From the rumbling milk can mufflers to the horseshoe brake pedal to the 1947 manure spreader wood box body, this car is a rare breed.
The rolling farm artifact show/Chevy hot rod hybrid had curious and chuckling onlookers lined up around the unique attraction at the Hastings Car Show this month.
The motorized manure spreader was concocted by a retired machine maintenance man who grew up on the dairy farm where he still lives south of Hastings. Bruce Bauer, 59, is a vo-tech- and self-taught car buff who loves to reuse old tractor parts and farm equipment.
The open-air, David Bradley manure spreader box sits on a 1993 Chevrolet S-10 chassis with a V-8 engine that can easily cruise at 65 miles an hour. The hard-to-label roadster was licensed in May as a "homemade" vehicle by the state Vehicle Services Division. It passed a 23-point checklist of the Minnesota Street Rod Association and is certified as road-worthy, said inspector Jimmy Michels, association safety director. The spreader has good brakes, lights, seat belts and a wiper on the safety glass windshield, he noted.
"That is a one-of-a-kind," Michels said. "He's in a category all his own."
Bauer's friend Rob Stevens was there when the farm-themed hot rod idea began percolating.
"He and his brother [antique lover Steve Bauer] picked up a manure spreader and thought it was too good to scrap out," said Stevens, an avid car show fan and retired Ford service manager. He said Bauer started by stripping off the body of an old Chevy chassis before Christmas. Then he asked four street rod pals to take a gander and ponder his idea of adding a manure spreader body and a lot of other farm hardware.
"I thought, 'You gotta be nuts to do all that work,' but it sure turned out," said Stevens. "It's quite a head-turner. ... It's a rat rod: a hot rod without the glossy paint finish."
The hoodless, roofless rat rod sat outside Bauer's pole barn on a blue-sky morning last week. It was topped by a distinctly dairy engine ornament: a cow milker suction tank top that serves as the air filter lid. Bauer reused a vintage Singer sewing machine treadle as his oversized accelerator pedal and recycled horseshoes as his door hinges and side-mirror frames. The wooden wagon has iron front seats from old tractors and two toilet seats screwed to a wooden box for rear seats with steel backs that once were sewing machine side legs.
"I get a lot of crap about it," Bauer admitted with a wry grin. "I like to make my own stuff. I always wanted a convertible with hideaway [head]lights. So how can I make my own without spending $35,000 for a Corvette?" (He used two John Deere corn planter boxes with sliding lids to conceal his halogen headlights.)
Bauer also spends a lot of time helping restore buildings and antiques at the nearby Little Log House Pioneer Village, which is owned by Steve Bauer. He collected manure spreader parts from the village and his own rusty stock of farm gear.
Steve Bauer, 62, said the rat rod incorporates more than a century of farm technology: from a two-horse wagon yoke, to a water-pump-handle arm rest to the suction milker cups engine ornament. "Everything he put on there, people normally would scrap," he said.
Bruce Bauer got his first job about age 16 while serving a week's suspension imposed after a schoolyard scrap at Red Wing High School.
"The next day I got a job at a gas station and I never went back," he recalled. He worked on cars several years at the full-service station and took a technical school night class on alternator repairs.
Then the Farmer's Union Co-op hired him to bag feed. Soon Bauer was mixing feed protein additives and using equipment to pelletize the product. The co-op was bought by Land O'Lakes and, after more vo-tech classes, he spent 20 years there maintaining big machines until retiring in 2006.
Cecelia Bauer said her husband is very creative and that, when he sets his mind on a project, it happens. "He can get all these parts to come together and everything works. It's amazing what he can do."
Unlike her granddaughters, Cecelia, who shuns the limelight, isn't enamored with riding in a manure wagon that attracts endless gawkers who snap cell phone pictures.
"The whole connotation of riding in a manure spreader wasn't appealing to me," she confessed.
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283