Restoring Antique Tractors for a Living
As the owner of Mayes Antique Tractors, Russell Mayes spends his days with his hands full of history.
"It's an Oliver 440, made in 1960," Mayes said. "I looked up the serial number. This tractor was the 111th one built in 1960."
His shop in Raymond is a go-to destination for everything from a ground-up restoration like a Graham Bradley, or a more modest update like a Case.
"That's a Case 830, from over at Franklin, Ill.," Mayes said. "It's been owned by the same family since new. They bought it right off the showroom in Jacksonville, drove it to Franklin. It didn't need a lot other than just paint, put a clutch in it, paint and a little electrical."
Fabrication skills are key when you're fixing machines that haven't been in production for decades.
"The right-hand side panel for a Minneapolis-Moline U tractor," Mayes indicated. "And they all have this problem. They sit against the manifold and they get burned up over the years of being used, so I've made a couple of them for tractors I've restored. So I fabricate a new reproduction panel to put on the tractors."
He also dabbles in old cars, but tractors present some unique challenges.
"Most of the tractor is seen," Mayes said. "Even the engine sits out in the wide open. You walk up to it, you see the engine and all of the parts, so you really gotta detail them out real nice."
Most of these tractors are done for customers, but he has one of his own here as well.
"It's a 1935 Twin City tractor," Mayes said. "It's a Model J. They didn't build very many of them. It sat outside in a fence row for 47 years. I took it as a challenge. It was a challenge."
But this tractor has a special place in his business.
"This is the first tractor I restored in the mid '90s," Mayes said. "It kind of got things going. People saw it when it was done. I started doing people's tractors on the side, then when my main job ended I just went full-time with the tractors."
He hasn't regretted the career change yet.
"When you get to a point that you start putting paint on them and you see the fruits of what you've been doing," Mayes said. "You come home at night, and you say, 'Man it's looking great, because I got a nice coat of paint on a chassis.' But it's a lot of work."
Reporting in Montgomery County, Mike Brooks, ABC NewsChannel 20.