One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

By Staff
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17410 Bedford Dr. Brookfield, Wisconsin 53045

Ever since I was a little kid I liked old farm tractors. I
always used to try to memorize their names and paint schemes, even
though I didn’t know a lot about them. When I was fifteen my
friend invited me to camp with him at the engine show in Sussex,
Wisconsin. I gladly accepted and a week later, on Friday night, we
watched everyone pull in with their ancient tractors and engines. I
had never seen a hit and miss engine or an Oil Pull, or even a
Briggs and Stratton with over-head valves. It was awesome! I spent
the whole weekend browsing through aisles of old, brightly painted
engines and tractors.

On Sunday afternoon I was walking around the grounds, and I saw
exactly what I needed to start my collection: a little red Wheel
horse garden tractor made in the 1950s. I asked my dad if I could
buy it. He just laughed and said, ‘What do you want that for?
What would you do with it? Do you really want to waste your money
on that?’

I decided not to argue with him at the moment, but to keep
pestering him until he would let me have one. My plan didn’t
work, though, and I went away from the show empty handed; however,
I would never forget how the hit and miss engines sounded and how
the huge four cylinder Case tractors vibrated the ground while they
stood still.

I went home and started searching for the perfect garden
tractor. I didn’t have much money to spend. I looked in the
paper, and I went to rummage sales. Winter came and went; it was
July. I was with my mom when I finally found it. She liked it, so I
didn’t have to convince her to let me buy it. It was $100 and
it ran! It had big rear tires and it looked really

I just had to have it, so I put $10 down and told the woman that
I would be back in a few days to get it.

When I got home I asked my dad how he felt about Jacobsen
tractors. He said,

‘I don’t know, why do you ask?’

‘I just bought one.’

He turned white and almost fell over. After an hour’s
discussion, I finally had him convinced that it was a good idea. We
needed a tractor, especially since his had just conveniently died a
week earlier. Besides, it was complete and it came with a mower

A day later we went to take a better look at it. I thought for
sure that he would put his foot down and say no. As we walked up
the driveway of the rummage sale, we could see the old Jacobsen
sitting along side the garage. My dad laughed at me when he saw it.
It was rusty, dented and it appeared that it wouldn’t run. My
dad looked it over and said, ‘Have you any idea how much work
this is going to take?’

‘Yes, isn’t it cool?’

‘If it starts,’ he said, ‘you can have it.’ I
crossed my fingers as he wound the rope around the pulley and gave
a good pull. To my surprise, it fired right up! My dad drove around
the house a few times, and he liked it.

The only problem we had was: How do we get this thing home?
After a little head-scratching, we decided the only way to get it
home was by driving it. My dad started it up again and revved it
up. The muffler had rusted away completely, and it must have been
about 150 decibels. He put the shifter in third gear and drove it
home. The tractor needed major cosmetic restoration. I took it all
apart and repainted it.

I had used it about one year when it began to give me starting
problems, so I pulled the motor off the tractor and rebuilt it. I
put in a new piston and rings and did a valve job. I then
sandblasted the motor and repainted. This was the first time it had
been rebuilt in the thirty years it has been in service. After I
put the freshly rebuilt engine back on the tractor, I wound the
rope around and again it started right up. The motor is a ZK161
Kohler 7 HP cast iron engine. The tractor is a Jacobsen model 100A
built in 1961 in Racine, Wisconsin. I still use it to cut grass and
plow snow.

After I finished the Jacobsen, I bought further projects to work
on. I have been mostly interested in restoring 1950s and earlier
engines. I have engines made by REO, Lauson, Kohler, Clinton,
Pioneer, and I have one Briggs and Stratton model L-l. I am
currently trying to find a Lauson oil test engine, a one-half
horsepower Lauson wash machine motor, or any old, rare, Lauson and
any information on the Lauson Company. If anyone can help me
complete my collection, please write to me at the address

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