FFA Students Tackle F20 Restoration

Charlie Bortner of McCook, Neb., may only be a teenager, but he has already racked up an impressive portfolio of tractor restoration projects. An active member of FFA and 4-H, Bortner has been collecting antique tractors since 2019 when he inherited two International Super MTAs from his great-great-grandfather.


   “In 2020, after I finished getting those MTAs operational, I put out the word I was looking for a new challenge,” says Bortner. “The President of the McCook Antique Tractor Club at the time told me he had an F20 that he would sell to me. I bought it from him for $800.”


   As he researched the history of different tractors, Bortner stumbled upon a tractor restoration competition for FFA chapters. Deciding the project was too large to tackle alone, Bortner teamed up with his friend and fellow FFA member, Wyatt Meyers. “No one in the history of my family has ever been very mechanically minded, and no one has even attempted to start any type of restoration,” says Bortner. “Wyatt contributed his mechanical experience and helped me with every part of the restoration.”


   The pair began slowly taking apart the F20 and replacing its seals. They started small, removing, repairing, and reinstalling the steering as they went. Some parts were sent out to area experts for extra attention. The process wasn't always smooth. “We found that the clutch was in terrible shape, and we were shocked that it still worked,” says Bortner. “The original manifold used a valve to allow the exhaust gas to warm up the intake gasses before it went into the head. We attempted to free up the valve using different solvents and eventually attempted to use a torch to heat the manifold and break the valve loose. Unfortunately, we couldn’t heat the manifold equally, which led to cracking and forced me to replace it.”


   By the end of 2021, the two had successfully disassembled most of the tractor’s engine, frame, and small parts. Early 2022 saw several more roadblocks, including carburetor problems, a lack of tools, and limited workspace. Eventually, an ag mechanic friend let them use his shop, provided access to tools, and shared recommendations for the restoration.


   The duo’s hard work paid off. Eleven days short of the second anniversary of starting the restoration, Bortner successfully drove the F20 for the first time. A few more weeks of final assembly and touch-ups were needed before the restoration was officially finished on December 10, 2022.


   The project was a rewarding lesson in patience and follow-through for both students. “Throughout this restoration, I learned multiple priceless lessons, including project management, time management, material and money management, and the importance of building and maintaining relationships,” says Bortner. “This restoration also helped me with my college decision to study Agricultural Engineering at the University of Nebraska Lincoln to design and test the next generation of Agricultural Equipment.”


   Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Charlie Bortner (ecbortner@icloud.com).