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Family Tractor Restoration Business Celebrates 50 Years
Joe Joas took a tractor restoration hobby and turned it into a full-time passion that’s lasted 50 years and multiple generations.
It started in 1971 when Joas left his family farm and started an auto body repair shop. He started tinkering around, fixing tractors owned by friends and neighbors. More work kept coming in.
Joas’ son, Mike, also caught the tractor restoration bug. In the mid-1990’s, the father-son team decided they had enough business to refurbish tractors full-time and opened Joe’s Auto Body Tractor in Kiel, Wis.
“By that time, we decided it’s either sink or swim, so let’s go full-time with tractors,” Mike says. “We’ve never looked back.” Since 1995, Mike estimates the business has restored more than 1,000 antique tractors. Some are quite unique, including a 1917 Minneapolis Moline done for Mecum Auctions. What Joas enjoys most is hearing the cherished family history behind each project.
“I did a Farmall A for a guy whose grandpa had done some welding on the drawbar. He told me exactly why he did that and how it happened, and he didn’t want it changed.” Joas says. “Then he had a toolbox mounted on a true 2 by 8 rough-sawed board. Back then, most people would have taken it off and thrown it away, but he wanted that toolbox. He remembered that when he was 10 years old his grandpa had put it on that tractor. So, I had to do some heavy repair work on that box to make it look nice.”
Fond family memories drive Joas’ business. Many of his customers bring in old, rusty, broken-down tractors, hoping Joas can work his magic and save a relic of their youth. He recalls one customer bringing in a Deere 60 to refurbish. After several weeks, she returned, saw Joas’ handiwork, and was moved to tears.
“She said, ‘Oh my, I never thought this tractor would look this nice. I remember it looking like this when Dad bought the tractor when I was a little girl,’” Joas says. “There are a lot of heartwarming stories you hear over the years working on these tractors.”
Depending on the extent of the work, restoration projects take about 6 to 8 weeks. And Joas rarely turns down work. In early August 2022, Joas started restoring a Ford Commander 6000, the first of that brand he’d ever done.
“I call it the ‘spaceship tractor,’” he says. “It’s got out-of-the-box ideas and technology behind it, stuff you normally don’t see on a tractor. The handles to get up inside it are like rock-climbing handles.”
Joas says restoration project costs vary based on the scope of work. “It all depends on what the customer wants,” he says. He advises customers to consider three points when considering a restoration: the tractor’s condition, the parts it will need, and do they want a small tune-up or full-fledged restoration.
Now 78 years old, Joe Joas has slowed down, but he still works on tractors as much as he wants. Mike says his two sons, both in high school, have shown interest in tractors, and his wife handles the company’s bookkeeping. “It’s truly a family business, everybody does their part to keep it going.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Joe’s Auto Body Tractor, 11807 Lax Chapel Road, Kiel, Wis. 53042 (ph 920-894-2134; www.joesautobodytractor.com).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #5