Put together a welder and a diesel mechanic and what do you get? Whatever invention their combined imaginations can devise.
Tom Oborny of Marion and Ethan Oborny of Durham have been creating things together since they were old enough to drive. Tom will graduate from Hutchinson Community College in two weeks with a degree in welding. Ethan is a freshman at HCC, studying diesel mechanics.
Their latest creation is what Tom’s father, David, named the “Swamp Buggy.” It’s made mainly of parts taken from a 1970s International 715 combine that David abandoned in a pasture.
“When we were growing up, if you wanted something, you built it,” Tom said. “When our buddies were going to parties, we were in the shop.”
They prefer to work with metal.
“The thing about the stuff we build is that there is no maintenance and the wind won’t blow our things away,” Tom said.
They started their latest project in September by removing from the combine the hydrostatic drive system, including the oil pump and motor. They said they weren’t sure what they were going to do with it.
“We had a picture in our heads,” Ethan said, “but it changed along the way.”
Ethan tore out all the old wiring, got the motor unstuck, and replaced the wiring.
They then removed the combine transmission, the platform, and the axles and had to decide how to put it all together.
“We argued about that for two hours,” Ethan said.
“We argue a lot,” Tom said. “It would be so boring if we got along all the time.”
“But that’s how we make it all come together,” Ethan added.
After they decided how long the vehicle needed to be, Tom cut two lengths of oil field pipe for a frame to which the two axles could be attached. The back wheels of the combine became the front wheels of the buggy, and the front wheels of the combine became the back wheels.
The radiator, motor, and combine platform were mounted on top of the frame. A gas tank from an old swather was mounted behind the seat. Ethan re-engineered the brake system.
The work was done mainly on weekends, when they were home from college and after field work and cattle feeding chores were done.
“We had some late nights,” Ethan said. “We sometimes didn’t get started until 7:30 or 8 p.m.”
The cousins figure they spent about $800 on parts for the project.
The Swamp Buggy resides at the farm of their grandfather, the late George Oborny, north of Marion. It had its public debut when the cousins took it to the Holy Family Parish charity auction March 8 at Pilsen. But it wasn’t for sale.
Two weeks ago, they mounted an 8½-by-5-foot iron bed at the back. It is made out of flooring from an old hog shed.
Tom made two iron benches that were mounted on the platform to take two couples, via back roads, to the Centre junior-senior banquet on April 18.
The hydrostatic drive allows its forward speed and reverse to be controlled by one lever.
“The Swamp Buggy has an infinite range of speed from 0 to 18 miles per hour,” Tom said. “It can go pretty fast.”
Their next project is to restore and modernize a ¾-ton 1951 Ford pickup their great-grandfather purchased new and passed down to their grandfather.
“We usually have two or three projects going at a time,” Ethan said. “We’re not big on plans. We’re just big on ideas.”