For a few hours on Saturday, a patch of secluded Johns Island forest rumbled and perfumed with the scent of exhaust fumes.

Thirty minutes and a world away from congested downtown Charleston, the Charleston Antique Tractor and Engine Society held its annual tractor show, where more than 50 tractors either sat on display or growled on patrol.

The event offered up a slice of low-key country life, the opportunity for the show's roughly 300 attendees to set up chairs and coolers under shade and watch the bustle. And it gave tractor owners a chance to show their subdued enthusiasm for restoring retired farming machinery -- a farm boy's twist to the more widespread hobby of fixing up cars.

Some tractors straddled the line between antique and, well ... dilapidated. Relics were propped up on a trailers among a handful of classic cars and displays of outdated farm equipment.

They ranged in color from mustard yellow to fire engine red to signature John Deere green.

Entertainment was sporadic and simple. A few times each hour a tractor driver would test his machine's power by hooking it to a trailer loaded with a certain weight, allowing it to be tested for "class." The driver would rev the engine and take off down a muddy track, aiming to cross the field's regulation length of 300 feet.

At one point, the tractors organized for an impromptu parade. Drivers -- mostly older men clad in T-shirts and blue jeans -- perched atop the vehicles, staring straight ahead in stoic pride.

Ron Meek of Johns Island had the bumpiest ride in the line-up, perched atop a 1928 John Deere "D" tractor that sputtered and shook.

Unlike newer models with cushy rubber tires, this tractor still had its original steel wheels, which farmers used to attach spikes to for traction in the field. Meek covered the yellow steel with a thin strip of tire tread to protect it.

"It's about keeping the old stuff alive," said Meek, society president.

Andy Jordan of Awendaw proudly stood by his 1949 Ford 8N tractor, claiming it to be the only model in the country with a Mustang engine.

"Did you put that engine in?" said one attendee who noticed the machine had been tinkered with.

"Sure did," Jordan replied.

"You bolt it in?" the observer said.

"Ain't nothing about this engine was bolted. Everything in here is handmade," Jordan said, flipping up the top.

Reach Katy Stech at 937-5549 or