Restoring Pedal Tractors
A sheet-metal Big 4 pedal tractor, one of several pedal tractors George keeps for his grandchildren to play with when they come to visit.
George Molus has become something of an expert on restoring pedal tractors, having restored 39 of them.
"When I get them, the first thing I do is totally disassemble them," he says. "If pieces are repairable, I'll fix them. If not, I'll discard them."
Then he does a complete sandblasting of the casting to remove all old paint and blemishes. Once done with that, he sprays on two coats of primer, and sands each one after it has dried, and then two or three coats of original-color paint. "If it looks right then, I'll assemble it, and put the decals on last."
He air dries the paint, and makes sure the paint on the rims is hard enough so tires can be put on without damaging the coat.
"That was a learning procedure there," he says. "The first ones I did I scuffed up the paint somewhat, and had to do them over. But I learned fast. Now I paint them, and do what everybody has learned to do by now: take the tire and put it in boiling hot water for five minutes until the rubber softens to a point where it expands. Then I use a pair of rubber gloves, and almost manhandle them onto the rim. Once the tire cools down, you can't get it off unless you cook it again."
George notes the similarities between restoring an old farm tractor – a big one – and restoring pedal tractors. "Most of them have been used, and you have to replace what is worn out, and then you fix it up to what you think it should look like."
After painting it, however, the old farm tractor is often used, while the pedal tractor goes on a shelf, he says. "And the big tractor is more complicated, with the engine, transmission, clutches, and whatnot." He has restored more than a dozen Farmall Cub tractors, and is on his 40th pedal tractor.
George says keeping track of how much time he spends on each pedal restoration job is difficult because it's broken up into small units.
"But I'd say 24-30 hours labor goes into each one," he says. "I run into people who won't sell their pedal tractors and will say, 'I'm going to do that myself,' but they don't realize what a heck of a lot of work it is, and not everybody can do that kind of work. It looks easy, but it's not." FC