Antique Mechanics Club at UC-Davis

UC-Davis students add old iron to curriculum with the Antique Mechanics Club


| September 1999



Alums work hand-in-hand with students at the Antique Mechanics Club

Alums work hand-in-hand with students at the Antique Mechanics Club. Some of those involved (left to right): Sue Esdaile and Brian Barnett, alumni members; Christina Woosley, student member (and former club president); student member Victoria Smith, Victor Duraj, advisor; and Ron Allen, alumni member. Club membership typically ranges from 8 to 12 students.

It's another late night at the University of California-Davis. Students determined to squeeze more than 24 hours into the day work furiously into the night, cramming to meet the deadline. Abandoned coffee cups and soda bottles clutter work surfaces; fluorescent lights hum overhead. Like students everywhere, these are engaged in a time-honored tradition: the all-nighter. Picnic Day, after all, fast approaches, and these members of the Antique Mechanics Club have miles to go before they sleep – miles to be traveled by the club's vintage farm equipment, restored and running. 

Every college has clubs. But it's a safe bet that the Antique Mechanics Club at UC-Davis is in a league by itself. Now in its 28th year, the club is a campus institution. The club's mission: to collect, restore, and exhibit machinery and tools used during the early mechanization of agriculture in California.

"It's an unfunded, all-volunteer operation. It's just a group of students and volunteers, working together on antique farm equipment," says Victor Duraj, who volunteers his time with the group. Victor, a design engineer in Biological and Ag Engineering at UC-Davis, is the group's advisor. "We think it's the only university program of its type."

The club operates out of four aircraft hangars. One of the aging hangars houses tools, equipment and active projects. The others contain overflow equipment and completed projects. Parts equipment and future projects more than fill a boneyard just outside, and a practice track provides a "test course" for restoration projects.

As much as club members enjoy working with old iron, they also enjoy showing it off. The club participates in area shows and events each year, operating and displaying vintage equipment. Although the club is based in property on the edge of campus, members miss no opportunity to increase their visibility. When the university built a new visitors center in 1989, club members – and their Holt 75, complete with a John Deere 8-bottom plow dating to 1910 – participated in the groundbreaking festivities.

Lack of funding has not cut into the club's raw material. Students, alumni and friends of the group have gathered literally tons of equipment from all over California.