Lutz shares passion for pedal tractor and car restoration

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Mary and Larry Lutz stand by one of the many John Deere pedal tractors Larry meticulously restored. The couple's children and grandchildren have spoken for the remaining collection. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Preserving the past is important; it connects us to specific times, places and events that were significant milestones in our collective past, restoring long forgotten memories. 

We are fortunate our ancestors hung on to sturdy relics from their past that were no longer useful to them. Thanks to their foresight, our generation can pick up these stored treasures, from backyards, basements, machine sheds, garages, and storage units, enabling us to take them apart and put them back together fully restored.  

Hobbyist Larry Lutz has dedicated a portion of his adult life to the restoration of 1/16-scale model toy tractors, pedal tractors and pedal cars.

Guttenberg transplants Mary and Larry Lutz, originally from Van Horne, were proprietors of a property and casualty insurance agency. The couple has two daughters and three grandchildren. 

The Lutzes, who enjoy living in Guttenberg, are no strangers to the area. In the beginning, the  couple rented an apartment on weekends, graduated to home ownership, and eventually retired and built the expansive home they currently reside in, overlooking the Mississippi River Valley. 

Larry commented, "I was a bit of a boat nut. I bought myself a boat, then I needed a place to float it."

"Guttenberg was about a two-hour drive from our home in Van Horne. It was a great escape! Sometimes we just needed to, 'Get out of Dodge,'" Mary said with a chuckle.

What started out as a weekend hobby quickly became a full-time obsession. 

Larry shared the inspiration for his extensive collection. "I remembered as a child playing in the sandbox with a 1/16-scale tractor. I hadn't thought about it for years until a similar one caught my eye," he said. 

Lutz purchased the tractor and began the process of restoring it to its former state. 

Larry told The Press, "When I first became involved with my hobby, I worked on 1/16-scale models only. I enjoyed the process of taking them apart, locating replacement parts, hand-sanding, applying shiny coats of paint, re-assembling them, and applying the appropriate decals to authenticate the piece."

Lutz continued to seek out other scale-model tractors in need of restoration and slowly added them to his collection. "As I aged, my vision became weaker. I had to resort to trifocals to see where I was going during the hand-sanding process. It was at that time I decided to make the leap, and start restoring pedal tractors and pedal cars," he commented.  

Lutz purchased his first pedal tractor at an auction. After that he kept his eyes open, and began to seek out discarded pedal tractors and cars that had been left to ruin in machine sheds, barns, backyards and garages. 

"I always preferred to conduct business the old-fashioned way, face-to-face, at the kitchen table.  I found a lot of pedal tractors and pedal cars that I eventually purchased and restored while visiting clients in their homes," he said

The process for restoring a larger model is the same as the smaller toy models. 

Lutz explained, "When I began restoring the larger toys I hired someone to sandblast and paint the parts. I still disassembled the piece, ordered the parts and put it all back together. Once you get a feel for the bolt and axles, it comes together pretty easy." 

Lutz has restored a combined total of 151, 1/16-scale model pedal tractors and pedal cars. Lutz has made the decision to pass his collection on to other enthusiasts. His children and grandchildren have each chosen their favorite. Yoder Auction Service of Kalona has picked up the rest of his collection. The auction house will catalog the collection, create a descriptive color booklet for interested buyers and auction it off on Saturday, July 20, at 9 a.m. at the Yoder Auction Service located at 2016 500th St. S.W., Kalona. 

"I had fun. It was a good hobby," Larry said with a bittersweet smile.

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