Back When: Delmer Meyer’s 1949 Oliver 99

“Just fixing old equipment and making them run again,” is the answer you get when you ask Delmer Meyer of Concordia, Kansas what he likes most about antique tractors. This man that calls Rust Road home is the owner of 12 antique tractors in addition to this 1949 Oliver 99.

In November of 2009, Delmer saw the 99 in an Internet ad. The tractor was located in Jenks, Oklahoma, over 370 miles away from Delmer's home in Concordia. He contacted the owner, Geneva Lewis, who filled him in on what she knew about the 99. It seemed to be a sound investment–the tractor was complete, the engine was locked up, and the tin needed little more than paint.

Feeling it was worth the gamble, Delmer and his friend Jim Workman set out to further examine the 99. On December 1, 2009, they left Concordia in the early morning and headed for Jenks, Oklahoma. By this time Delmer was fairly sure he was going to purchase the tractor, so he drove his Freightliner semi and drop deck trailer. Not knowing what they would encounter, Delmer took along his International Harvester 806 loader tractor for some power.  It had been snowing, and they ran into freezing rain by the time they got to Geneva’s residence.

The tires on the 99 were flat, but, to their surprise, all of them took air. The plan was to use the International to pull the 99 onto the trailer. He pulled the semi up close to the tractor and hooked the International to the 99. The freezing rain had made the trailer bed slick, rendering the International powerless to move the big 99. They made several attempts before finally giving up and hired a wrecker to wench it onto the trailer. Cold and wet, they headed home.

The snow continued as they headed home and went on for a considerable time afterward, preventing Delmer from unloading the tractor. It remained on the trailer until mid-January before it could be unloaded. At last he got it into the shop and began the restoration.

The 99 was as Geneva told him–the tin was in good condition and the engine was frozen. The hood, side covers, gas tank, and radiator were removed, allowing full access to the engine. Delmer and his hired man, Jack Snavley, worked for over a week to remove the head before it came off.

Cylinders two and three were the worst; they took several weeks of being soaked in kerosene, pounding and jacking to free their pistons. Once the pistons were removed, the cylinders could be assessed. Both cylinders two and three were cracked and broken with no way to salvage them. Machinist Sam Henry located some stock and made new cylinders, and a friend, Larry Schuler, installed new pistons. Delmer and Jack put the rest of the engine together.

On March 26, 2010, the 99 was started for the first time in years. All went pretty smooth. Parts were sand blasted, cleaned, and primed. While the tractor was apart, Delmer decided to paint all the pieces separately. The parts then were reassembled, and all new tires were put on. Everything looked great. It didn’t take long to realize he had painted the tractor the wrong color.

Oliver had changed the shade of green they painted certain models over the years. It was Delmar’s bad luck to get the wrong shade for the year of his tractor. There was only one thing to do–take it apart and repaint!

Delmer said he is lucky to live where he has access to many local resources for rebuilding and machining broken parts. He is especially grateful for all the friends and businesses that pitched in with a helping hand when needed. All totaled, the restoration took five months and $8,500 to complete.