Meet Ryan Haass: Future of old iron, talented tractor restorer and grand champion of the 2011 Delo Tractor Restoration Competition
If there is a royal family for the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition, it just might be the Haass family of Texas. And the reigning king of that talented family is youngest son, Ryan, who on October 20 took home the crown for his incredibly intricate restoration of a 1969 Case 530.
Since 1995, the Chevron Delo Tractor Restoration Competition has given FFA groups from across the country a stage to present their restoration projects. Judged by a group of five talented and experienced tractor restorers with more than 150 years of combined experience, the teens who participate use not only their final project to show their talents, but must also prove their knowledge of the ins and outs of tractor restoration through workbooks, presentations and interviews with the judges.
The grand champion is awarded a $5,000 prize, the reserve champion is awarded a $3,000 prize and the third place contestant is awarded a $1,500 prize. “It is an opportunity for youth to continue to do things hands on and give back to their communities,” says Channing Reeder, indirect channel marketing specialist with Chevron Lubricants. “A lot of these teens may go into farming, but it also may open their eyes to pursue something else so they go to college to study it. The competition gives them a perspective for what they can do with their lives. Marketing, pitching your creation, the ability to present and defend their work – you see a lot of that in real world business.”
Since 2003, members of the Haass family have placed four times in the competition; brother Randolph won third place in 2003 and reserve champion in 2004, while sister Amie won reserve champion in 2007. But Ryan finally brought the grand championship home to the family this year.
“Ryan comes from a family who has a history of restoring tractors,” Channing says. “The judges’ interview is probably the hardest part. Standing in front of people who are experts on the subject matter gives no opportunity for them to pull the wool over the judges’ eyes. Ryan had no hesitation and was very confident. He knew the tractor inside and out.”
Ryan restored the first tractor his grandfather ever purchased, a 1969 Case 530. His grandfather’s tractor was in bad shape when Ryan began working on it. “The rear end case of the tractor was hollow, everything was out of it,” he says. “We put some used parts in it, and put some new parts in it. We reset the tolerances between the parts.” Ryan resleeved the engine, and put in new pistons, bearings and all new valves. He replaced the valve springs and gave the Case a pristine paint job.
Though his father supervised the project, providing advice when needed, Ryan knows what he’s doing. He restored his first tractor in the fifth grade, and is now hard at work on his seventh tractor, a 1970 Case 1070. His experience and previous accolades gave him a leg up on one of the biggest hurdles in the Delo competition – financing it. “Between past tractors and tools I’ve won, I pretty much had everything I needed to restore the tractor,” Ryan says.
Other participants aren’t so lucky, so Delo encourages participants to turn to their communities for help in financing the projects. “A lot of this is out of pocket for the families and communities. A lot of them did fundraisers for costs and travel expenses,” Channing says. “Local FFA chapters may give some money. Sometimes local historians or collectors will allow them to use a tractor from their collections. Tractor collectors have sometimes tracked down these participants.”
Community involvement plays an important role in the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition. An online video competition allows family, neighbors and other community members to show their support for people they actually know. “It is a community based effort to get these tractors done,” Channing says. “What better way to get involved in the project than voting?”
In addition to the restoration of the tractor, Ryan also had to submit a workbook that included detailed overviews of all of the processes involved in restoring the tractor, many photos and a video component. “The workbook is supposed to detail the project and allow the judges to see the tractor from 360 degrees,” Channing says. “This is because it is cost prohibitive for a kid from California to ship their tractor across the country to Indianapolis for the judging. It’s really critical how well you document the work done.”
One might think the way to make a workbook stand out from the rest is extra bells and whistles, but not so. “The way we do our books is we don’t really have a lot of extra flashy stuff,” Ryan says. “Just pretty much include all the important info. Don’t try to dress it up or hide things.”
Channing says judges also base their decision on how much knowledge the participants have retained. “The more participants understand the process of restoring the tractor, the better they do,” he says.
In the presentation and question and answer portions, Ryan proved his knowledge calmly and confidently. And again, he did it in the clearest way possible. “I don’t like to bring in props. I went and talked,” Ryan says. “I like the question and answer part of it. They ask you what did you do, what is the operation, how do you do certain things so they know that you did it.”
His clarity and knowledge made him stand out from the other finalists. “Under-cross examination by the judges, he was able to define or explain every part, every piece, “Channing says. “He knows the tractor inside out. Judges love to see that.”
A high school senior, Ryan plans to enter his 1970 Case 1070 in the competition next year. The 1070 presents new challenges to an experienced restorer – electronics, complicated hydraulics and a power shift transmission.
The 530 that won him the grand prize currently sits in a barn, waiting to be shown at a Medina county show January. “After that, I’ll probably start tuning on it to start pulling with it some.” And once he’s done with high school, he won’t be done doing impressive mechanical work.
“What I’d like to do is performance things on diesel trucks; building diesel trucks to drag race,” he says. And after high school? “I’d like to go to one of the A&M schools and major in mechanical engineering.” With talent like this, his future looks bright. FC
For more information on the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition, visit their website at www.delotractorrestorationcompetition.com.