By Robb Murray
---- — At a place where horsepower and paint jobs are like status symbols, Jim Killion's garden tractor is ... unique.
"I used to be into cars," the Mankato man said. "Then I started this thing."
This "thing" is a 1972 Ford Garden Tractor. But it's a long, long way from the way it looked, felt or operated when it left the factory. Killion has tricked it out to a such a degree that it's something of a sideshow at car shows or tractor shows, like the one he attended at Sibley Park Sunday.
The show was the inaugural attempt by the local Sons of the American Legion branch. They hope to make it an annual show. The group raises money for the families of veterans. Each year similar groups around the state and nation hold fundraisers to help families of veterans.
But back to Killion's tractor.
He picked it up in 2006 at the Auto Restorers Car Show and Swap meet in St. Peter. He took a look at the fat rear Firestone tires the previous owner put on it and got an idea.
"I just though I'd run with that idea," Killion said.
He tore the engine out and installed one from a 1971 Ford Pinto. He removed the side panels that would normally hide the engine so everything inside is displayed for all to see. He found a pair of muffler pipes off a Harley Davidson, and installed them to point to the sky. He moved the gas tank, too. Now the gas gets poured into a pony keg mounted on the front, just above a sign that reads, "Bad to the Bone."
It may look bad to the bone, but it still only goes a factory-ensured maximum of 6.5 mph. It's also missing a seat. Killion says he lost it on the way home from a tractor show. He said he forgot to properly fasten it down, and now the best he can figure is it's somewhere between Hastings and Mankato.
Just down the row a bit from Killion were Doug Zahnow and his wife, Mary Lichtenberg, who also came to the show in an unusual ride.
They are one of 13 owners in the state — as far as they know — of an unusual three-wheeled motorcycle made by a company called Renegade.
Unlike most three-wheeled motorcycles, the Renegade Trike has an enclosure that keep the elements off the driver or, in this couple's case, driver and rider.
They say they used to have a regular three-wheeled motorcycle, but switched to this one because they can sit side by side in the cab comfortably. They can even bring along their dog.
The Renegade also has a rather roomy trunk.
"It'll hold three bodies and parts," Zahnow joked.
Car show organizer Dave Krueger said he was hoping for 100 cars for the inaugural year of the event. He said he got the idea for a car show because he's a classic car fan himself. His ride of choice? A 1965 Impala convertible.
He said they got the word out about their car show by going to other car shows and handing out fliers and talking to car owners. They also ran radio ads all week and had the show mentioned in the local newspaper.
As a member of the Sons of the American Legion, he said he pitched the idea of a car show to the membership and everyone agreed it was a good idea. They also agreed Krueger should be the one to run it.
"Sons of the American Legion is on of the best organizations I've ever been a part of," he said. "We're here to assist our veterans in any way we can."