By Heather Pilkington, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
Restoring life into old, worn-down tractors has become a hobby for one Lindsay High School senior, who after restoring his second Minneapolis Moline tractor, was selected as a top finalist in the 2011 Delo Tractor Restoration Competition.
Seventeen-year-old Benjamin Zimmerer has been invited to the 84th National Future Farmers of America Convention in Indianapolis to present his 1937 Minneapolis Moline ZTU tractor to a panel of qualified tractor restorers.
Zimmerer was selected to compete against 11 other finalists from around the country for the national title and one of three prizes: Champion will receive $5,000, reserve champion will receive $3,000 and third place will receive $1,500.
For the national competition, projects will be presented on October 19 and 20 with the champion crowned on the second day of the competition.
For 20 years, the Zimmerer family had a 1957 Minneapolis Moline ZASI-Military unit sitting in their shop. Finally, a need for the space arose, and Zimmerer said he suggested to his father, Michael Zimmerer, that he would get the tractor running so it could be removed from the shop.
Benjamin said his father told him he could restore it — and so began his passion for resurrecting tractors.
After he began restoring the tractor, Benjamin and his father found information about the tractor restoration competitions, and 500 hours later, the Moline model was ready to compete.
Benjamin said he entered the tractor in two shows. At the county show, the Lindsay senior said he received first place, and at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, he received a blue ribbon.
“I was happy to recieve a blue ribbon,” he said. “It was my first tractor and there were over 90 other tractors competing.”
So far this year, Benjamin said he has entered the1937 Minneapolis Moline model in two shows, including the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo.
At the San Antonio show, Benjamin placed first in class and fourth overall out of 50 other tractors. He received a $12,000 scholarship for his entry in the San Antonio competition. At the Houston show, his tractor was named first in class and third overall. His prize was more than $2,000 in tools.
He is not just preparing for the national competition, but Benjamin said he has plans to compete at the Texas State Fair in three weeks before heading to Indianapolis. He also plans on restoring a third tractor for next year while attending North Central Texas College in the fall of 2012.
“You can’t just take a running tractor and throw paint on it,” Benjamin said. “There are certain things the judges want you to replace; and a judge can tell what kids have done and haven’t done during a show. If you want to place well you have to be precise.”
He added that in each competition the tractors are judged on everything from overall appearance to the engine rings and clutch disks.
“Since 1995, the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition has rewarded the determination, mechanical skills and business savvy of high school aged FFA members from around the country,” said Chip Dehnert, spokesperson for the National Delo Tractor Restoration Competition. “Through the restoration of an antique tractor, participants develop skills applicable to the modern business world. The skills needed for success in the program – equipment maintenance, teamwork, project management, budgeting, planning and marketing – help develop the participants into future leaders in the agriculture community.”
Dehnert said this year’s competition will be the second to feature a video voting competition that allows the public to select its favorite of the 12 finalists. All projects submitted include a video as a part of the submission and that will be what the finalists are voted on.
For more information or to see the videos visit www.DeloPerformance.com and click on the Tractor Restoration Competition icon. The voting will remain open through October 20.