I’m trying not to dwell on the psychological aspects of buying something the same age as me, that’s run down and ugly, and spending a fortune to restore it to a semblance of its former glory.
But there's a problem. I'm not a huge fan of cars that were built in 1954. I'm sort of fond of little and sleek, and there wasn't a lot of that coming out of Detroit in the 50s. I almost gave up the idea and then had a brainstorm. It's a big world; they make cars everywhere. I looked at pictures online and found a 1954 Jaguar XK120 which looked cool as all heck. Of course, money is an issue so I looked up the price and was so pleased to see that I could get a 1954 Jag for $89.00. I guess Brexit really did hammer the British economy.
Then I noticed that it was $89.00 for a poster of a Jaguar XK120. The actual car costs $136,000.00.
That was at least five digits over my budget, so once again I dropped the idea. But then, another brainstorm.
I'm not the only 1954 model on our farm. Squatting in the weeds behind one of my sheds is our 1954 Minneapolis Moline Z.
There's some history with the tractor. It was the first big purchase my father made on his own. He wrangled a deal for the tractor along with a 12-foot digger to pull behind it. The digger was delivered first. My grandfather looked at it and said, “That's a real nice digger, but there's nothing on this farm that will pull it.” Then my dad had to confess he'd bought a tractor, too.
Oh, well. Generations change, and that's not always comfortable.
It was the first tractor I ever drove. When I met the tractor, it was equipped with a Farmhand loader. I was around twelve years old and my task was to clean the cattle yard. It was a genius management move – lots of room for maneuvering and a less than important task. My dad's routine teaching technique was to show me something once and then wander off, leaving me to figure it out on my own. What I quickly learned was it took one hand to run the loader controls, a second hand on the steering wheel, one more to handle the hand clutch and two hands on the shifter when it was time to change gears. My math skills weren't that hot, but even I knew I was short at least one hand. I wasn't a marvel of efficiency the first few times, but I eventually figured it out. I'll give you a tip – there needs to be a certain amount of steering with your knees.
About a decade later, I had a painful learning experience with the same tractor that I won't go into, because most of you don’t care about the proper technique for starting a tractor with a crank. Suffice it to say, if you do it wrong you can end up laying on your back in the snow with blood running into your eyes
But I don't hold a grudge, because here's the deal. If I'm going to have a vehicle the same age as me, if I'm going to afford it, it's gonna be a fixer upper and I'm going to be the fixer. So why not a fixer upper with literally no electronics and nothing you couldn't take apart with a vise grip and a worn-out screwdriver?
The tractor hasn't been started in about twenty years, but in terms of how far we've slid downhill appearance-wise, we're a pretty good match. I don't have time to work on it right now, but I'll fit it into the schedule sometime.
Maybe for our 100th birthday.
Copyright 2023 Brent Olson