Hennen completes second tractor restoration project
Having grown up around John Deere tractors on his parents' farm northeast of Minneota, Zach Hennen decided to purchase an "old putt-putt" and restore it in his spare time.
Hennen's finished product was on display on Saturday with many other tractors and farm equipment as part of the scaled-down version of Harvest Festival in Porter.
A good crowd turned out on a beautiful sun-splashed day to talk about farming, watch the farm equipment demonstrations, or view the myriad of new and vintage tractors parked along North Sunrise Ave. After the show concluded, the drivers hopped aboard their tractors and drove around town in a parade while many Porter residents waved at them from their homes.Hennen bright green and yellow 1957 John Deere 720, the second of his restoration projects, was part of the parade.
The quiet and unassuming young man, who will be a senior this fall at Minneota High School, started out restoring a 1953 John Deere 60 that he bought at a farm auction two years ago.
Hennen admitted that his restoration journey has led to many "trial-and-error" situations; one of the best ways to learn for many people.
"The tractor was all rusty so I had to sandblast it all down," he explained. "And then I sprayed the body (green) and put the decals on it."
It wasn't quite as simple as he made it sound, however. Because of the age and the many years of idle activity, the tires had to be replaced, as well as the seat and several other parts.
"The engine still ran on that first tractor," he said. "But not on the 720. So this one took me a lot longer to restore."
Hennen, the son of Martin and Laura Hennen, estimated that the John Deere 60 took him about two months to complete, while the 720 he brought to the Harvest Festival show took him "about one year" to complete.
"My dad took Diesel Mechanics in school so he helped me fix the motor," Hennen noted. "We had to go completely through the motor. But otherwise, I did the rest of the work."
The additional work on the John Deere 720 also required sandblasting, spraying, and replacing and repairing other parts.
While his first tractor was all green, it made spraying easier. The 720 required both green and yellow paint, as well as the finishing decals.
"I taped off where it was supposed to be painted green," Hennen said. "And when the green paint was dry, I taped it off so I could spray the yellow part."
And that's where some of the trial-and-error portion came into play.
"Sometimes the painting didn't turn out just right, so I had to do it over a few times," he smiled.
Hennen then turned around and took a long look at his tractor, then said as he turned back around "I think I could have done a better job. When I get down to the end, I'm anxious to get it over with and I hurry a little. So it doesn't look as good as I would like."
But to everyone else, it looked like it had been restored by someone who had been doing that type of work for many years.