This Massachusetts man’s large collection of small tractors is the talk of the town.
As kids, my brothers and sister and I loved my dad’s 1978 Sears GT/18 tractor. We helped Dad by picking up leaves and loading them into the trailer, mowing the grass and snowblowing. I loved that tractor because you could pop wheelies with it when you dropped the clutch. Dad had that one for years, until 2005, when he bought a brand-new garden tractor. He gave the old Sears to my brother Timothy, but he didn’t use it much. I got the GT/18 in 2009, and I started repairing it. The main issues were that the carburetor wouldn’t always pump fuel, and the nose cone was broken. I added an electric pump to the tractor, and later went looking for a replacement motor. First, I bought a 1974 Sears SS/16 for $100. But it was in poor shape, so I traded that one for a 1977 Sears 18/6. I used that for plowing until its frame broke, and then dropped the 18/6’s motor into the GT/18. I did fix up the 18/6 as well. By then, all the work had ignited my passion for restoring garden tractors. I spend time every day on Craigslist or eBay looking for deals. When I find one for a good price—or that has parts I need—I buy it to fix and keep, or to sell off parts I don’t need. I have owned just about every model of Sears tractor, including a Craftsman with a factory front-end loader. Now, I have 19 complete tractors, many of them customized with small diesel engines, exhaust stacks, agricultural tires and attachments. As the collection has grown, people around here often try to buy tractors from me or sell them to me. The tractors that Sears manufactured in the years between 1965 and 1979 are high quality; that’s why I collect them. I hope to build tractors for both of my kids. Emma, 7, wants a pink and white one, and Jake, 4, asks for a blue and white model. So it looks as if my fascination with tractor restoration will continue into the next generation.
THE 19 GARDEN TRACTORS IN James Barrette’s Massachusetts garage (right) show a fascination that began with his father’s 1978 Sears GT/18. The fleet includes a Sears Suburban 12 that James has decked out with dually tires in the back and an exhaust stack.