by Jon M. Casey
Not too long ago, Bob and Carol Kuhn were planting, growing and harvesting cabbages on their Oxford, NY family farming operation. They were growers for an Upstate New York processing plant. When he wasn’t busy caring for the daily farming activities, Bob worked on equipment, not only his own, but on repairs and maintenance of customers who lived round about them. Bob had a love for restoring old tractors and as a part of his repair business; he earned a reputation for being able to restore old equipment into like-new condition.
In 1998, Bob and Carol made the decision to stop farming and go into equipment repair, working on tractors, on a full time basis.
“Bob has been working on equipment his whole life,” said Carol. “He worked on his grandfather Fred Magrath’s farm, in Oxford, and his Uncle John Magrath’s farm in Georgetown. At the age of 13 he was the one they turned to when tractors or equipment needed repairs.”
“We started with three employees, but now we are up to eight,” she said. “We have four mechanics, Bob, Ken Wiest, Terry Clarkson and Kevin Hicks. We have an e-commerce segment that has served the US and Canada since 2006. Ann-Margaret Simpson manages it. She also oversees our extensive parts department. Kathi Moser helps with online parts sales and office work and she started with us this February.”
“We repair tractors year round, and we restore antique tractors as well. That is a big part of our business. It keeps us busy, mostly in the winter months. Routinely, tractors come in to us in the fall, around September, and we finish them by late Spring. Last year we restored four. They might include restoring the engines, transmissions, rear ends, whatever they need to make them complete. We’ve had as many as eight or nine at one time. Usually, it is for sentimental reasons that their owners want to restore them. They come to us from all over the east.”
“We do pretty much everything here except milling heads and blocks on engines. We core radiators, we rebuild starters and generators, we re-line brake bands and winch brake bands as well. We also re-line gas tanks for both tractors and automobiles. We do a lot of transmissions and hydraulic systems,” she noted. “There are a number of people with only one tractor that come to us for service.”
“Since the downturn in 2008, we’ve made a good comeback to where we were before that,” Carol recalls. “In 2007, we restored 11 tractors and it has gradually increased to upwards of eight tractors per year.”
Interestingly, a local farmer purchased a used John Deere 2520 tractor and is having it refurbished to like new condition in anticipation for daily use on his farm. Instead of purchasing a new one, he purchased a nice used one that he can restore and use every day. “This one won’t be for show. It will go right back to work.”
In Kuhn’s parts and e-commerce department, Ann-Margaret Simpson oversees the parts and customer service which includes not only filling parts orders, it also requires, at times, extensive research in order to locate a part that a customer has requested. Simpson enjoys her work helping customers who need a part to fix a veteran tractor or who are looking for authentic parts for a tractor restoration. She also helps locate parts for students who are working on projects that include tractor maintenance and repair.
“We ship out parts all over the world,” she said. “Farmers are our priority but we strive to give everyone the same prompt service. We have long time customers in California, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida – all over the country.”
When asked if they had had the opportunity to restore any special tractors or something out of the ordinary, Carol recalled one unit in particular. “We had a John Deere BI that was owned by the Village of Ilion, NY. They had it equipped with a snowplow that they used to plow the sidewalks of their town. We restored that for them and they sold it to a museum in Montana. It sold for $105,000.” Bob said that that tractor had a side PTO on it and that there were only seven of those manufactured at the time.
For more information about Kuhn’s Equipment Repair and Tractor Parts, visit their website at www.antiquetractorsrus.com or give them a call at 888-839-5778.