Archive for Friday, August 20, 2010

Old tractors brought back to life for competitions

August 20, 2010

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— Unquantifiable numbers of garden tractors and lawnmowers in various states of disrepair are littered about a southwest Topeka property.

At first glance, one would assume this odd assortment of mostly 1960s, ’70s and ’80s models is a final resting place for machines bested by time.

But Keith Moody’s backyard is much more Frankenstein’s lab than steel graveyard.

“There’s some more future projects,” Moody said while walking his property and pointing out another stash of tractors.

A stroll through this Topekan’s backyard is akin to a journey through time visiting, of all things, a scrapyard. But Moody, and his friend Jason Wunder, piece together and resurrect these metallic creations to compete in garden tractor pulls throughout northeast Kansas. Moody has such a large quantity of tractors and mowers, he doesn’t even have enough space to stuff them all inside the storage buildings on his property.

“I don’t smoke or drink, so it must be an addiction,” Moody said.

Wunder disagreed.

“I think we can turn it on and off,” he said, his voice trailing off as he pondered the thought.

Both quickly took to tractor pulling, not only because it is one of the cheapest motorsports around (“a $50 tractor and $200 set of tires and you’re in business,” Moody said), but also because it is a fun way to let the competitive juices flow.

Wunder said many people have driven a tractor at some point in life, but there is something noticeably different about the ride when it comes with the more difficult task of negotiating the machine down a 150-foot track pulling a sled that becomes increasingly heavier the farther it is pulled along on the dirt.

“It feels different,” he said. “The tires are a grabbin’ and a diggin’ and you can feel the front end pulling up — maybe pop a wheelie — I was hooked. You wouldn’t believe a tractor could do that to you, but it does.”

Wunder, who lives down the road from Moody, is in his first year of competition after just traveling and watching for a year. Moody picked up the sport in 2007. This season is his fourth year.

But it isn’t all fun and pulling.

Wunder, who has three competition-ready tractors he can use each weekend, also takes a practical approach with his machines.

“I’ve still got attachments to go out and plow my garden,” Wunder said.

The pair also restore tractors and mowers, not just for competition but to sell to people looking for used ones. It’s a way for them to help fund their tractor-pulling itch.

Specific brands they target from the ’60s and ’70s as being particularly good for tractor pulling are Cub Cadet, Sears, Wheel Horse, Montgomery Ward and some John Deere models.

Moody and Wunder competed July 24 in a tractor pull at Everest hosted by the NEK Stock Garden Tractor Pullers.

Moody said the competitors are a “good bunch of guys” and are willing to offer advice to newcomers in the sport.

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