Carson Rose had already restored a couple of tractors with a high school friend, but the old John Deere model 50 was special.
His great grandfather purchased the new tractor in 1955 at a dealership in Rosenberg, Texas. Later, it was handed down to Carson’s grandpa, then his uncle, and finally to Carson, who is from El Campo, Texas.
It sat idle for many years. But once he took an interest in restoring tractors, there was never a question he would someday get to it. He began the restoration his senior year of high school.
“When my uncle was in high school, he took it to school and overhauled it to keep it running,” Carson said of the 50. “Not long after, he parked it. It became obsolete with all the advancements in tractors and sat for 20 to 30 years.”
David Rose, Carson’s father, remembered when Carson was 5-years-old and his uncle — David’s brother-in-law — told the boy he was going to give the tractor to him some day.
“He said ‘one day you can decide what to do with this tractor,’” David recalled. “All these years, I’d never heard the tractor run.”
Winning a Competition
Carson grew up around agriculture. In addition to being from a farming family, David is a salesman with Shoppa’s Farm Supply, a Deere dealership with locations in Texas.
“Growing up on the farm he’s around that stuff,” David said of his son and tractor restoration. “I’ve been here at the dealership for 25 years. He’s around it all the time.”
It wasn’t until he was in high school though that a teacher introduced the idea of restoring tractors. The teacher offered to pay for Carson and his friend to enter the first tractor they restored in a state competition.
“They did such a good job, it made it to the national competition,” David recalled.
Carson competed in several different tractor restoration competitions, some sponsored by FFA and others by Chevron.
The next tractor the pair restored was a John Deere Model LA. That tractor competed at shows in Houston and San Antonio and is now on display in an automotive parts store showroom floor in Texas, David said.
When Carson became a senior, his friend had already graduated, so he decided to restore the Model 50 on his own.
“It’s a lot of work for one person,” said Carson, who would end up spending over 800 hours on the restoration. “I’d get out of class and go home and work on it. It’s very time consuming. When it’s torn down, it’s completely torn down, there is nothing else to take apart.”
At the competitions that level of detail is key, Carson said, as the judges want to know every detail about the restoration effort.
“Did you replace worn parts? Did you look at everything? Did you put it all together so that it would work?” Carson said.
It took three to four months to finish the Model 50, and the first show was in February 2016 in San Antonio where it placed fourth. Carson and the tractor then went to Houston where the tractor won first place. At the national competition that year, the tractor placed third.
What Would Grandpa Say?
Rosa Grant, manager of the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, said she’s always looking for restored John Deere tractors to display at the 15,000-square-foot museum. They regularly have 16-17 restored tractors on display inside the museum and three more outside.
“I’m always on the lookout for good stories and good tractors, and I keep an eye on the restoration competitions every year and take a look at the finalists,” Grant said.
Grant said she also likes hosting tractors that were restored by younger restorationists. With all of that in mind, she decided Carson’s tractor would be a great one to show at the museum.
The Rose family traveled to the museum in June to watch the tractor go on display.
For Carson, who is now a senior at Texas A&M University majoring in business, it’s an honor that’s still hard to believe.
“I never really saw that coming,” he said of the tractor being displayed at the museum. “It’s really meaningful to me and my family. This was something they made their living with. For it to go from being a working tractor, to sitting idle for all those years, to being fully restored, to now going to the museum … I would have loved to hear what my grandpa would have had to say about it.”
As for tractor restoration, Carson has left the hobby behind, but he still plans to be involved in agriculture.
“I’d like to come back home (after college),” Carson said. “I don’t know if I’ll farm or not. I definitely want to be involved in production agriculture.”
Carson said he’s thankful for the experience he had restoring tractors. He met a lot of people in agriculture and got to travel a lot for the competitions. For those who are thinking about getting into tractor restoration, he has some advice.
“If you’re gonna do it, then give it 100 percent,” he advised. “You’re not gonna have any other life beside that while you’re doing it. We were living it and breathing it, that’s all we were doing was that tractor.”