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Diesel Tech Students Restore ‘54 Tractor, Help the Hungry

Three months' "spare time" work revives classic, helps Birkey's Farm Store celebrate 60th anniversary

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
A newly refurbished 60-year-old tractor, proudly displayed in Parkland’s W wing, shone as brightly as the smiles on the Diesel Technology students who had just rebuilt it.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said freshman Stanley Bruegger, one of the lead techs who restored the 1954 Farmall Super MTA row-crop tractor, an International Harvester product, to its original glory.

“This day” was Jan. 22, when Bruegger and other students from the CNH Service Technician and Diesel Power Equipment programs returned the bright red beauty to its owner, Birkey's Farm Store, Inc. The ag/construction equipment dealer The equipment dealer for Case IH agriculture and Case construction is planning to use the tractor as the centerpiece for its 60th anniversary celebrations this year.

Besides displaying the Farmall tractor throughout its 13 store locations across Illinois and Indiana, Birkey’s will raffle it off for charity. The company plans to hold a 60-Day Hunger Drive fundraiser Feb. 3 to April 4, in partnership with the Eastern Illinois Foodbank and six other local food banks. The event hopes to generate 600,000 meals for needy families. Customers who visit Birkey’s locations or website and donate $10 or more are entered into a drawing to win the tractor.

“We want you to know that what you’ve done here will positively impact lots of lives in our community,” said Birkey’s President and CEO Mike Hedge, who came to thank the students and program instructors Mark Ziegler, Gordon Hedrick and Steve Hancock for their work. He was joined by Birkey’s Parts and Service Operations Manager Phil Fayhee. Parkland President Tom Ramage and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kris Young also attended the presentation.

Parkland received the tractor from Birkey’s in early September. Then Bruegger, co-leaders Jed Niemeyer and Cody Wendling, and four other members of Parkland’s Diesel Club worked in their spare time—between classes and on some evenings and weekends—to restore it in time for Thanksgiving, when it needed to be sent away for its professional paint job. The other club members on the project included Kurt Knollenberg, Garret Maxheimer, Trever Petersen and Tim Wagner.

“We tore it down completely; there were small parts everywhere,” said Niemeyer, a freshman from Bowling Green, Missouri. “Then, we put it back together.”

Birkey’s provided all the parts for the project and arranged for the tractor to be painted. The students replaced seals, bearings, pistons, gaskets, hoses, belts, brakes, lights, and more with all new parts—although they had to recover a few parts from used 1954 tractors due to some parts being discontinued. They did a complete rebuild of the engine and carburetor.

Rebuilding the engine was probably the most difficult part, says Wendling. As it turns out that they, like the others, are no strangers to the task of repairing farming equipment.

“Oh, I’ve rebuilt engines before,” Wendling said. “These are pretty basic.”

“Yeah, I worked on these growing up,” Bruegger said. “Mark guided us in everything, but he never needed to stand over us. If we had any problems, he was around to ask.”

Ziegler expressed his pride in the students’ efforts and the resulting benefit to the community.

“This was a unique project for us, one that we will not likely repeat,” he said. “It not only involved mechanical repair work, but it also let the students focus on historical accuracy. We wanted the tractor to look, run and perform just as it would have in 1954.

“All of the students who dedicated their time to the project showed great leadership and attention to detail. I look forward to seeing what great technicians they will become.”

The 1954 tractor was selected because it was built the year Birkey’s Farm Store opened for business, according to a company press release. It will be available for viewing during an open house at each Birkey’s location, beginning in Oakland, Illinois, on Feb. 17. The travel schedule will be available on Birkey’s website.
[Image, l to r.: Diesel club members and project co-leaders  Cody Wendling, Stanley Bruegger, and Jed Niemeyer.]

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