Family Heirloom: A Minneapolis-Moline ZTS Tractor Restoration

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The center of attention at the Grauer family reunion: the restored Minneapolis-Moline ZTS with Tom’s aunts at the wheel.
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Tom Grauer with his nephew, Peter, at the controls of Tom’s dad’s 1939 Minneapolis-Moline ZTS, fully restored. When it first came out, it was one of the few makes available with lights.

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.

The search for a clutch ring gear almost ended in failure, the result of language differences between Canadians and Americans. Tom went to a salvage yard in Iowa after learning that clutch parts were available there. He inquired about parts for a 1939 MM Model “Zed Tee S,” but the owner, perplexed, responded that he’d never heard of such a model. Tom reconsidered and tried a new tack, asking for parts for a model “Zee Tee S,” and everything clicked in place.

Finding cylinders that were not seized or cracked was also a big job. Rings, gaskets, seals, magneto, battery and toolbox, gauges and muffler were eventually located. The crankshaft was ground, radiator repaired and fuel tank – rust-free – cleaned.

Tom built new rear fender skins and riveted them into the existing frames. He also created a reproduction grille insert, working from an original provided by another collector. Tires were imported from a manufacturer in Poland.

Target date for completion was July 2000: Tom planned to unveil the tractor at a family reunion. The assembled relatives were thrilled by the surprise. “Everyone from age 6 to 80 can enjoy the pleasure of driving the tractor,” Tom says – including his mother, who had never before driven her husband’s tractor. In the end, the ZTS stole the show.

Tom has since tackled restoration of his uncle’s 1951 Minneapolis-Moline Model Z. Today, Tom enjoys both tractors, taking them out for display and fun at family gatherings in the summer and during the holidays. Both have been shown at antique tractor shows in Alberta, such as Irricana and Leduc, and Tom plans a sort of homecoming for the ZTS by displaying it at the North Battleford show.

Ed Primas lives in Red Deer County, Alberta, Canada.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
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