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people and community from rust to reward: tractor restoration earns student scholarship

2 min read | april 07, 2023

Ethan Van Delden and his 1965 Oliver 770.

Restoration work isn’t easy. It takes know-how, grit and—perhaps most importantly—quite a bit of time.

High school senior Ethan Van Delden was undeterred by these challenges. Over the course of nine months, the San Antonio native logged approximately 2,600 hours of work on a 58-year-old tractor, equipment more than three times his age.

“Every day after school, I’d work on the tractor for a couple of hours—sometimes until midnight or 1 a.m.,” Van Delden said. “Every Saturday and Sunday, I’d get up at 6:30, feed my show animals then head to the shop and work until almost midnight. I repeated that every day until it was finished.”

All that hard work paid off when Van Delden was named Grand Champion at the U.S. Chevron Tractor Restoration Competition last year. The title came with a $10,000 scholarship that he plans to use to continue his education in agricultural mechanics and pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

about the competition

The annual tractor restoration event, which celebrated its 25th anniversary with Van Delden’s victory, is open to all U.S. high school students. It’s designed to:

  • Encourage and recognize the preservation and restoration of agricultural equipment.
  • Promote agricultural education and the agricultural industry at large.
  • Motivate young people to pursue careers in agriculture-related fields.

harvesting top talent

Each participant restores a tractor and is judged on ability to follow restoration guidelines, quality of workmanship and level of detail in the final product.

The annual competition culminates in a championship event at the National Future Farmers of America Convention and Expo, where finalists are invited to make an oral presentation to a panel of restoration specialists.

A rusted tractor that will be restored

The tractor’s humble beginnings.

the winning tractor

Van Delden stood proudly by as his forest green 1965 Oliver 770 tractor was displayed at this year’s Chevron booth at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Speaking with aspiring young tractor restorers, he offered some sage advice: “No tractor is too big. You can restore any tractor you want if you put your mind to it.”

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