Family Heirloom: A Minneapolis-Moline ZTS Tractor Restoration

Tom Grauer's restoration of his father's abandoned farm tractor is the center of the family reunion.

| October 2008

What's a hard working Saskatchewan farm tractor doing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, parading around in a new suit? Nothing more than showing off, after a dramatic rescue by Tom Grauer, Calgary.

The story begins near Saskatoon in Canada's wheat province, where Tom's grandfather homesteaded. Later, Tom's dad farmed the family land, purchasing a new 1939 Minneapolis-Moline Model ZTS and a 6-foot, one-way tiller. Eventually family members moved away, the farm was sold and the tractor abandoned to a nearby friend's land.

After hearing about the tractor at a family gathering, Tom set out to find it. When he did, it was a sorry-looking specimen, abandoned for 45 years. The front tires were gone, the back tires were rotten and the engine was stuck.

But the decision to restore the tractor was an easy one for Tom, as the MM ZTS was the only remaining relic from his late father's farm. In the fall of 1997, the tractor was hauled to Tom's backyard garage in Calgary.

The tractor and engine were completely dismantled. The main castings and salvageable parts were sandblasted. The transmission gears, intact with minimal wear, were ready to install with new bearings after a thorough cleaning.

In the next year, progress slowed as Tom searched for parts. He began to think he'd have to buy a second tractor to use as a parts donor. Following a lead from a chance discussion, a new old stock upper engine block was located in a Quonset hut where it had been abandoned 50 years earlier. A starter (original equipment on the ZTS) was obtained from a salvage yard in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. New brake linings bonded to the old brake shoes and brake return springs from a Delco spring kit for a 1982 Chevrolet were put to work.