November 28, 2020

Homegrown Hot Rod: Gene Brass Unleashes the Power of Imagination

Gene Brass

Gene Brass of Buffalo Center and his grandson, Braden Ortman, have fun with this John Deere hot rod.

What do you get when you mix up an assortment of John Deere tractor parts, a powerful 283 c.i. V8 engine, and a lot of style? A one-of-a-kind John Deere street rod that never fails to wow the crowd.

“There’s no kit for this and no pictures to follow,” said Gene Brass, who built this head-turning ride at his farm near Buffalo Center. “It’s all just imagination.”

It’s also a passion for Brass, a gearhead who loves tinkering with machines when he’s not busy farming. This former auto mechanic spent two years building his two-seater John Deere street rod, which can hit 80 miles per hour with no problem.

“You get parts where you can,” said Brass, noted the rig includes a 283 cubic inch V8 Chevrolet engine with an Edelbrock intake, a Holley 550 carburetor, and a John Deere 4230 air filter. Built on a bucket t-style frame, the street rod’s cab came from a farm just down the road from Brass’s place, while the hood originated from a 6400 John Deere tractor in Rock Valley. Then there are the unexpected additions, like a Harley-Davidson brake pedal and a planter box on the back.

Gene Brass hot rod“I’d thought about adding a plow in the back, but it was too heavy,” said Brass, whose big ideas match his big personality and zest for life. “The planter box was lighter and also offers a little storage.”

That’s handy when Brass and his 14-year-old grandson, Braden Ortman, head to car shows from Sioux  Falls, SD, to Monticello, IA. Sometimes Brass puts his custom John Deere on a trailer, but other times he drives the street-legal rig, which includes an eight-gallon fuel tank and boasts a “JD PWR” vanity plate.

“People give me a thumbs-up when I’m driving it,” noted Brass, who has earned eight trophies at seven car shows across the Midwest.

The street rod could even be for sale if the price is right, said Brass, who admits that creating his unique ride was challenging at times. Getting the steering mechanism at just the right angle was tricky, and Brass said he would shorten the frame if he had to do it all over again.

Gene Brass hot rod“As I was building it, sometimes I’d try something that didn’t work, and I’d have to start all over, but I didn’t give up. That’s the nature of a lifelong tinkerer like me who likes to streamline things.”

Building the next big thing Brass has already started on another project—an old Dodge that’s “two steps higher than a rat rod,” as he says. This distinctive custom features a 400-horsepower, 383 stroker engine and is already on track to become quite an attention-getter.

“I totally enjoy working in my shop and making something that’s just a little different. My goal is to make people smile.”


Gene Brass hot rod







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