Some used construction equipment runs great, but can end up in a bone yard if it looks more like an old dog than a performer.

A farmer in Mitchell, S.D., is bringing old dogs back to life with a patented paint finish he makes from vegetable oil. "We found a way to change oxidized equipment and reactivate its present surface," says Lynn Odland, president of Dakota AG Innovations.

The alternative to a $3,000 paint job has become the secret weapon of many equipment rental firms, dealers and auctioneers. Companies say they use it to get a 20% gain in resale value.

Others use it for looks. "Most of our machines are left out in the sun all day. This brings a luster back," says Larry Jeppe, purchasing manager at All Erection & Crane Rental Corp., Cleveland.

Since the restorer went on the market in 2002, it attracted enough dealers that Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Ill., slapped on its own private label called Cat Paint Revive. Volvo’s domestic arm in Asheville, N.C., has a similar deal in the works, Odland says.

Magical. Vegetable farmer’s “pigmentless paint” restores faded machines and decals.

ENR tried it out this month and found it most impressive inside the dull engine compartment of a worn-out boom lift. It did a decent job outside, too.

The two-step process takes about three hours. Dakota Prep is a biodegradable concentrate that costs about $71 per gallon. Users apply it with a scouring pad. Dakota Shine is a flammable solution costing about $125 per gallon. It sprays on with a pneumatic paint gun. Because it goes on clear, over-spray is not an issue. It also restores faded highway signs.

The finish, which Odland calls a "pigmentless paint," works best on surfaces without a clear-coat. It’s the basis for other "green" solvents, such as a leather cleaner and biodegradable parts washer.

(Photos by Tudor Hampton for ENR)