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Pedal tractors a source of satisfaction

Staff writer

Mark Whitney is a busy guy. He and his wife, Ginger, own and operate Peabody Hardware and Lumber.

They have just about finished remodeling a home on Maple St. The hardware store has a second story full of architectural salvage he sells to others interested in building or remodeling. He also has a shop in the lumberyard building behind the store where he does repair work or small building projects for others.

About two years ago, he found a pile of rusty old pedal tractor parts in a friend’s yard that piqued his interest. The friend gave the parts to Whitney, and that was the beginning of yet another hobby for the Peabody merchant — finding and restoring old pedal tractors.

“I didn’t know much about pedal tractors or cars when I started on that one,” he said. “I did a lot of looking online and started rebuilding the tractor. Eventually I found I liked the hunt for parts and liked the process of restoring something that probably provided a great deal of joy for a child years ago.”

Whitney said he just finished tractor No. 9 and is working on restoring Nos. 10 and 11. Some he restores for others and some for himself. Not all of them are the vintage variety. Some are recent models. The ones he keeps are displayed on shelves fastened to the walls above the merchandise in the hardware store.

Pointing to a bright red 1950s McCormick Farm-All tractor, Whitney said that model was one of the easiest to complete.

“It is not an original produced in the 1950s, so it was in fairly good condition. The front wheels were dirty and a little scuffed and all I really had to do was clean them and touch up the paint a bit,” he said. It was a far cry from the pile of parts that got him started.

Finding parts is sometimes a challenge, but there are companies that still make them so reproduction parts are available. Whitney spent time looking on bidding sites like eBay, but found that took a great deal of time and he said shipping can add a considerable amount to the cost.

“I found a guy in New York who buys and sells a lot and he is a good supplier,” he said. “The man and his wife go all over collecting together and enjoy finding the tractors, parts, decals, or anything related. He usually has what I need.”

When Whitney and his wife travel, he checks their destination for collectors and dealers and contacts them before leaving home.

“That helps save on shipping,” he said. “I have a sister in Las Vegas and I bought two when we were visiting her. Our daughter is in the Kansas City area now and she has found three. I was talking to a dealer in Colorado about a couple of finds once and he said I had TAS. I asked him what that was and he said, ‘Tractor Acquisition Syndrome.’ I think he is probably right.”

Whitney recently restored a 1959 John Deere pedal car for Gary Jones’s son Mike. He thinks that is probably the most valuable one he has ever worked on because of its age. Others he restored are for sale, priced according to age and the cost of the restoration. The group hanging on the wall includes a jalopy with wood panel sides. He also is working on restoring the tricycle his wife had when she was little.

“I have never worked on a tricycle, but it is all the same idea. Repair the metal, paint it, find new wheels or tires, and pretty soon you’re ready for the next project,” he said. “It really is a lot of fun, though. People who come in and see these remember the old pedal cars and tractors. You’d be surprised how many guys had them when they were kids. People like to talk about them. And I like hearing the stories.”

Last modified June 17, 2015

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