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A man and his champion tractor

Andrew Hanna’s “tractor addiction” isn’t for the faint of heart.

Chris Torres

December 7, 2023

9 Slides

Growing up in posh Greenwich, Conn., Andrew Hanna didn’t grow up on a farm. He was a suburban kid who played water polo in high school. But his knack for mechanical stuff has led him to an unlikely and addicting hobby: restoring old tractors.

And he’s gotten pretty good at it. So good that he recently won grand champion of this year’s Chevron Tractor Competition in Indianapolis. He won $10,000 for restoring a 1942 Farmall M to mint condition. Each tractor project was graded on overall process, safety precautions, results, documentation and an oral presentation by the owner.

Quick fix

Hanna has fixed and restored more than 15 tractors since 2019. None of these tractors was a quick fix, but to enter the Chevron competition, he had to find and fix a tractor quickly.

The challenge was finding something that needed fixed but wasn’t too far gone that it would be impossible to enter the competition. He heard of a farm in Vineland, N.J., that wanted to get rid of its old Farmall tractor. The initial conversation wasn’t promising. “I was told to bring a chain saw. It was in a shed that was falling down,” Hanna says with a laugh.

The tractor sat in the shed for more than 20 years. The owner, who was widowed — the tractor belonged to her late husband — was selling her property and wanted to get the tractor out of the shed. Hanna and his father brought a trailer to the farm and rolled the tractor onto the trailer for the long drive back to Connecticut.

“It needed new front tires, the engine was stuck, the grill was pretty rusted out, the starter was busted,” he says. “It also had a cracked water pump.”

He got the tractor in February, but as a student at Penn State studying mechanical engineering, he could only start working on it in May, when the semester was over.

“Nearly every hour I wasn’t sleeping or at work, I would be working on the tractor,” Hanna says. “It was a lot of work in that short time period.”

He rebuilt the tractor’s engine and transmission; gave it new valves and a manifold; new tires; and, of course, a new paint job. He submitted the project for the contest in August.

"The M is definitely my best restoration," Hanna says.

But it won’t be a moneymaker. In fact, the $10,000 he got will likely just pay back the money he put into the tractor’s restoration.

Impressive collection grows

While he didn’t grow up on a farm, Hanna says he always loved tractors.

His father had two John Deere tractors in the garage that Hanna’s great-uncle restored: a 1952 John Deere B and a 1948 John Deere M. His father rarely got the tractors out, but when he did, he loved to drive them around. “That was my favorite thing to do,” he says.

He soon discovered that he had a knack for fixing machines with small engines. He started his own business fixing lawn mowers, weed eaters and even dirt bikes.

"Doing that I realized, ‘Hey, I can make money doing this,’" Hanna says.

Fixing and restoring tractors was his next challenge. At just 14 years old, he started looking for old tractors to restore. He got his first one in 2019, a 1951 John Deere B, from a farm in New Jersey. It took about a year to fix up.

“It was definitely a little intimidating with that first tractor,” Hanna says. “I didn’t have a paint gun or compressor to go with it, no air dryer, no hardener, nothing like that.

“I rebuilt the engine and painted it with a paintbrush. But I figured out how things should be done,” he adds.

Once he fixed his first tractor, he got more comfortable with things. “I started to realize what was in my skill set and now I can tear something down competently,” Hanna says.

His hobby became an “addiction.” He bought another 1951 John Deere B in 2021 and has added more than a dozen tractors since then, compiling an impressive collection of tractors that he has restored or is working on restoring:

  • 1940 John Deere H

  • 1937 Oliver 70 Standard

  • 1942 Oliver 70

  • 1951 Farmall B

  • 1950 Alice Chalmers C

  • 1952 John Deere B

  • 1940 Oliver 70

  • 1951 Farmall C

  • Ferguson TO-30 (year unknown)

  • 1950 Ford 8N

  • 1947 Farmall H

  • 1950 Farmall H

  • 1942 Farmall H

  • Oliver Super 55

  • Case VAC

“It’s an addiction that will get you. You've got one and then all of a sudden, you've got 15," Hanna says with a laugh.

And every tractor has a story. One tractor he remembers vividly is an old John Deere he picked up in February 2021. He picked it up in Perkasie, Pa., in the dead of winter with a foot of snow on the ground. The owner of the tractor had been in a car accident, and the tractor itself was in rough shape.

“It basically looked like a parts tractor,” Hanna says. “It was in rough condition. It was in terrible condition. It was taken apart; water was in the transmission. We picked up the tractor with a backhoe and backed the trailer underneath. That was definitely an interesting pickup.”

It took him a year to put the tractor back together, but he fully restored it with a rebuilt engine, transmission and a brand-new paint job.

Money isn’t the reason he collects the tractors. Hanna, now 19, says he does it to give new life to a machine that was once driven proudly on a farm.

“It doesn’t really make financial sense to fix them up and sell them because of the cost of doing all of that,” he says.

Future in ag?

There is no FFA at Greenwich High School, his alma mater, nor are there any agricultural classes being offered.

But fixing tractors has him thinking of a career in agriculture, on the machinery side. He hopes to work for one of the big machinery companies — like John Deere, Caterpillar or Agco — as a test engineer.

“Once you do accomplish something, you realize what is in your skill set. I kind of learn as I go almost,” Hanna says.

His advice to others wanting to restore tractors? Take your time.

“I would say, slow and steady with the restoration projects. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re working on it. If you slowly work at it, you’ll eventually get it done,” Hanna says.

“And don't be scared to tackle a job. Don't underestimate your abilities.”

About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

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