“When I was about 10 years old, my grandpa and me worked on a tractor, a 1939 Ford 9N. That was the first one that I actually got to restore and I just fell in love with restoring tractors,” Shelby Nichols said. That was the beginning of a hobby for her that continues to this day.
Sammy Nichols, Shelby’s grandfather, actually began by restoring old pick-up trucks, beginning with his own grandfather’s 1959 Chevrolet.
When asked how or why he began working on tractors he simply reported that tractors were less expensive.
“We enjoy bonding, doing things together, going to the shows,” Sammy explained about his passion for old vehicles. “But, the main thing is to hear them run.”
“Last year, I actually decided to start showing them [tractors] through the school,” stated Shelby Nichols. “I restored the Allis-Chalmers G 1948.”
Not only did Nichols earn first place and a blue ribbon for the Allis-Chalmers, she received another blue ribbon for her 1941 John Deere LA at the Fort Worth show in January.
“I like being able to work with my family. It gives you a bond,” Nichols said. “Me and my dad have become really close because of it.”
“She likes to pick unique tractors,” Damon Nichols, Shelby’s father, commented.
“I like the ones that I restore,” Nichols responded when asked which tractors were her favorite.
The most recent restoration, the John Deere taken to Fort Worth, will be shown at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo March 16-18.
“We keep it because we actually take them to Christmas parades,” Nichols replied when asked what would happen to the tractor after the Houston show. “We go to all kinds of little shows just around us because I’m in two tractor clubs.”
Since tractor restoration tends to be a family affair, it wasn’t surprising to find that the next oldest sibling, 13-year-old Abby, likes to help her older sister. The youngest siblings are 7-year-old twins, Lily and Gracey.
“All of them love to ride or drive,” dad said. “We actually restored two small tractors so they could ride on them in the parades. They are two of the rarest tractors around here. They are the Pennsylvania Panzer and Suburban. They look like our riding lawn mowers now, but they are actually 1940 model tractors. They were the first garden tractors.”
Nichols works on her tractors whenever she has free time, which can be problematic in the fall.
“During football season, that’s the hardest for me,” Nichols reported. “Sometimes with band, twirl, and volleyball it’s all crazy. I had to take off a month or two from working on my tractor.”
Nichols is quite involved in Arp High School and other activities despite the amount of time she devotes to her machines. She enjoys being a majorette, playing volleyball and basketball and hunting. Nichols even reported killing her first doe this past season. She also likes riding four-wheelers and spending time with family and friends.
“I want to open up a restoration shop and keep it going as a side thing,” Nichols stated of her long-term goals, though she plans to become a large animal veterinarian. “As a large [animal] vet, you’re on call so they don’t need you all the time.”
Currently, however, when it comes to showing her tractors, Nichols must pay her own way, though she reports the school gives what money it can.
“Our school is very supportive of letting her participate, but they don’t have the funds,” her father said. “The superintendent and her ag teacher have been supportive as far as getting her signed up and helping us get registered.”
“I was actually the only girl when I went to Fort Worth,” Nichols stated. “People are surprised a girl did it.”
“At first it bothered me,” Damon Nichols confessed about people’s negative remarks about his daughter, “but she holds her own. She’s very confident. She’s very outgoing. I love seeing it when she proves somebody wrong. They said a little girl couldn’t do it, but she did.”
“I’m very proud,” stated Sammy Nichols. “She’s done a wonderful job.”