By DOUG GRAVES
EATON, Ohio — He restored a side panel for the antique tractor he was working on. Ten years later, that small chore turned into a thriving business.
“I was restoring an old Hart-Parr 70 back in 1980 and it needed side panels,” said Richard Lynch, of Eaton. “A friend loaned me the matching side panels to his tractor and I found someone who could stamp it.
“I thought then that if I had trouble finding side panels, maybe others had the same difficulty. I found there was a need for these, as the pieces were oftentimes removed and then lost or damaged for some reason.
“I made some extra panels and took them to a Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors Association show, and they were sold before the end of the weekend. The decision was made to expand and make a wider variety of sheet metal. I had to teach myself do to the tooling and die work in order to keep tooling costs down,” he explained.
What started as a small one-day task has turned into a full-time business. Once specializing in just side panels, now he refurbishes tractors, bulldozers, discs, plows and more, including motors and small machine bolts.
From one-bottom plows used in the 1920s to 11-bottom plows from the 1970s, Lynch has had his refurbishing hands on just about anything relating to antique farm machinery, though he specializes in just side panels.
Richard and his wife, Peggy, tend to 800 acres in Preble County. They and their sons, Ron and David, raise food-grade soybeans and corn. Several barns on the premises once housed the equipment used to plant and harvest the corn and soybeans. Today those structures house the 41 vintage Oliver tractors.
“I’m not a mechanic by trade, I’m a farmer,” Lynch said.
“Yeah, but a farmer has to be able to know a little bit about everything,” Peggy added.
By 1990 his business (Lynch Farms Tractor Parts) was off and running. Lynch purchased a mill at auction and got busy. He then started making and reworking his own dies, often making dies that made louvers. One die, he says, cost $10,000 in order to make a tractor hood.
To this day he specializes in the refurbishing of Oliver tractors between 1935 and the mid-1960s. “I guess I always had a thing for tractors,” he said. “As a small kid I played in a sandbox and played with toy tractors, Perhaps that’s why I also have a toy tractor collection.”
Lynch’s business sells reproduction sheet metal for Olivers, his main focus being the Fleetline era (66, 77, 88) and its super era counterparts. He also covers most of the 3-digit model tractors, the older styled 60/70 sheet metal and Hart-Parr Oliver 70 side panels.
“I decided to stick with Olivers because that’s what I knew the most about, but then I can be talked into working with other tractor brands,” he said, adding his father used Hart-Parr and Olivers on the farm for years.
“The first tractor my dad ever let me drive by myself was a Super 55, so I guess you could say it’s in my blood. I really got into this business because I wanted to see other collectors be able to finish their projects, and have the projects look as good as they possibly can.”
His favorite item to sell is the front louvered side panels for the old-style 88. “Oliver didn’t make very many of those tractors, and yet we sell at least four or five sets a year,” he said. “The old-style 88 is such a rare tractor it sometimes makes me wonder if Oliver went back in production on just the old-style 88.”
And the demand for these tractor parts? “It’s more than I ever dreamed,” Lynch said. “During the fall and spring the requests for tractor parts is light, and by mid-summer sales are decent. In the wintertime it’s a nightmare because everybody wants them. This is a lot of time and commitment.”
Lynch hones his refurbishing skills by attending tractor shows in Florida, California, Missouri, South Dakota and Minnesota.
“We’re still expanding this side panel business,” he said. “If something doesn’t fit on your tractor we are always more than willing to work with our customers to make sure that it does. We know that some of the tractors we sell parts for are more than 70 years old, and a lot can change in 70 years. We’re in this for the collectors and attempt to preserve a little bit of history.”
For more information about Lynch Farms Tractor Parts, go to www.lynchfarmstractorparts.com or call 855-847-5900.