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Spare Parts: A place for everything

By Ernie Copper

Snow came early this winter in the northeast. I’m reminded of that as I brush the snow, then scrape the ice from my wife’s car in our driveway. This is not as much an act of chivalry as it is an act of contrition. My formerly semi-organized garage has become an impound lot for wayward items that found their way there following my dad’s passing late last summer. You may be thinking, “That’s no big deal, Ernie, a box here, a hose there, what’s the problem?”

Well, the biggest problem is the family tractor, a 1950 John Deere MT, named “Zivio.” I’ve previously written about Zivio right here in THUNDER PRESS in a tongue-in-cheek piece for our American Other column. After sitting idle the last few years, Zivio came to rest in my garage recently. I’d previously refreshed Zivio with new paint and some basic tune-up work, but that was nearly 20 years ago and now she’s back.

My garage is your garden-variety two-car, with just enough extra space for a decent work bench. The trouble is the garage is currently housing five motorcycles, one tractor, several boxes of stuff and no cars. Allowing Zivio to couch surf in my garage required a total reorganization. The workbench was downsized and relocated along with the mini fridge, tool chest, heavy bag and most of the tools.

This tractor features an adjustable track-or width-of the rear wheel spacing. To even have a shot at fitting her in the garage, the rear wheels had to be moved considerably inward to reduce her “footprint.” Simply stated, but not as easily accomplished. The 11/16 wrench, the biggest wrench in a normal wrench set, is the smallest wrench you’ll likely use on your tractor and the work input only increases from there to the point where you’re using sledge hammers, drifts, drills, torches and favors. I’m sure those wheels had never been moved and they seemed happy where they were. After I got them loose, all associated parts were treated to a liberal application of grease since this tractor doesn’t work every day anymore.

My goal, as I try to fit the pieces of my Jenga garage back together, is to get the car and the tractor in the garage without removing any motorcycles, a feat which I know is technically possible since I did a test fit before all the stuff in boxes arrived. To do it, the car must be backed into the garage or you can’t get out the door. The tractor’s tricycle design allows for some unique placement of things around it (and even under it), since it doesn’t ever really need to be accessible. But I like things to be accessible.

I marvel over people who reportedly collect dozens of tractors and I’m reminded why I prefer motorcycles. They don’t wear me out when I’m working on them, the tools are much smaller and I could fit six of them in the space of one tractor. Don’t get me wrong, Zivio is a special tractor and I don’t mind making the effort for her comfort and security, but you can’t just push her under the porch until you figure out what to do with her. Then there’s the riding, which is infinitely more satisfying with a motorcycle.

There’s also the issue of transportation. So far, I’ve driven Zivio anyplace she’s needed to go. She won’t fit in the bed of a pickup truck and that’s probably good news for the truck since she tips the scales at a little over 3,000 pounds. Somewhere along the line, a trailer is going to be needed and I have no place to put that either. At least no convenient place.

I don’t think I’ll be labeled a tractor collector anytime soon, but I do have the nicest John Deere in the city. It’s also probably the only John Deere in the city. I call it our convertible, since I welded up a double-wide seat. We saddle up and take it out for a putt around the neighborhood.

Zivio is in good company and is getting along nicely with my Harley and other bikes. Her 100-inch, two-cylinder engine doesn’t pump out the horsepower of a Harley (just over 18 at the drawbar) and that’s kind of hard to comprehend since it feels like it would pull a house. In fact, I wonder how it moves at all under its own power, but the rhythm of slow revving (1650 rpm redline) is music to my ears and does remind me a little bit of a V-twin, which is more than I can say for the sound of the ice on the windshield when it meets the ice scraper. Still, the car does have a remote starter and spring is just around the corner. Maybe I should be looking for a four-car garage with an attached house…

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