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We Are Beck’s: Clayton Stufflebeam’s Custom Toy Tractor Weathering

Published on Tuesday, February 6, 2018

When Clayton Stufflebeam isn’t working as PFR Location Lead at our new PFR site in El Paso, Illinois, you might find him playing with his toy tractors. In 2013, Clayton picked up the hobby of weathering toy tractors. Weathering is a specialization of customizing these tractors, where the finished product looks like it was just put up after harvest after years of work. The end result is a life-like, and often sentimental, representation of a tractor the way it once was.

Clayton’s clientele often request a specific tractor to be weathered to look exactly like their full-scale tractor, or one they remember from childhood. He has the skills and equipment to go so far as to transform one model of tractor to another, if that model was never released in a 1/16th scale. For example, he can turn a Precision 4690 John Deere into a 4555 or one of several other models by making alterations to the body style and accessories. It takes quite a bit of confidence to tear apart a $300 toy tractor, but Clayton has the skills and tools to put the tractor back together as something even more valuable.

Years ago, Clayton went to a ‘real’ (full-size) tractor show with his dad, where he found a custom 4955 John Deere toy. He had fond memories of riding his dad’s 4955 as a boy and wanted his dad to buy him that toy version. Well, a $500 toy wasn’t in the offing for the young Clayton – no matter how much he plead his case. In 2013, as an adult, Clayton and his wife Melissa went to a toy tractor show in St. Louis where he was particularly impressed by the 4755 John Deere (the little brother to Clayton’s much-coveted 4955). This 4755 was customized by a gentleman named Chuck Steffens. Chuck explained the customization process and how he turned a 4690 into the 4755. Chuck sent Clayton some parts and mentored him as Clayton turned his own Precision 4960 into a 4955. He was hooked.

 


“Looking back, my custom-built 4955 is much nicer than the one that dad could’ve bought me when I was a kid.” 

 

Over time, Clayton has honed the patience and skills to tackle even more complex projects. With experience comes the vision to see the final product before he gets to work. He methodically disassembles, paints, solders brass, and reassembles, all the while using sand blasting, an airbrush, a drill press, and many small hammers all along the way. He adds that you won’t get very far without the use of a good small Phillips head screwdriver.

In the five short years since getting into this hobby, Clayton has built over 90 tractors. He has two favorite projects. The first is a Minneapolis Moline G1000 passed down from his dad. Clayton remembers playing with this toy as a child at his grandpa’s house. The second favorite project is a customized and weathered disk and tractor combination. He made the hoses, jack and hitch pin for the disk.

 

 


“I had to strip this tractor clear down, and had to repaint it. The paint cost $30.00 per can. I changed the wheels and tires, added weights, and custom-made the hand rails and levers out of brass.” -Clayton Stufflebeam

 

Clayton and his dad have restored a full-size John Deere 4020, which he says takes a lot more time than working on a toy. Clayton puts aside his preference for green tractors in his customizing work, and he is willing to work on any color (even orange).

His young son, Oliver, is involved only as an enthusiastic onlooker, but Clayton hopes this is a hobby they can come to share as a family. He says Melissa thought this whole thing was ‘weird’ at first, but has come around. She helps with taping off windows and packing up the finished projects to ship out.

 


Clayton and his son, Oliver, with his custom Minneapolis Moline.

 

Clayton’s enthusiasm has grown as he has more experience in the field, and he has won recognition among others in the hobby. Last winter, he won the St. Louis show where he first met Chuck Steffens and got hooked on restoration. One of his custom tractors is among the collection of the Dyersville, IA National Farm Toy Museum.

Most of his builds are custom orders from clients who find him at a toy tractor show or through his Facebook page: CSWeathering and Customs. Clayton says this of his side business, “One thing I told myself once I went down this rabbit hole, is that my work would be affordable. I am not in this to make money. It supports my own collection and customizing habit, and I truly enjoy the look on a client’s face when the finished toy looks just like their real one.”

 

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Samantha Miller
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Samantha Miller

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