Tractor restoration fuels teen's curiosity

Staff writer

Matthew Regier, 14, of rural Goessel appreciates power. He also has a creative mind and likes to know how things work. It is only natural that these traits came together and propelled him into a reconstruction project these past few months of a 1957 International 450 tractor.

“I was raised on tractors. My dad was raised on them, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, we’ve all always had Internationals,” Regier said. “I was driving my dad’s W9, but wanted to have my own, and when we found a 450 that needed rebuilding, well, I needed to have it.”

Tractors are a family affair for Regier. His father and mother, Myron and Stephanie, and his older sister, Olivia, all have their own tractors and take them out to pulling events year-round.

“Our family vacations revolve around tractor pulls,” Regier said. “Someday I’d like to get on the national circuit and pull for points, but mostly we go in-state.”

A little family rivalry adds to the fun of tractor pulls, and Regier said he was getting close to the day he could beat his dad.

“The old man is going down soon,” he said. “Now that I’ve got my own tractor and am getting the kinks worked out, it won’t be long.”

Regier pulled his 450 project into the yard December 2011, but did not actually get started taking it all apart until this past May.

“We started by separating the radiator out, then worked front to back on the engine, taking it apart by bits and pieces,” he said. “We sent the engine out to be re-machined, and then went to work cleaning it all up and putting it back together.”

During the months of June and July, Regier spent hours each day and often long into the night, working on his tractor under his dad’s supervision.

“It was just a lot of fun to see what each part did, where it went, and how it all fit together,” he said. “I’ve grown up watching my dad do this all the time, but doing it myself was much better.”

There were a few mishaps along the way. While working to get the fan and pulleys off the front end, Regier hit it once with a hammer and the flywheel broke.

“We had to get a new part there,” he said. “But everything else is pretty much original.”

At tractor pulls, Regier competes in division two for stock tractors with few modifications. He said he would like to move into division three someday so he could get higher RPMs, pull with more power, go faster, and make additional modifications.

“I have some plans to make it my own,” Regier said. “I want to paint the body white, the engine red, and some red wings going back from the front. I’m going to call it ‘Redwing’, but I will have to have another body painted original for the competitions.”

Regier said he finished putting the tractor together in mid-July, getting it running at 1:30 a.m. before the family pulled out for a pulling competition in Lebo the following day.

“All in all, it took a lot of time, but putting it together was surprisingly easy,” he said. “Dad made a big fuss when it was time to put in the crankshaft and I was really stressed out, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”

Regier’s first pull with the 450 was rocky. First, he burned his hand on an exhaust pipe, then he found out his brakes did not work when he weighed in on the scale prior to competition.

“There were some things that went wrong, but I was so happy to have it running that I didn’t care,” he said.

When the competition started, Regier almost did not make it off the starting line. His gauge showed no oil pressure.

“Dad was telling me to shut it off,” he said. “And then stuff started spraying everywhere. But we got it fixed. We figured out we had pressure, just a bad gauge and some leaks. I pulled with it and actually took third.”

Regier usually pulls in three weight classes per event: 5,000 pounds, 5,500 pounds, and 6,000 pounds.

“After the first class, we just keep adding the weights on,” he said.

Since competing in Lebo in July, Regier has taken his reconstructed tractor to Wellington, Hillsboro, Goessel Threshing Days, and several other fairs and pulls.

“I’ve pulled six times with it already and won several classes,” he said. “At Threshing Days I almost beat Dad on his W9 but I went out of bounds.”

Regier plans to finish painting his tractor and tune it up tighter as part of his Supervised Agriculture Experience in FFA this fall. He is already thinking of something else he can take apart and rebuild, however.

“I can’t wait to start working on my truck,” he said. “It has open headers and is making some noise it shouldn’t, so we’ll have to take it apart.”

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