A Leader in the Parade


| August 2001



FC_V4_I01_Aug_2001_13-1.jpg

the newly restored Leader Model D.

It wasn't the first time Robert had worked on that particular tractor, but this time had more meaning. The restoration of the 1948 Leader tractor was not just a matter of necessity, the way the first repairs so long ago had been. This was an act of love. It all started four or five years ago when Robert Weitzel, Cincinnati, Ohio, received the tractor as a gift from his father, who had used it on the family acreage since the early 1960s. The unrestored tractor was still pretty much in its original condition. Robert took the Leader, stored it in the garage, and didn't think much more about it until his wife became the co-chairperson of the antique tractor parade for the Harrison, Ohio, Sesquicentennial Celebration.

'One thing led to another,' he says with a grin, 'and I got the idea to restore it.' Finding the time wasn't easy. Robert is a fire chief in Green Township, on the west side of Cincinnati, Ohio. He had to take a couple of weeks off to get the project finished in time for the parade.

The Leader came into the family shortly after Robert returned from a stint in the Army in 1963. The tractor had been sitting in a widow's field nearby when Robert's dad decided to buy it. Robert distinctly remembers bringing it home.

'The clutch was frozen to the flywheel,' he said, 'and I had to sit on the tractor all the way home and hold in the clutch.' When they got the tractor home, they had to break it apart to get at the frozen clutch. That repair made, the father/son team poured in some gas, and the engine sprang to life. It was as simple as that, the first time.

Used around the small farm for tasks like pulling bush hogs, the Leader was in active use until about four years ago. That was when Robert inherited the Leader.

When he decided to restore the Leader, Robert wanted to get it into tiptop shape. He took the hood and the front end down to the frame, sandblasted the parts and had them repainted. By the hood, in front close to the gauges, he found the serial number and the words 'model D' cast into the metal. Although the tractor was in good shape, one of the wheels had to be replaced. Calcium chloride inside had leaked, corroding the metal and weakening the wheel. Gempler Supply provided a new wheel, and Robert drilled out the rivets, re-attaching the wheel to the iron casting before putting on new tires all the way around. Then came the engine.