Modified Ford 8N (Re)Built for Speed

Garretson, S.D., man’s modified Ford 8N makes its mark at Husets Speedway


| June 2011



Art Nordstrom with his one-of-a-kind racetrack Ford 8N conversion

Art Nordstrom with his one-of-a-kind racetrack Ford 8N conversion.

In 1969, Art Nordstrom built a one-of-a-kind Ford 8N tractor used to push-start sprint cars. It was a staple around Garretson, S.D.-area racetracks from 1969 until the last Cheater’s Days race at the Sioux Empire Fair Racetrack in the early 1990s. Art also was an official at Huset’s Speedway and Interlakes Speedway and the tractor was his way to get to the wrecks fast. During races, Art would fly down the back stretch or front stretch, putting on a show for the crowds. With his wife and kids, he spent every summer weekend at the track. His daughter, Yvette, recalls how a modified Ford charmed kids and race crowds. 

The snow is gone and spring is finally here. Growing up, I just couldn’t wait for the first big day to run outside, barefoot, without those big ol’ clumsy snowboots. Springtime was a busy time on the farm. Dad was eating, drinking and sleeping dirt during corn planting time, going like mad to get the corn in the ground.

Dad always wanted to be done planting corn at about the time the plum and crabapple trees bloomed. He’d pry open the machine shed doors like he was opening King Tut’s tomb; he was waking up the tools of spring from hibernation. The corn planter was checked and the boxes filled with seed. The kernels of corn looked like purple jewels, covered with all the right chemicals to give them a boost. Dad would get the disc hooked up and ready to break into the prairie, ready to come alive after its winter blanket melted away.

But at the Nordstrom farm, spring didn’t just mean planting time and calving. It was also the start of the racing season. It wouldn’t be long before we’d hear “Hey, hey, race fans”: Denny Oviet’s voice bellowing among big motors and loud pipes screaming for the checkered flag at Huset’s Speedway.

Jekyll-and-Hyde creation

It was a Nordstrom summer ritual: every weekend, hitting the local tracks with Dad’s special tractor. We’d be playing in the yard, watching the parade of machinery from the machine shed. Then we’d hear a rumble from the back. What once was a normal Ford 8N garden tractor had been turned into a Jekyll-and-Hyde creation, and my dad was the mad scientist.

In the darkness of the back shed lurked a monster: A 1951 stock Ford 8N tractor retrofitted with a 1968 Ford Mustang GT V8 power plant tucked neatly under the factory 8N hood. This 401-cubic-inch mechanical wonder kicking out 400-plus hp was capable of doing zero to 100 mph in less than a city block. Totally tricked out and not for plowing anymore. For a bunch of little motorheads, this was better than Christmas. Dad had the Ford tractor out!