RURAL CHAMPAIGN — Lyle Brock was 14 years old when he competed in tractor pulls at the Champaign County and Fisher fairs. Sixty-one years later, his 17-year-old granddaughter will be the driver on a tractor the pair restored this year.
Grace Brock of Pesotum will compete Saturday in the Champaign County Fair in the 4250 Barnyard Children’s Division, the next-to-lightest class.
The tractor, a 1960 340 International utility tractor, was built the same year Brock last competed in a tractor pull.
It had sat undisturbed in a fence row for more than 20 years. When the elder Brock was asked if he wanted it, he jumped at the chance.
“I thought, ‘Shoot, I’ll just see if I can get it running,’” he said.
“What makes it a little different, it’s a military version of that tractor. They didn’t make a whole lot of them. I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll see if anybody wants it.’ My granddaughter said, ‘I’d like to pull that.’ I thought, ‘There goes my pocket book.’”
The Brocks have been restoring the tractor since May. Both of them took part in the sanding and painting part of the restoration, and Grandpa used the opportunity to teach his granddaughter some mechanics.
“I decided to teach her tools,” Brock said. “I sent her to the tool box to get the right wrenches or socket. After a while I gave her a quiz.”
She passed with flying colors.
Brock said he doubts the tractor will win. That’s fine. It’s not about the finish; it’s about the journey.
But Grace chimed in, “‘No, Pa Pa, it’s a champion.’”
“I thought it would be good to put in the county fair, not knowing I would be the one driving it. This is a new experience for me,” she said.
Grace, daughter of Barry and Suzanne Brock of Pesotum, will be a senior this fall at Unity.
“I’m excited to see what it’s like,” she said of the tractor pull.
Grace apparently likes to get involved. At Unity, she plays on the soccer team, is on the Student Council, competes in Scholastic Bowl and is a member of National Honor Society.
She and her grandfather set aside Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer to work on the tractor.
“It’s been interesting,” she said. “I’ve never really dealt with remodeling tractors or putting tractors together. To work with my grandpa and see what knowledge he has ... I’ve learned a lot these past few weeks.”
She said it takes “a lot of patience” to do the mechanical work.
Because it was a military version, the tractor was not equipped with power steering or a hydraulic system. It does have a power take-off.
Brock, who is retired from the State Highway Department, knows his mechanics. He has been working with the Parkland College diesel program.
He used his wife’s eBay account to order parts — so many that the UPS driver knew to head to the machine shed to make deliveries.
The tractor was in rough shape when the Brocks got it. The entire tractor had to be pulled apart. The large drive wheels weren’t on it.
The work also included removing four layers of yellow paint and repainting it. The fuel system was plugged with rust. There was a bird’s nest in the fuel tank.
Brock installed an electronic ignition so it would start easier.
“We didn’t do any major work on it,” Brock said. “We wanted to see how it would perform before we invested in a complete overhaul.”
Running down the road, the front tires began to come apart.
New gauges, ignition switches and other basic parts the mice had chewed up had to be replaced.
Brock showed off his new toy at the recent I&I Historic Farm Days show in Penfield, where he learned the tractor put out about 40 horsepower.
Both grandfather and granddaughter are glad for the renovation project, regardless of Saturday’s results.
“I told her, ‘Grace, you’re 17, and before you know it you’re going to be off to college. I just enjoy the time to spend with you.’” Brock said.