Dennis David grew up fixing things. “I don’t remember ever buying a new bicycle,” he said. “I would just use parts to put one together.”
That interest in tinkering with things as a youngster, he said, led to a love of anything involving “wheels, wings and water — anything with an engine, anything tech-related.”
Today, his basement is usually filled with various works in progress. But he stressed that he completes the projects he begins.
“Fixing and working on things is my hobby,” he said. “It’s my ideal day. It’s a challenge if it hasn’t been running for 30 years.”
David, a technology teacher at Shelton Intermediate School (SIS), has just published his fifth book. “Compact Tractors: An Illustrated Guide and History” is an in-depth look at the growing popularity of small tractors in America.
He also writes regularly on automobiles for publications, especially for antique car enthusiast magazines and websites.
Small tractors came to U.S. in ’70s
A publisher contacted him with the idea of writing a book on compact tractors about a year-and-a-half ago. “It’s a very narrow focus,” David said.
He wasn’t an expert on tractors, but soon became one from his research.
While small tractors had long been used in farming and construction, Japanese manufacturers introduced the so-called modern compact tractor to the United States in the 1970s.
Today, many well-known American companies — John Deere and International Harvester, among others— make similar models. “There’s a huge market,” said David, with more than one million a year being sold.
Can now cost up to $35,000
Compact tractors started as simple, austere machines, but now come with power-steering, cruise control and even cupholders, according to David. They cost from $18,000 to $35,000.
David spent about a year putting together the book, which came out in early May and is sold at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other locations. He may do a book signing at Midwest tractor show this summer.
He has owned a compact tractor for many years to complete work around his own yard, from tree removal to snow-plowing. “Compact tractors will push snow like you wouldn’t believe,” David said.
Authored four other books
His previous books looked at an iconic American toy company (“Tonka”), big cars of the 1950s (“Fifties Fins”), and a unique U.S. car company (“DeSoto Automobiles”). He also has authored a how-to book (“How to Restore Classic Toy Cars, Trucks, Tractors & Airplanes”).
David’s research has taken him many interesting places. For the “Tonka” book, he traveled to Minnesota, where the toy company is located.
“I consider writing to be fun,” he said. “I try to instill that in my students, who have to write tech reports for me.”
Has many roles in the automotive field
His involvement in the automotive field goes beyond his journalism endeavors.
A member of the Society of Automotive Historians, David writes auction catalog descriptions for antique car dealers and serves as an authority and judge of fine automobiles at several Concours events, including the one in Greenwich.
He owns an assortment of older cars — including a 1967 Mustang, 1963 Chrysler and 1991 Camaro (jointly with his son). Through the years, David has restored many cars as well as motorcycles and snowmobiles. He’s also owned a few boats.
His favorite type of car? “Rolls Royce,” he said, noting the legendary British car company had a plant in Springfield, Mass., from 1921 to 1932.
Advice: ‘Try a lot of things’
Before becoming a teacher, David drove a tractor-trailer for a major shipping company for two decades. He’s also taught at a driving school.
“I believe we should do a lot of things,” he said. “I’m always telling my students they should try a lot of things.”
He has a master’s degree and now has worked at SIS for 11 years.
Technology is everywhere
David said there is more technology in things than most people realize. “There’s a lot of technology in how a pencil is made,” he said.
Laureen Fadiman, who is in the eighth grade at SIS, said David is a good teacher. “He makes classes interesting, so it’s fun. But he’s also demanding,” she said.
David and his wife Susan live in Thomaston and have one adult son, Christopher. His wife is a medical transcriptionist and helps him with proofreading. Their son shares a love of cars with his father.