Manheim FFA wins top honors for restored tractor

By on January 23, 2019


A team of students from the Manheim Central FFA won a blue ribbon for restoring a 1947 Massey-Harris Pony for the PA Farm Show. Shown are (front row, left to right) Landon Stoner and Kyle Weaver; (back, l-r) Justin Nissley, Jake Hess, Josiah Heisey, Jacob Snavely, and Matt Ill. (Photo by Kirk Neidermyer)


Members of the Manheim FFA recently received the Group Best of Show and Best Presentation awards at the Pennsylvania Farm Show for their 1947 Massey Harris Pony tractor restoration project.

The competition is sponsored by Lancaster Farming and the Friends of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Foundation.

Manheim FFA member Justin Nissley said his great-grandfather bought the Pony in 1947.

Always one of the farm’s smaller tractors, it was used to pull hay and tobacco wagons, and to rake hay.

When the FFA members got the tractor, it still turned on, but it needed new paint and a major overhaul to the power take-off.

Bent sheet metal needed to be fixed from wear and minor accidents, though Nissley promised he didn’t cause any of the dents.

“My whole life this has been parked, and I never saw it run before, so to get it out of the shed and restore it was really neat,” Nissley said.

Nissley’s teammates were Ben Erk, Seth Forry, Josiah Heisey, Jacob Hess, Matt Ill, Jacob Snavely, Landon Stoner and Kyle Weaver.

They spent 130 hours on the project, starting in earnest last summer.

The youths did all the work themselves except for removing the old paint.

This team of students from the Manheim Central FFA won a blue ribbon for restoring a 1947 Massey-Harris Pony for the PA Farm Show. They are (left to right) Justin Nissley; Ben Erk; Matt Ill; Jonathan Werning, Ag Mechanics teacher; Jacob Snavely; Josiah Heisey; Jake Hess; Kyle Weaver; and Landon Stoner. (Two photos courtesy of MCHS)

“Sandblasting lead paint in a school we didn’t think was a good idea,” Nissley said.

Unfortunately, the company they hired took longer than expected to do the work. That left the team scrambling late in the game.

Restoring the tractor to its original paint colors was another challenge.

Nissley had to track down the 70-year-old paint numbers from a current Massey dealer and then find a paint shop that could mix them.

Judges Landis Zimmerman and Ray Kauffman expected the tractors to be operational, but they also looked for period-correct details, from the paint colors down to the hose clamps.

“The projects just are phenomenal,” Fred Strathmeyer, a deputy state ag secretary, said at the Jan. 12 awards ceremony.

Videos showed the students learning to be good communicators as well as mechanics, said Steve Seeber, editor of Lancaster Farming.

“You used history, you used humor, you used music, and you used your own endearing personalities to take us on the journey of bringing these old tractors back to the glory that they originally had,” Seeber said.

Seeber also announced that the tractor competition will return for a fourth year at the 2020 Farm Show.

What next?

The Nissleys will probably enter the now-shiny tractor in some shows and the Manheim parade, and they plan to keep it in good shape for future generations.

He plans to become the eighth generation to operate his family farm, so the mechanical skills he learned will come in handy.

He is well aware, though, that the Pony is much simpler than the high-tech tractors on new-equipment lots today.

“It was an experience I won’t ever forget,” he said.

Philip Gruber is the news editor at Lancaster Farming. This is a truncated version of a longer story that appeared in that publication. Phil can be contacted at

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