When Plant Operations Supervisor Dallas Mercer looks at a tractor, he sees more than a farm vehicle. For Dallas, tractors represent fellowship and family. He grew up using tractors to farm his family’s property in Excelsior Springs where he still lives. He learned about tractors and how to restore them from his father, Ramon. It’s a skill he has passed down to his son, Chris, and hopes to share with his grandsons, Noah and Aiden.
Dallas and his father started restoring tractors over 20 years ago. Their first project was a 1953 Golden Jubilee. The duo liked the challenge and started restoring all models of tractors: Ford, Allis Chalmers, John Deere and others.
Ford produced only 2,500 in the 1950s with the goal of promoting their new Select-O-Speed transmission to dealers nationwide.
One of Dallas’ prized tractors is his grandfather’s 1956 Ford 960, which is waiting for restoration. Dallas used it to learn how to farm. “Future generations won’t have the opportunity to use these tractors in the fields like I did because farming is a lost art. Telling these stories and showing how the tractors work are the only way I have to pass on what was passed to me,” Dallas said.
Dallas refers to himself as a restorer because he maintains a tractor’s authenticity. His expertise and experience allows him to do all the restoration work from tear down to making parts to painting. He has 14 tractors “sitting in the weeds” waiting to be fixed.
Over the years, Dallas always enjoyed sharing what he created with others. His wife, Laura, who is a supervisor in Food and Nutrition Services, and children, Chris, and Stephanie, would join Dallas and Ramon, and visit tractor shows throughout the country. Tractors restored by the Mercer family traveled to Michigan, Tennessee, Illinois and Indiana.
Paying It Forward
Dallas has used his passion for tractors and restoration to help others. For Tractors for Daily Bread, he helped restore two 8N Ford tractors that were donated to residents living in Zimbabwe for farming projects, a step forward in the country’s fight against poverty and hunger. While each restorer had his own role, Dallas was responsible for the mechanics. He removed every nut and bolt and rebuilt the tractors from the front hubs to the drive shafts.
In 1917, Henry Ford began making tractors to do exactly that – improve people’s lives. Ford tractors were the first to be mass produced and made affordable for everyday farmers and rural people. Over the years, Ford tractors have allowed millions of people to produce food and improve their standard of living.
Of the more than 100 tractors Dallas has restored, some stand out. There’s the tractor powered by a 1966 Mustang car engine; one that was converted from gas to propane (a rarity); and one treasured for its sentimental value, a 1948 8N Ford restored by all three Mercers. “This tractor will always be special because my father, son and I all worked on it,” Dallas said.
Rusty tractor before restoration and new tractor after restoration before traveling to Zimbabwe.
He hopes to get back to restoring tractors in the future. For now, he’s helping his son, Chris, with his hobby, car racing. Dallas is now part of the pit crew that keeps Chris’ car running.
Dallas’ pit crew position hasn’t diminished his love for restoration. “I drive down the road and see a tractor sitting in the weeds and I think, ‘That poor thing needs my help,’” Dallas laughed. “Collecting and showing tractors have taught me a lot over the years. And the family fellowship has been wonderful.”