The North Bend Eagle


Tractor rebuild
Sandy Vosler of Vosler's Rustorations checks on some final touchups on the body of Dick Cody's 1940 Alliss Chalmers WC.

New life for the family tractor:
Family of Dick Cody sees that his restoration of his grandfather's tractor is finished

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/17/16

Some family heirlooms are made of gold or silver or china.

Some are made from two tons of steel and rubber.

Dick Cody dreamed of restoring his grandfather’s 1940 Alliss-Chalmers WC tractor. It was going to be his retirement project as he dove into the world of tractor restoration.

Unfortunately, Cody passed away in 2012 at the age of 63, leaving his grandfather’s tractor torn apart in his shop between Morse Bluff and Linwood.
Now, his surviving family is making sure that Dick’s project gets finished.

“He was really into it,” Dick’s son Jim Cody said. “I know that’s what he wanted to do with retirement, but he didn’t get to do that. It will be neat to see it be all done.”

Just getting the tractor back into family hands is an interesting story.

Dick’s grandfather James Cody bought tractor brand new. It became the workhorse on his farm outside Council Bluffs in Mills County, Iowa. It even had an attachment to convert the tractor into a two-row corn picker. It has hand brakes and no power steering.

“Can you imagine having to steer this thing all day long?” said Sandy Volser, who is doing the restoration. “Every dirt clod, every bump you hit would be ripping at your arms. It’d be a rough ride. A real rough ride.”

Once, an early freeze hit and cracked the engine block. It was welded shut and that tractor kept on working.

The tractor stayed in the Cody family until it was sold at a farm auction in 1998.
In 2009, Dick and his wife Sharon Cody were visiting Dick’s father in a Council Bluffs nursing home. Since they were in the neighborhood, they decided to swing by the old Cody farmstead.

As they were headed out of town, something caught Dick’s eye. Among some other rusting hunks of metal in a yard was a Alliss-Chalmbers WC.

“Boy, that looks like grandpa’s tractor,” Dick said.

They stopped to take a closer look. It did look like James Cody’s tractor. A lot like it.

Then he saw it. There on the engine block was a crack sealed up by a weld.

“Yeah, this is it,” Cody said.

Sharon Cody said it was pretty amazing to stumble upon the tractor on a random street in Council Bluffs, sitting there like a lawn ornament.

“It was purely by chance,” Sharon Cody said.

Dick found the owner, agreed upon a price and the 1940 WC was back in the Cody family.

He had big plans to restore the tractor as a retirement project. He found and bought a 1946 WC for parts. Someday he wanted to buy the corn picking attachment.

“He was going to put a corn picker on it, just like how he remembered it,” Sharon Cody said, “because it impressed him. But we didn’t get that far.”

Dick was so excited for the project that he finally couldn’t wait for retirement. In 2011 he pulled the motor and had Dave Hull, then working at Johnson Farm Equipment in North Bend, rebuilt it.

Normally a cracked engine block would be replaced. Not this time. If not for the weld, they might not have identified the tractor as once belonging to James Cody.

“Dick wanted to preserve that weld because it meant something,” Sharon Cody said. “It was part of family history. This motor still has that weld as it was when it froze.”

It was around that time Dick was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away in January 2012, right around the time the engine rebuild was completed.

The restoration project came to a halt.

“There really wasn’t a plan,” Sharon Cody said. “We had gotten the motor redone and it was brought back here and everything was just sitting in the shop. It sat there for, well, more than four years.”

When the family decided to seek out a professional tractor restorer, they didn’t have to look far.

Morse Bluff native Sandy Vosler does exactly that as part of his business, Vosler’s Rustorations. He has done tractor restorations for people from South America, Australia and all over the United States.

“It’s a dying profession, I would say,” Vosler said. “There’s a ton of people that will fix them or patch them up, but there’s not many people out there who will take them down to the nuts and bolts and put them back together. I just saw a niche market for it.”

Though he was backlogged for six months, Vosler made time for the Cody project over the past couple of weeks.

“(Sharon) spoke with me and when she talks about it, you can see there’s a lot of passion and a lot of feeling into what we’re doing here,” Vosler said. “I didn’t want to make her wait. It’s a fun project, and you know there’s a whole lot more meaning than just going to sit in a barn somewhere. It’s a family heirloom.”

Vosler, 30, started by taking the tractor apart and soaking it in a chemical wash for four days to get rid of all the packed-in grease.

“It was a tractor that has been used since day one,” Vosler said, “and I don’t think it’s ever been washed since day one.”

Though he has the 1946 tractor Dick Cody bought for parts, Vosler hasn’t used many parts from it. He found that the ‘46 had been previously restored and many parts weren’t original.

Except for new tires, Vosler said the restored 1940 tractor will be 99 percent original.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “A lot of times the parts are robbed or scalped and you have to buy parts online, but this is pretty darn original.”

The tractor body has been painted the original bright orange – officially Persian orange No. 1 – with just a pinch of gold mixed in to make it pop in the sunlight. Vosler estimated that he will have it all put back together some time this week.

Jim Cody, who was just a few years ahead of Vosler at NBC, is looking forward to seeing the final product. His children will be the fifth Cody generation to ride the tractor.

“Not that I do much with farming any more, but it will be nice to have it,” Jim Cody said. “If a tractor ride ever comes up it would be fun to do it, or drive it through a parade some day. It’ll be sweet when it’s all done.”


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