There were rare tractors and engines at the Little Log House show last summer, no doubt about it. But a street rod crafted from a 1947 David Bradley manure spreader generated the most buzz.
Created by Bruce Bauer, Hastings, Minn., the vehicle many refer to as the “Minnesota Ferrari” is an inspired vision of salvaged farm relics. Bruce pretty much made it up as he worked. “I had no plan at the beginning,” he admits.
A tinkerer by nature, Bruce worked 35 years in maintenance at Land O’Lakes Inc. “There were lots of times at work when I had to be inventive and create a solution,” he says. “I really like to make weird things. When I need something pretty hard, I’ll go to town and buy it.”
The spreader’s hideaway headlights, for instance, gave him fits. Bruce originally planned to make them from round bowl drinkers, but the concept just wasn’t working. “Then I woke up one morning and had a great idea,” he recalls. “Why not use John Deere corn planter boxes?” Stabilized by antique wrenches, the manually operated planter boxes contribute a certain understated elegance to the overall design.
And so it went, in a unique blend of ingenuity and orneriness. How else to explain back seats fashioned from padded toilet seats (“for comfort,” Bruce notes), an old sewing machine treadle as a gas pedal and an air cleaner (“with big blowers!”) made from a milking machine? Milk cans became mufflers; a cow stanchion, framing a panel of safety glass and supported by a hayfork’s tines, makes a handy windshield.
A two-man crosscut saw seemed predestined for use as dashboard. The saw’s blade, however, was so hardened that Bruce couldn’t cut it. Undaunted, he headed to Curly’s Welding in nearby Red Wing. “He has underwater computerized plasma cutting equipment,” Bruce says. “There was just no other way to do something like that.”
The vehicle lacks none of the creature comforts of today’s luxury automobile. It is equipped with a garage door opener, radio and CD player (with speakers in what would seem a precarious position beneath the toilet seats) and a drink holder made from an oil can holder. A cistern pump handle provides an armrest for the driver; a disabled double-barrel Stevens 12-gauge shotgun does the same job for the passenger. “That was my uncle’s gun,” Bruce says. “It means more to me there than if it was sitting in a gun rack. And since it’s on my wife’s side, she can literally ‘ride shotgun.’”
Nor was any expense spared on cutting edge technology. A four-tine pitchfork holds electrical wiring away from a heat source. Inflators from a milking machine serve as the firewall’s rubber grommets. Dash gauges include oil, water and gas — and a tachometer. A weather vane positioned at the back end is helpful, Bruce notes, “so you’ll know whether you’re coming or going.” The Ferrari is even environmentally friendly. “It burns milk on top of the carburetor,” he says with a wink.
Bruce finished the project in June 2012 after about six months’ work. The fully licensed street rod is built on a 1993 Chevy S-10 chassis and has a 350 V-8 engine with automatic transmission. To be eligible for the Minnesota Street Rod Assn. awards program, the vehicle must be inspected annually. Power steering, power disc brakes, emergency brake and seatbelts make it safe on the road. “It performs like any street rod,” he says. “You just drive at the speed limit.” FC
For more information: Bruce Bauer, 16520 230th St. East, Hastings, MN 55033; phone (651) 214-5422: email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about the Little Log House Antique Power Show in Little Log House Show Captivates Young and Old.