San Antonio, Texas, high school senior Corey Verstraeten relishes competing in tractor restoration competitions.
The judges walk up in packs and try to find something wrong, he said. Verstraeten has learned to learn from those judges and their questions.
“I found my passion in diesel mechanics,” said Verstraeten, who this year was named the Grand Champion of the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition. The competition brought the nation’s top high school restoration project finalists to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis last month.
Verstraeten, 17, attends Southwest High School in San Antonio and is a member of the school’s FFA chapter. He has been a finalist in the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition for four years.
He and his brother, Brett, were finalists in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, they restored a 1953 Allis Chalmers G. In 2014, they restored a 1958 Oliver 880. In 2016, he restored a 1971 Oliver 1855.
This year, he was named Grand Champion for restoring a 1972 Oliver 1755.
“This competition has been such a great experience for me over the years,” Verstraeten said. “After last year’s finals appearance, I knew I was close to this goal and really worked to improve in this year’s restoration. I couldn’t be more proud of the result and I know the past few years will serve me well as I move forward in my life.”
Verstraeten said he found the 1972 Oliver in the Granger, Texas, area. He purchased it from an Oliver tractor “nut” who was eager to have the tractor restored. The man looked “like a child going into a candy store” when he first saw the restored tractor at a show in San Antonio, Verstraeten said.
He purchased the tractor in October 2016 and began working on it around Thanksgiving time. He worked on the tractor over five months, investing 672 hours into the restoration. The exterior was in good condition for it being a loader tractor, he said. He replaced the engine with a waterlogged one to make the project more challenging. Verstraeten said his brother was instrumental in helping him with the restoration.
Verstraeten hopes to earn a diesel mechanics degree, like his brother, and put the $10,000 he earned as Grand Champion of the contest into a college fund.
The Delo Reserve Champion award for the competition was given to Matthew Machicek of Rogers FFA in Rogers, Texas, who received $5,000. Austin Reynolds of Ira FFA in Snyder, Texas, took third place and received a prize of $3,000.
The 2017 entries were narrowed down to 12 finalists who presented their projects to a panel of four seasoned tractor restoration experts. Each project was graded on the restoration process, safety precautions, results, documentation and their oral presentation.
“Each year you think it can’t get more difficult to determine a winner out of these 12 finalists, but these young adults continue to amaze,” said Dan Holdmeyer, Industrial and Coolants Brand Manager, Chevron Products Company. “The level of hard work and ingenuity will make lasting impacts on their lives moving forward and ultimately their career. This is so much more than a restoration competition at Chevron and we’re happy to be equipping these students with everything they’ll need to succeed in the future.”
Verstraeten plans to have a little fun with the Oliver, driving it in parades and participating in tractor pulls before hooking it to a nine-foot disk and putting it to work on the family farm where they raise corn, cotton and wheat.
Soon, he’ll start working on his next restoration project – a 1950s model Oliver Super 88. It runs on propane.
The complete list of finalists for the 2017 Delo Tractor Restoration Competition:
- Andrew Brown, Nashville FFA, Nashville, IN: 1957 Allis Chambers WD45
- Austin Reynolds, Ira FFA, Snyder, TX: 1969 John Deere 4020
- Corey Verstraeten, Southwest High School FFA, San Antonio, TX: 1972 Oliver 1755
- Devin Haywood, Hastings FFA, Hastings, MI: 1950 Farmall Demonstrator C
- Four Rivers Career Center, Washington, MO: 1948 Farmall C
- Mack Blair, Dubiski High School FFA, Grand Prairie, TX: 1973 International Harvester 666
- Marcus Wagner and Cameron Coyle, Dubiski High School FFA, Grand Prairie, TX: 1958 John Deere 420V
- Matthew Machicek, Rogers FFA, Rogers, TX: 1956 Minneapolis-Moline 335
- Northwood FFA, Nappanee, IN: 1956 Farmall 350
- Ryder Merta, El Campo FFA, El Campo, TX: 1955 Farmall 200
- Tanner Burns, Tucker County FFA, Hambleton, WV: 1968 International Farmall 544
- Taylor Havemann, Atascadero High School, Atascadero, CA: 1951 Oliver OC3
About the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition
Since 1995 the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition has rewarded the determination, mechanical skills and business savvy of high school tractor restoration experts from around the country. Through the restoration of an antique tractor, participants develop skills applicable to the modern business world.
All entrants to the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition are required to submit a workbook detailing the entire tractor restoration process, from mechanical overhauls of the engine, transmission and auxiliary and ancillary systems, to the external appearance of the tractors. The 12 finalists are invited to present their projects to a panel of four professional tractor restorers during the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. Projects are graded on restoration process, hands-on learning, results and documentation, as well as oral presentation and safety precautions.