‘Restoring old stuff is kind of fun’
Everyone needs a hobby or something creative to do in their spare time.
Ron Nelson of rural Blooming Prairie is attracted to the restoration business. "It's kind of fun to restore something to its original state," he says.
Nelson, former Owatonna city utilities employee, definitely is one who doesn't sit idly waiting for someone to tell him what to do in retirement.
Nelson, who recently reached the age 70 milestone, has been one of my favorite human interest subjects in the past. So, it is understandable that I would write about him in my weekly column.
I first got wind of Nelson's reactivity when he asked me at a Servicemen's Club function in Blooming Prairie if I would be interested in doing a story on his farm machinery restoration business.
I set up an appointment immediately to interview Nelson at his shop, located on their property about five miles northwest of Blooming Prairie.
I love doing human-interest type stories about residents of Steele, Dodge, Mower and Freeborn counties.
Most of his restoration has been devoted to farm tractors. His business name is Ron Nelson Restoration.
Nelson closed one chapter in his restoration business when he did his 100th tractor, this one for Bea Concannon.
Switching from tractors to automobiles, Nelson busily worked on restoring a 1956 Oldsmobile. He said he is waiting on the upholstery to be finished and then he will be able to enjoy the beautiful red and white vehicle.
After finishing the Olds, Nelson challenged himself to start on a project for his uncle Victor Fisher, 93. Fisher lives a short distance from Ron and his wife Diane.
His newest project has been working on Fisher's 1932 Chevrolet, four-door sedan Deluxe. The car is now owned by Fisher's son Danny.
Nelson said the 1932 vehicle had been stored for years in a shed.
When Nelson finishes his part of restoring the 1932 Chev, Danny plans to take the vehicle back to North Dakota where a friend of his will do the tin work on the sedan.
Nelson is currently in the process of working on the wooden frame and also in lifting the motor and transmission from the antique car. "I have to get the frame cleaned up and then put the transmission and motor in place." He says the car's body is in good shape and has no rust.
Nelson said uncle Victor told him that he "kind of abused" the old car when he used it on the farm years ago. He hauled calves in the sedan that he treated like a truck, said Nelson. Fisher also said he ran the car on used oil.
Looking back on the car's history, Nelson said he believes his uncle purchased the car from a Severson. Joe Klecker was the first owner of the car, Nelson believes. When the car was removed from active usage, it turned over 72,000 miles.
Fisher spends lots of time visiting with Nelson in his shop. "He was here for over 2 1/2 hours the other day; someone is always coming into our yard," Nelson says.
In doing his restoration of farm equipment and old cars, Nelson spends hours in his shop. He reorders parts and also paints the old implements and old cars. "I have a farm paint shop not a body shop paint shop," Nelson remarked.
Oldsmobile and Chevrolet projects, Nelson said, were good winter projects. Wife Diane, seeing an end to Nelson's projects, tells him: "You had better stop spending $500 a month (on parts)."
Nelson is very proud of his restoration work and immediately points to his father-in-law's 1950 Ford F-1.
Another hobby of Nelson's is nurturing his farm garden. He has a huge garden that produces fruits and vegetables in large quantities. He has already started plants from seeds in his shop.
He has tomato plants a foot tall and pepper plants eight inches in height.
Diane cans much of the food coming from Ron's gardens. She says she did 80 quarts of sauces from the food products.
What's Ron's next project, other than getting ready for spring garden planting?
Smiling widely, Nelson only acknowledges there may be projects to come.
Restoration expert Ron Nelson, left, is shown with uncle Victor Fisher, 93, the owner of a 1932 Chevrolet sedan. Nelson is helping restore the vehicle for Fisher's son Danny.