Family with Lust for Rust

A unique family hobby: restoring vintage tractors


| January 1999



Jason estimates that he spent 500 hours on this Case D, which is styled with fourth gear.

Jason estimates that he spent 500 hours on this Case D, which is styled with fourth gear. Both the D and VI are coated in Flambeau Red. "That's the correct color for this age tractor," he says.

Photo by William Cowan

Let this serve as a warning: what happened to the Bickel family could happen in your household.

Once a normal, extended family spanning three generations, this group of relatives has become nearly consumed by – how else to put it? – The Lust For Rust.

"Oh, they'll haul in stuff with flat tires, and bushel baskets full of parts," says Dolores Bickel, the matriarch of the clan. "You name it, they've got it."

It all started innocently enough. One day 10 years ago, Bill Bickel – Dolores' son – borrowed a tractor from his father-in-law.

"Well, I had some spare time," he says, "so I decided to paint it."

One thing led to another. Or, to be more precise, to about 50 others. Today, Bill Bickel, his sons, Jason and Josh, and his father, Gayle, ride herd over more than four dozen vintage tractors. Some are restored; most aren't.