Big Buds from South Dakota!

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For now, this pair of Big Buds lives northwest of Sioux Falls. They go home to new owners on June 21, 2021!

See the details on these Buds!

Big tractors are cool in and of themselves. A Big Bud, though? That’s cooler than most. A pair of ’em? AWESOME. These big farm tractors were built for one purpose, and one purpose only. To be worked to death!

And as of this writing…I don’t think anybody’s ever been able to kill one from working it too hard, either. There’ve been a few that been destroyed by fire, and one got hit by a train, but that’s about it. (If anybody knows more about the one that was hit by the train, holler at me. I want to hear the story!)

Go Big (Bud) or go home…

In the early sixties, a guy named Willie Hensler owned a pretty successful Wagner dealership out in Havre, MT (pronounced “hay-ver”, by the way). They sold and serviced a lot of the big yellow tractors that farmed the great wide open spaces. Life was great!

Then Wagner signed a deal with Deere on December 31, 1968, and that changed everything.

That contract, although it was only for 100 tractors, effectively killed Wagner’s business. The fine print of the contract stated that they couldn’t build their two most popular models, the WA-14 and WA-17 – nor could they launch anything new – until five years after they’d finished building the green ones for Deere. At the time, Wagner was struggling, and they did what they needed to do to keep the lights on. In the end, though, that deal with Deere put them out of business. The Deere-branded Wagners didn’t sell well in the heartland, and the contract wasn’t renewed.

In turn, that also put the brakes on Hensler’s dealership. No new tractors = no new sales. Suddenly, Willie had to figure out what to do. Without sales revenue, they weren’t going to be around for very long. Relying on service dollars wasn’t a good strategy, either.

Hensler wasn’t about to give up, though; one aspect of their service included re-powering Wagners in the area, and that was very successful. Thanks to “Big Bud” Nelson, the dealership service manager, they’d become known as the go-to guys if a farmer’s tractor didn’t have enough oomph for the field. After a bit of strategy in 1969, Willie Hensler and Bud Nelson formed the Northern Manufacturing Company. The goal? Build the ultimate Wagner. Repower them, overbuild the heck out of them, and sell ’em to Montana farmers.

The HN-250

The first model they built was the Big Bud HN-250. A “super-Wagner” if you will. It had a lot of Wagner parts in it, but the powerplant was a big 855 Cummins with a 12-speed Fuller transmission. Rated at 250 engine horsepower and tipping the scales at 34,000 pounds, this was a serious tractor!

Not bad for two guys and a welder, huh?

(Side note: My good friend Sherry Schaefer, editor of Heritage Iron magazine, had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Bud Nelson back in 2008. How cool would it have been to be a fly on the wall for that conversation? There’s a very good story in Heritage Iron’s issue #66 about Northern Manufacturing Co. and the HN-250 where she recaps a few of the stories from her chat with Nelson. For six bucks, it’s well worth picking up the back issue while they still have ’em!)

It didn’t take long for word to get out that there was a new player on the big tractor market, either. For the next few years, Northern Manufacturing turned out a dozen or so tractors a year. Big Buds were almost cartoonishly overbuilt, easy to work on, and used off the shelf parts that weren’t hard to get. Farmers had figured out that Willie & Bud were on to something; no wonder they never had an issue selling them!

Innovation through simplicity…

Perhaps the best innovation the company ever came up with was the flip-top cab. By essentially putting the cab on big hinges, a farmer could tilt the cab out of the way to maintain the engine or the driveline. That may not seem like much, but with gargantuan tractors, anything you can do to make it easier to maintain things is a big bonus. Later models would put those flip-top cabs on hydraulics, making it even easier!

Turning the page…

By the mid-70s, the company was doing pretty well, but Willie Hensler and Bud Nelson were getting older and wanted to slow down a little. Fortunately for them, Ron Harmon, a successful businessman in the area was there to buy the company in 1977. He continued the work that they’d started – and expanded it quite a bit. He knew there were more buyers out there, and over the next few years, he sold Big Buds to customers all over the globe!

1978 was a banner year for the company. That was the year that the Rossi brothers, big cotton growers from Bakersfield, CA, called Ron and told him they needed a tractor. The result? The 16V-747…the biggest farm tractor on the planet. It’s 27 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 14′ tall, and tips the scales at well over 100,000 pounds! It’s truly a monster! The Rossi brothers took the 760-horse tractor home and used it for 11 years or so for deep ripping in Bakersfield. It eventually ended up going back home to Montana to live on a great big farm owned by the Williams brothers, where it’s still earning its keep today!

There she is…the biggest, baddest farm tractor ever built. (This is an old photo. Last year, she got new shoes from Titan Tire, right here in Des Moines!)

The company stayed true to the original plan, too. They continued to trickle out massively overbuilt tractors that were easy to work on up until 1991. It wasn’t always an easy road; the last 8-10 years of Big Bud’s existence were plagued with financial issues caused by some transmission issues from way back in the late 70s. The downfall part is a story for another day, though.

The South Dakota Big Buds that you can bid on…

Big Bud 400/30
The smaller of the two Big Buds – the 400/30, is powered by a 400-horse 2-stroke Detroit. Click the photo to see the details and more photos!                                                       *Earplugs and Advil sold separately.

These two Big Buds – a 400/30 and a 525/50 – live on a great big farm of their own in Miller, SD (about 3 hours northwest of Sioux Falls). For many years, both of these big fellas were the primary workhorses for Darrell Wangsness’s row crop operation.

Big Bud 525/50 farm tractor
Here’s the bigger Bud – the 525/50. 1150 cubes of Cummins-powered goodness under the hood, making about 525 horse! It’s a beast, I tell ya! Click the photo to see the Tractor Zoom listing and more photos!

Darrell passed away in February of this year, so some of the details on these tractors aren’t real clear. I called Clay Keck (Dacotah Diamond Auctions), the auctioneer handling the estate auction for the Wangsness family this morning, though, and we did piece together a few details on each tractor.

Both tractors were completely overhauled (mechanically) about 15 years ago, but they’ve been sitting for about 4 years. That said, they’ve only got about 2-300 hours on ’em since, so they weren’t used much after the overhauls. They both fired up and ran/drove without issues. Still, it’d be a good idea to go through the belts, hoses, and anything else made of rubber to make sure it doesn’t need to be replaced. Clay did tell me that Darrell had over $60K in the rebuild of the 1150 Cummins in the 525/50! (That’s not surprising…it’s not cheap to overhaul KTA1150s! The two biggest complaints about those big Cummins motors is that they’re thirsty, and they’re spendy to work on!)

The 525/50 is the cleaner tractor of the two, but I’d say that they’ve both weathered the last 40+ years better than lots of other tractors I’ve written about!

Wrapping up…

Between 1969-1991, a total of 516 Big Buds left the factory in Havre, MT. And, with the exception of a few that were destroyed in fires and the one that got hit by a train, the majority of them are still working today! They’re virtually indestructible. That’s what happens when you build a tractor out of 1″ plate steel. You can’t hardly kill ’em. If the engine dies, you put some money into it and get it going again, and life continues!

Still, they don’t change hands very often, and there aren’t many to go around. The 525 was the most popular of the bunch, but they still only made 150 of them! The last one that crossed the auction block was an Ohio tractor, and that one sold for $78,100 back in February 2020. It wasn’t quite as clean, but it did have better service records. I’d imagine this one in South Dakota will probably come reasonably close to that price. My guess is that it’ll go to an internet bidder in North Dakota, Montana, or Idaho (or possibly Canada, if the border opens up soon).

As for the 400/30…your guess is as good as mine. I did some digging earlier and I don’t think I’ve ever seen records of a 400/30 changing hands at an auction – not within the last 10 or 15 years, anyway! I don’t want to even hazard a guess as to what that’ll sell for!

Honestly, these tractors have a somewhat limited market. To use one of these big guys properly, you really have to have big acres and use great big tillage equipment. That’s why a lot of these tractors end up heading home to the great wide when they change hands. Still, while the bidder pool is a little smaller, that doesn’t mean they won’t fight over ’em!

It’ll be fun to watch these Big Buds sell on Monday!

A Gold Demo, a hay maker, and two ACs walk into a bar…

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A demonstrator, a haymaker, and two ACs walk into a bar…(stop me if you’ve heard this one) – Click the photo to check out this week’s Interesting Iron!

Check out this week’s Interesting Iron!

Back when I started this blog a year or two ago, I used to pick three (or more) interesting tractors to write about. Over time, I moved to a one-tractor column. However, if the past few weeks are any indication, I might end up going back to that 3-piece format! Our TZ auctioneers are listing all sorts of neat stuff these days! It’s tough to choose a single tractor lately!

So this week, it’s three (or four, or nine, depending on how you look at it) neat tractors. A Gold Demo 826 from Michigan, a hay maker from Minnesota, and seven weird-lookin’ orange ones from New York and Kentucky! Let’s get to it!

The Michigan Demonstrator: 1970 Farmall 826

Sykora 826 Demo
Back in 1970, when a farmer bought a Farmall Gold Demo, the dealership repainted it before delivery (which is what IH wanted). Such was the case with this little 826! Click the link to see the auction details on this one!

In 1970, Harvester’s marketing department rolled out the Gold Demonstrator promo to help push sales of the 544, 656, 826, 1026, and 1456. A handful of each model were painted with gold paint (IH Truck Gold Metallic 4357, if you’re playing along at home) and shipped to dealers nationwide. During the promo, those tractors worked in fields all across the country, convincing farmers to upgrade machines.

After the promo, dealerships sold the tractors as demo units. The lion’s share of them were repainted after being sold (as was the case with this one). However, if the buyer liked the gold paint, some dealerships would forego the paint job. The folks in Melrose Park frowned on it, but it did happen from time to time.

Sykora 826 Demo Hood
One of the telltale signs that a tractor is a Gold Demo is original IH Truck Gold Metallic 4357 paint on the underside of the hood. When dealerships repainted these tractors, the underside usually didn’t get re-sprayed.

This one lives up near Alpena, MI pretty close to Lake Huron. Our friends at Sykora Auction Services are handling this Saturday’s sale. It’s part of a pretty good-sized red collection!

Original Gold Demos are rare finds these days; they don’t show up very often. If you’re looking at one, make sure it’s the real deal! Look for IH 4357 gold paint on the underside of the hood and a black operator’s console. If you find those, check the serial number and make sure it’s a ’70. If you can check off those boxes, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a Gold Demo. I’ve looked this one over pretty carefully, and based on the photos, I think it’s legit.

Weird-lookin’ ACs in New York & Kentucky

Goodrich Allis G
This parade-ready AC Model G sells at a Goodrich consignment sale this Saturday! Click the photo to see the listing!

The Allis Chalmers G is a neat little tractor in my book. They’re not super-rare, as AC churned out about 30,000 of them between 1948-1955, but they’re quite unique. The G is light (1300 pounds, give or take), so most of the weight was hung over the rear wheels so it wouldn’t lose traction.

Allis sold the G as sort of an all in one system, and offered a whole slew of row crop implements for them – everything from tillage to planters! They were held in place by a couple of wedge pins, so implements could be changed in about five minutes. Handy for small operations!

Gilliam Allis G
This little guy, along with his five brothers and sisters, sell at a Kentucky farm equipment auction on Saturday! They’re still in their working clothes, too! Click the photo to see the sale bill!

These little guys turned out to be REALLY popular on veggie farms back in the day, and you’ll still find farmers using them today! One of the ones on Wally Gilliam’s sale even has a 16′ boom sprayer mounted on the back!

Overall, these are still useful tractors that are easy to work on. Parts are still available for the 10-horse Continental L-head engine, as well as the gearbox (from a Model B). They’re usually fairly cheap to buy, too; I’d be shocked if these sold for more than a couple thousand bucks apiece.

I’ve got a buddy in Louisville who makes the greatest pickles on the planet, and one of these tractors would be PERFECT for his operation! Oddly enough, the auction is being held this Saturday in Louisville…

Jeremy, if you’re reading this…click here and BUY ONE!

The Minnesota Hay Maker: IH 986

Maring 986
This super-clean 986 sells at a Matt Maring auction next Saturday, June 18! Click the photo to take a look at the auction details and see a lot more photos!

The 986 was a bread and butter tractor for IH in the late 70s. They turned out over 20,000 of these workhorses between 1976-1981. It was the biggest of the naturally-aspirated models, squeezing 117 horse out of the 436 inch inline six. They were quite popular in the midwest as do-it-all tractors – especially with hay farmers.

Such is the case with this one. The owner was a die-hard red guy, and it was a big horse on his farm. He took very good care of it, too. I talked to one of Matt Maring’s guys about it yesterday, and while they couldn’t say that the 2458 hours were original, it’s a strong runner, and clean as a whistle inside and out!

I know most of these columns I write focus on rare tractors or oddballs, but that’s not the only criteria I use to find Interesting Iron. Interesting Iron also includes stuff like this 986…a clean farm tractor that’s been treated well. It won’t set any crazy auction price records, but it’ll bring good money when the hammer falls next weekend. There’ll ALWAYS be a strong market for tractors of any age when their owners take good care of them.

So, what’s the takeaway? Always take good care of your stuff. Maintain it properly. Treat it right, and it’ll treat you right when you trade it in or sell it!

Interesting iron selling next week!

There’s a bunch of interesting iron crossing the block over the next week. At the end of the day, I couldn’t pick just one, so we’re going to look at three of my favorites! Two orange ones in Kansas, and also a beautiful red one in Iowa!

1965 Allis Chalmers 616 Cotton Picker

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It’s pretty rare to find an Allis Chalmers 616 Cotton Picker! This one lives in Kansas until next Tuesday, when it goes to a new owner! Click the photo to see the details and a bunch of photos!

If’n I had to guess, I’ll bet at least half of you had no idea that AC made a cotton picker! (And full disclosure…I didn’t either until a week or two ago when Mark Sullivan and I were talking about this auction!)

During the sixties, there were essentially four major players in the cotton harvesting market; International Harvester, John Deere, John Rust/Ben Pearson, and Allis Chalmers. Plenty of other farm equipment companies had pickers and strippers, but those four were the big players. The only one that had a unique design was IH; the rest licensed designs and technology from John Rust/Ben Pearson (including AC).

John Rust developed the first mechanical cotton harvester in the 30s. When he started building them, life in the Delta changed forever. In the mid-40s, Allis Chalmers licensed the designs and started building them in Gadsden, AL.

What you see here is one of the later models. It’s a two-row picker, and it essentially mounts on a D19 turned around backwards, with a D17 rear end. Very unique!

Evidently, these are fairly scarce. I talked to Josh VanTuyl, the farmer who owns it, and he tells me that it’s a 1965 model. Allis only built 30 of ’em that year, and this one is number 25. He bought it from the original owner in Arkansas, and he suspects that it never actually picked very much cotton back in its working years. It had always been barn-kept, and it’s as original as the day is long! All original paint and everything! The toolbox even came with some NOS spindles and parts!

It sells at Josh & Rick VanTuyl’s sale on June 8 in Kansas, hosted by our friends at Sullivan Auctioneers. With five days left on the sale, bidding is at $1200, but who knows where it’ll go? It’s definitely a piece of Interesting Iron in my book!

1965 Farmall 1206

Farmall 1206 Copy
This beautiful 1965 Farmall 1206 is the 87th one ever built! Nicely restored, too! It sells on June 9, 2021 in Pocahontas, IA! Click the photo to see the details!

The 1206 is an Interesting Iron certified icon, plain and simple. Generally, they bring good money in any shape (even the ones in rough shape go for more than you’d think). This one, however, is not rough. Not at all! It’s ready to turn some heads at the next tractor show!

Furthermore, this Farmall has an early serial number, which adds to the desirability. According to the serial number, it’s the 87th one built!

The team at Sale Barn Realty & Auction will send this beauty home with a new owner on June 9th. This has to be one of the biggest sales Rick’s held in quite a while – the lot is absolutely packed!

1969 Allis Chalmers Two Twenty

VanTuyl DSC 1910 Copy
This first-year Allis Chalmers Two Twenty is one of 934 built in 1969. Sullivan Auctioneers will sell it at a Kansas Allis collector’s auction on June 8, 2021! Click the photo to get the details!

This Two Twenty is another one on Rick & Josh VanTuyl’s sale in Kansas next week. The Two Twenty was the big horse row crop tractor in AC’s lineup for 1969. Allis rated it at 151 engine horsepower, and Nebraska-tested at about 136 horse at the PTO shaft. The factory in West Allis, WI only turned out 1865 of ’em during the production run, and this one sits right at about the halfway point.

It’s pretty much all-original, too. Josh told me that he’s the second owner, and he bought it from a farmer who didn’t have a barn to keep it in. It had a Hiniker cab on it, hence the difference in color. Josh pulled the cab off of it and sourced some original open station fenders for it. He used it for a little field work now and then, but it was always more of a toy than anything. “That one was my baby,” he said. If I had to guess, this will be the one that’s the toughest for him to let go of.

Mechanically, this tractor is rock-solid. Routine maintenance was never missed, and if it needed anything, it always got it. The motor is very healthy, too; Josh had it on a dyno not too long ago and it pulled 175 without even breathing heavy!

If you’re looking for a really solid example of Allis muscle right now, you’ll have to look pretty hard to find a better one than this Two Twenty. They say they’re only original once, and that’s the case with this tractor, too. All-original paint, and only 5248 original hours on a pretty stout 426! As far as I’m concerned, that’s Interesting Iron certified all day long!

I’d be pretty surprised if this didn’t get close to $20K or maybe even a little above. It’s sitting at $8750 right now, but with five days left, it’s bound to keep climbing!

An IH Black Stripe 766 with a 37-year paper trail! (UPDATED 6/8/21)

IH Black Stripe 766
This Nebraska IH Black Stripe 766 has a tremendously detailed service history! It sells at an auction on June 6!

See the details on this tractor.

The 766 was the smallest of the big-frame 66-series tractors, and it was also the one that Harvester made the fewest of. It wasn’t a bad seller, though. It was – and still is – a popular tractor. The one you see here is a 1976 model.

Sizewise, the 766 is pretty much the same as all of its bigger brothers. At a distance, you’d have a hard time telling a 766 from a 1066. Basically, there are only two distinguishing features between them. A 766’s wheelbase was 2″ shorter and sold with 18.4-34s (a 1066 came with 18.4-38s).

(I suppose if we’re getting really nitpicky, you can see more of the fan shroud on a 766 because the engine is a little shorter than a 414/436/466 in the bigger tractors. But I digress…)

Pick your flavor

The 766 was the only tractor in the series that had a gas or diesel option. Actually, for 1971, the gas engine was the only one available. From 1972-1975, farmers could choose between the two. Ultimately, the gasser was phased out after 1975.

IH Black Stripe 766
In November 1975, the familiar red & white design was replaced by the iconic “Black Stripe” design. (This one is legit, but owners have been cloning them ever since.)

The gas version was a 291 cubic inch naturally aspirated inline six. It made good power, but man alive, that thing was thirsty! Definitely not for the faint of wallet! However, the one major advantage that the gas engine had was that it would start anywhere…it was good for cold climates. It never needed to be plugged in! -10º and you needed to do chores? Bundle up, turn the key, and go get ’em done.

The diesel version of the 766 got a 360 cubic inch naturally aspirated inline six. It made about 85 horse give or take, and like many of the other engines influenced by Harvester’s German engineering team, it was a tough little sucker. In fact, I believe International still uses a turbocharged version of it in school buses today! They’re great motors that can handle a lot of abuse. They’ve even been turned into alcohol-burning monsters in pulling tractors. There’s a guy I go pulling with from Missouri who has a single engine mod with one of those little motors in it and he must be pushing 1500+ horsepower with it! So yeah…they’re pretty tough little things!

Plowboy Express
Pro Tip: If you run a single-engine mod and Danny Metcalf shows up at your pull…he’s going to make you work for the win. This thing is BONKERS!

Regionally popular at the time…

When I said that the 766 was a popular tractor, I probably need to qualify that. Let’s say that it was regionally popular. There were lots of places where you’d be hard pressed to find a single 7, but every other barn in the county has a 10 or a 14. Usually, those places were heavy on corn and soybean production. On the other hand, you wouldn’t have to look too hard to find one on a Wisconsin dairy farm. I know these are pretty popular in western New York and PA where there’s a lot of dairy, too. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if this one ends up going to one of those states, in fact.

That is…if it doesn’t go to a collector, which it very well could.

The one you can bid on…

IH Black Stripe 766
After 37 years of service, it’s time for this one to go to a new owner! Click the photo for the details!

Russ Moravec, one of our longtime Tractor Zoom auction partners from Nebraska, is handling this retirement auction. We were talking about on the phone a few hours ago, and he told me that he’d gotten a lot of calls on it already. I wasn’t surprised to hear this – there’s some really nice older machinery on this sale!

I suspect that this tractor is going to garner a LOT of attention. Let’s face it: any IH Black Stripe is desirable, and the smallest “big” tractor in the series has its own share of desirability too. It’s a legit Black Stripe, and in fact, it’s a fairly late serial number as well (17336 – the final 766 was 18319).

This particular tractor lives in Schuyler, NE, about an hour and change northwest of Omaha, and is owned by Milo Jedlicka. I called him earlier this afternoon to chat for a few minutes about it. He’s the second owner of the tractor. He bought it from Victors Equipment in Fremont, NE on June 20, 1984, and it’s lived a pretty easy life since then. Milo is a small farmer, and for him, small equipment is the practical choice. Believe it or not, that 766 was his big horse for a while! Recently, it’s served him well as a loader tractor (the loader will sell separately, I believe).

The Paper Trail…

In addition to farming with the tractor, Milo is trained as a diesel mechanic, and has always worked on his own equipment. “It’s never been to the dealership since I bought it, other than once or twice for some warranty work,” he told me. Furthermore, Milo kept a detailed log book of all the maintenance on the tractor (as he has with nearly every piece of equipment on the sale). Every fluid change, every filter change, every major service. It’s all in a notebook that’ll go with the tractor.

IH Black Stripe 766 Maintenance Log
Milo Jedlicka kept a detailed maintenance log for every tractor on the farm. Here’s the first page of the 766’s record. (It’ll sell with the tractor.)

The hour meter shows about 2800 hours, but Milo thinks that the tach may have been changed prior to coming home to the Jedlicka farm in 1984. He never was able to confirm that. However, based on the condition of the motor when he got it (you can see that he noted a major overhaul), he suspects that the tractor may have closer to 5000 hours on it.

Honestly, though, I wouldn’t worry about that. A tractor that’s been on a family farm like Milo’s where it’s been maintained and documented like that? I don’t get the feeling that you’re going to find any surprises with a tractor like that, y’know?

What’s it worth?

At the end of the day, probably a fair bit more than you might think.

This one has a lot going for it.

    • Detailed maintenance records. That’ll add a LOT of value.
    • Relatively low hours for its age.
    • IH Black Stripe tractors (all models) have been faked for years. This one is legit.
    • 766s are sought-after.
    • Cosmetically, it’s in good shape. The tin is in great shape – nice and straight. I’ll bet you’d be surprised how good that paint could look if somebody spent some time working it over.
    • Corn and soybeans are doing unbelievably well right now, which means that farmers may be looking to upgrade/add machinery. A 766 would be a pretty major upgrade for a tired 560 auger tractor. It’d be dynamite with a 6′ mower on the back during the summers, too!
    • Lastly (and this probably ties back to the last point), dealers are having a hard time getting inventory of any size right now. While it might not have some of the creature comforts of late-model tractors, the fact is…it’s available and it’s mechanically sound. There are definitely buyers out there that’d pay a thousand or two more just for the fact that it’s available!

Taking all of those things into consideration, and after looking at our Iron Comps database for a bit, I think it might take $15K or more to take it home! That might sound crazy, but a legit IH Black Stripe is desirable and the market is hot right now!

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with this tractor!

See the details on this tractor.

See the full list of farm equipment on the sale.

Update: This one’s a record-setter, folks!

SOLD24500
Well that escalated quickly…

Boy, was I wrong when I said that it’d take $15K to take this one home! Congrats to Russ Moravec and his team for an utterly amazing sale! They set the bar pretty darn high for mid-sized tractors like this one! They beat the previous record like it owed ’em money! $7000 higher than any other 766 that’s ever rolled across an auction block in at least 20 years…maybe more!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There’ll ALWAYS be a strong market for clean, well-maintained farm equipment.

Find out what YOUR farm equipment is worth here…

Farm Credit Makes a Digital Transformation with Iron Comps

Compeer Financial Blog Header Image Small

An open mind, industry knowledge, and a commitment to excellence are driving innovation at Compeer Financial

Mike Morris, VP of Appraisal for Compeer Financial, is well-known in farm appraiser circles in the Midwest, and within the Farm Credit System. He was recently named to the IL Society of Professional Farm Managers & Rural Appraisers hall of fame and currently serves on the Real Estate Appraisal Administration and Disciplinary Board for the State of Illinois . He also spent 10 years on the board (serving one term as president) of the IL Coalition of Appraisal Professionals, too. At first glance, his accolades could make people think he’s an industry vet sitting at a big desk behind a sign saying “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Will the real Mike Morris please stand up?

The real Mike Morris? He’s an industry innovator.

In 2017, 1st Farm Credit Services, AgStar Financial Services, and Badgerland Financial united as Compeer Financial. Mike was tasked to lead Compeer’s appraisal efforts. His mission? Develop innovative solutions to do better for their clients – American farmers.

“In Compeer’s pursuit to provide the best possible service to our farmers, we knew we had to be continually looking to improve and innovate. One of the first challenges that I had running the real estate and chattel appraisal groups was, ‘How do we tap into this massive source of data throughout the Midwest?’”

Through their own research, Compeer learned that their appraisers knew the local market well. However, it wasn’t efficient to go very far outside of their area to gather data.  Furthermore, once they did get the data, it came from so many sources that it took a tremendous amount of time to standardize and analyze it all. At the end of the day, they needed a consistent, standardized data source that wasn’t specific to one auction. They needed a bigger picture – one that they didn’t need to develop themselves.

“We knew there was a lot of data out there. We just weren’t as comprehensive as we needed to be. [There are] several regional sources that are really good, but nobody was aggregating it.”

It was in this search for the solution that Mike’s deep industry knowledge was key. He understood that standardized data was the key to his team’s success, especially data that can be sorted by time and location.

“It was essential to have a single source that aggregated the data to use in our farm equipment evaluations. In the past, if someone went into a website on a Monday and got information for a specific tractor or combine, then someone went out a month later, that data might be completely different. Coming from a real estate background, my bias is toward having actual market data.”

The Search

Compeer put out a request to potential vendors asking them to aggregate all this massive amount of data, organize it, and bring it back in. It had to be robust, accurate, and transparent.

“Compeer didn’t really want a black box answer – i.e., push a button to get a value. We were already really good at [getting that value] ourselves. We needed a way to put the data in our own hands efficiently and then let our trained chattel appraisers make the determination of the final value using that data.”

Mike learned long ago that innovation is everywhere, not just in The Silicon Valley. To that end, he intentionally reaches out to progressive companies who push the boundaries of what is possible.

That’s where he met us.

“We met Mike through a mutual friend who was also in the Ag-Tech space who knew he was forward-thinking and always looking for better solutions to age-old problems,” stated Jeremy Hewitt VP of Sales at Tractor Zoom and Iron Comps.

Mike’s drive for innovation did not stop with finding a partner. He was very clear in his expectations of the scope of work. That set the bar not only for his internal team, but also for us, too. People who love their work will typically rise to meet a worthy challenge – and for us, this was definitely worthy.

“We really challenged the Iron Comp team to make enhancements along the way. Things that help us do our jobs better and to innovate in the future. Iron Comps has been very responsive to our requests. They work closely with our team to make changes and improvements. Some of them even happen in real time!”

The Results

Two of the biggest ongoing benefits of Mike’s approach are access to robust data and massive time-savings. “Our travel evaluators spent countless hours finding, analyzing, and putting data into spreadsheets to make it useful. I would say they probably spent as much as 40 or 50% of their time on that process! What Iron Comps has allowed us to do is push that process back to [Iron Comps]. Instead of following up on every individual auction, we can validate that data internally. We can confidently say, ‘Yes, the data you are getting matches what we see out in the country.’ Ultimately, Iron Comps has saved our team a ton of research time. Finally, my team can really focus on what they are very good at! Furthermore, they’ve got 40-50% more time to devote to it, too!”

“Iron Comps has also helped us standardize our data set compared to where we were before. An appraiser in Illinois might’ve used a different set of data than say someone in Minnesota or Wisconsin. Now they all have access to the same, larger set of data. It’s so much more robust and comprehensive compared to what we dealt with before.”

From where we’re sitting, an open mind to new partners, deep industry knowledge, and die-hard devotion to high standards made all the difference in the world to this project – both for us as well as the team at Compeer Financial. Furthermore, it allows them to focus on what they do best – continually doing better for their farmers! While this is reason enough to invest in Iron Comps and its capabilities, they’re just getting started. There’s lots more innovation on the horizon!

The Custom Job: The John Deere 320S Southern Special

John Deere 320V
John Deere only built 48 320S Southern Specials like this one! It sells at a Wisconsin collector auction on May 24, 2021! Click the pic to see the auction details and a bunch more photos of this rare little Deere!

See the details on this John Deere 320S Southern Special!

When John Deere released the 20-series tractors, they knew that they’d pushed the two-banger platform just about as far as they could. By the mid-50s, the two-cylinder powerplant was close to 40 years old, and it had gotten more and more archaic as farming modernized. The 20- and especially the 30-series were basically stop-gap measures to buy enough time to finish the New Generation tractors.

(Two-cylinder folks, don’t sharpen the pitchforks and light the torches yet…I promise, I’ve got just as much love for them as you do! We owned at least 4 of ’em and they were exactly what we needed in my family’s apple orchards back home in Michigan! I’d give anything to find one of ’em and buy it back!)

For 1956, the plan was to upgrade small farmers with an M or a 40 to a 420 in 1956. The 420 was a slightly upgraded 40 with more of everything; power, options…and pricetag. Overall, that plan worked out pretty well, but it wasn’t for everybody. For farmers who wanted a cheap, no-frills tractor, that didn’t sit well.

Deere’s answer for these farmers was pretty simple and fairly effective. They kept the Dubuque Works crankin’ out 40s, but rebadged them as the 320! Same 101 ci motor, same transmission, and two basic models; the low-slung Utility, and the Standard. It was a good solution, too. For farmers who couldn’t justify the cost of a 420 (or who didn’t need the increased capabilities), the 320 fit the bill really well. The 320S was far and away the best seller in the line, outselling the 320U by two to one.

The 320S Southern Special

However, there was a little-known third variant. The 320S Southern Special (AKA the 320V in some collector circles). It was a high-clearance build-to-order tractor primarily for vegetable farmers in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. John Deere never officially recognized the tractor as its own version, instead referring to it internally as a “Custom Job”.

The 320S Southern Special offered an extra 10 inches of ground clearance over the 320 Standard. Compared to the Standard model that came with 24-inch tires, the Southern Special left Dubuque with 34-inchers and taller front spindles. It was a good compromise for growers in the southern states who needed a thrifty tractor for their vegetable crops.

John Deere 320V Comparison
320S Southern Special in the foreground, and a typical 320S in the background. The tire size difference is pretty noticeable! Click the photo to see John Deere 320s on auction!

Deere didn’t build many of them, though. Farmers only ordered 67 of 320S Southern Special. So, that makes this one pretty rare!

But wait…there’s more!

John Deere built the 320 in two phases. From 1956 through sometime in August 1957, they all had vertical dash and steering wheel. Honestly, they look horribly uncomfortable to drive – especially for a tall guy like me! Thankfully, the engineers decided they could do better, and put an angled dash and wheel into production for the tail end of the production run. Altogether, I believe they only built 518 tractors in Phase II.

Here’s how the 320 production breaks down:

320 Production Table
Here’s how Phase I & II production stacks up for the John Deere 320S, 320U, and 320S Southern Specials.

So, at the end of the day, this little John Deere 320S Southern Special is a Phase 1, one of just 48 tractors built this way. Based on the serial number (321612), I’d guess that they built it sometime in the spring of ’57.

The Southern Special that you can bid on right now…

Here’s a quick walk-around of the tractor up for auction in Iola, WI right now, courtesy of Hansen Auction Group (one of our longtime Tractor Zoom auction partners).

The John Deere 320S Southern Special is awfully pretty, isn’t it? It’s been restored quite nicely, too; the paint is darn near perfect! All the boxes are checked, too; fresh rubber, front weights, rear wheel weights, new seat cushions…pretty much everything you’d do if you were restoring it yourself!

The owner did a couple of things that I don’t often see on auctions on Tractor Zoom, too. He had the Two Cylinder Club run the certification report on the serial number to verify that it was built at the factory as a Southern Special. That’s definitely a nice thing to have, as it proves the provenance of the tractor. J.R. Hobbs was on record as stating that there were plenty of enterprising dealerships who theoretically could’ve cobble together a Southern Special if they happened to have the right parts on hand (spindles from a 40 High Crop, and a few other bits and pieces that would interchange with other tractors). The Two Cylinder Club certification proves that the Dubuque Works built this one as a Southern Special.

Additionally, he replaced the serial tag. That probably sounds pretty simple, but let me assure you…it’s not. Getting a serial tag re-issued from John Deere is no easy task. It’s a multi-step process with a lot of moving pieces, and for that reason, it usually takes months to accomplish. If you’re ever going to attempt it, make sure you’ve taken your patience pills before you start. It definitely doesn’t happen overnight. To put it another way…if it goes smoothly for you, buy lottery tickets the day you get your tag. ?

What’s it worth?

All things considered, the 320 was a pretty low-production model for Deere. As a result, they’re harder to find, and bring a fair bit higher price than other models of the same era. I did a little digging in our Iron Comps Insights database to see how 320 prices stacked up against the 420. Believe it or not, the average price of a 320 is about $6000 – over double the average price of a 420!

With the 320S Southern Special being among the rarest versions of the tractor, and furthermore, with this one having been certified, I think it should bring a fair bit more. I honestly don’t think $10-12K is completely out of the question. A John Deere 320S Southern Special is tough one to find, and they haven’t changed hands at auction very frequently. I know a few have rolled across the block at Mecum’s Gone Farmin’ auction over the years, and most of ’em have hammered home in the $12K range.

This tractor is part of a pretty good-sized collection of 20-series Deeres, and they’re all just as nice as this one! Take a look at ’em all here. The auction ends on May 24, 2021, so the bidding is just starting to heat up right now. In the meantime, it’ll be a fun one to watch!

John Deere 320V2
Personally, I think the 20- and 30-series Deeres are about the prettiest tractors they ever built! Click the photo to see the auction details about this one!

More on the 320 from the good folks at Green Magazine…

 

Is ’21 the year to offload that older baler in the barn?

Is '21 The Year To Offload That Older Baler In The Barn
Based on what we’re seeing in the auction market, 2021 is the year to clean up that old baler in the barn and sell it. They’re worth more now than ever before!

A year ago, we wrote about the seasonality of the baler market. The summer dip in values still exists, but that was a flat commodity market. The price of all machines since last harvest have been nuts! With commodity prices on this meteoric rise, does that make 2021 a unicorn year where you can turn a profit on older equipment?

Just last week we talked with a farmer who bought a farm down in Tennessee. With that farm came a relatively new Vermeer 504R round baler. The farm was needed. The extra baler…not so much. Iron Comps came in handy to show the farmer what he could expect from this yellow iron round roller if he sold it. That got us wondering, “Could farmers have invested in machines last year, and flip them now on the open market for a profit?” Land appreciates, but machine values almost always head downhill with time and usage.
The round baler market has responded to 2021 like all other machinery. The average price of all used balers was relatively flat from 2019 into 2020. The overall average price did increase 3%, but the 1st quarter average price dropped 12% (Q1 is typically the best time to score a deal on a baler). Either way you slice it though, 2021 has been making hay! Average round balers sold in the first quarter of 2021 are up 25% more than the same time in 2020! Even 10% higher than this time in 2019!
But our question needs to be based on more specifics than descriptive statistics can provide. With a few clicks in Iron Comps Insights, I pulled up dozens of sales of one of the most popular balers to ever roll off the Vermeer Mile in Pella; the 605 Super M. Two particular balers provided a great example of this contrast. The first sold at the beginning of this market rally in early September of 2020, and the second in the midst of this run in late January of 2021.
Although built 3 years apart, these 605 Super M’s both had the same high-end features and sold in the Midwest. The 2011 that sold in September went for $19,750 with 7,150 bales under its belt. The 2014 sold in January for $22,500 with slightly more than 11,800 bales counted. Despite the higher bale count, the more recent sale went for $2,750 more than the model sold last year! That is 14% more for a baler that has already produced 65% more bales.
As the market gets more “bull-y”, it’ll be more important than ever for farms to understand their collateral leverage. It’s not just your grain that’s worth more! If you are not yet using Iron Comps, you can head over there to find out how much more your machinery is now worth!

Browse hay & forage equipment at auction.

Does this tractor make my planter look big?

John Deere DB88
We like big planters and we cannot lie…

While checking fields with my dad last summer, he pointed out some low strips in our neighbor’s corn field. They were equally spaced about every 100 feet. Apparently the neighbor was pulling one of his big planters (a 48-row) with a pretty big 4WD, and the weight caused compaction in those rows. This led to an interesting argument discussion about what the “perfect” planter was. We never did agree on one, but it was an entertaining discussion while riding in the side by side.

There are consequences to every choice and farm equipment is no different. It’s a matter of knowing the pros and cons for your operation. Since I was riding shotgun, I pulled up Iron Comps Insights on my phone to understand the value of 48- and 36-row planters. Some farmers got some seriously good deals on planters at auction, especially given the price of a new one! Case in point: late last year, a nice 36-row Kinze 3700 sold in WI for $22K!
Kinze 36 Row Planter
Bargain Alert: This Kinze 3700 36-row planter sold at a WI retirement auction for $22K!
Price aside, though, another key factor with implements this large is how you’re going pull it. Most manufacturers recommend at least 350 horses to pull a 48-row planter. That probably won’t come as a shock to most of you, but if you were planning on using the trusty John Deere 8400 for a 36-row or bigger, you’ll be in for a pretty rude awakening.
Brice Volker 4640 Kinze 8 Row
Brice Volker’s 4640 is enough for the 8-row Kinze he drags with it, but not a lot more…
I was curious to know the difference in the horsepower of farmers’ tractors between those who own a large (36-rows+) planter compared to those with a more moderate 24-row, I dove into Iron Comps. Our Insights tool was essential for this because it lets me filter auctions by type. So, I set the filter to only include estate and retirement auctions narrows the results to individual farm fleets. Finally, I split those auctions in two groups. The first sold 24-row planters and the second sold 36-row planters (or more). Of those two, I looked at the data to see the percentage of tractors sold in different power ranges. You can see the results in the graphs below.
There is no doubt that big planters require a big tractor. What’s most surprising is that farms with a large planter had such a small number of sub-300 horse tractors.
A 24-row may only be half the width of a large planter, but it’s still a pretty big implement. For auctions that sold one, you find a lot more high-power tractors when compared with all tractors sold at retirement and estate sales.
As we approach planting season, know there are a good number of quality planters on the market. Just make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than what your operation can handle!

Shop planters at auction right now.

(Originally published in March 2021 on the Iron Comps blog.)

The Massey-Harris Pacemaker with the cowbell…

Massey-Harris Pacemaker Vineyard
This Massey-Harris Pacemaker vineyard tractor is extraordinarily rare…but what’s up with the cowbell on the front?

See the auction details on this Oregon Massey-Harris Pacemaker.

The Massey-Harris Pacemaker isn’t super-rare. They’re not super-common, either. There were about 3,000 built over two(ish) years. They were a great little Depression-era farm tractor.

They’ve got an interesting history, though. The Pacemaker was a direct descendent of a pretty ground breaking tractor with ties to the Case family.

Sort of…

Wallis Tractor Co.

The Pacemaker’s bloodline began with a company called Wallis Tractor Co. Henry Wallis was Jerome Increase Case’s son-in-law, and he started the company in 1912. Wallis Tractor Company pioneered the uniframe, a revolutionary concept in tractor-building.

See, before Wallis, companies built tractors like old steam engines. They bolted channel iron together to build a frame, and bolted the motor to that. It worked, but it it wasn’t great. Because the frames were bolted together, they flexed a lot, and that was really hard on driveline parts (which are NOT made to flex).

Wallis made a solid U-shaped steel frame, and bolted all the components to it. It made the resulting tractor a lot stiffer, which was a lot easier on driveline parts!

Massey-Harris Pacemaker frame design
This diagram is a little bit blurry, but it’s a good example of how the unit frame was constructed and how the components bolted into it. It was a game-changing idea!

Massey-Harris was watching. At that point, they were just a harvesting equipment manufacturer; they didn’t really have a tractor line to sell. So, taking a page from Cyrus McCormick’s book, they bought Wallis so they’d have one. It proved to be a smart move, too.

The Pacemaker & Specialty Variants

The Pacemaker was actually an updated Wallis model. It was available as a as a standard, as well as two variants – an orchard and a vineyard model.

Specialty crop tractors like this usually feature similar characteristics. They sit lower than the standards, for one. Additionally, they usually feature swoopy rear fenders covering the wheel. The exhaust is also routed off to the side, or under the tractor. Everything is designed to protect the trees or the vines. The orchard models measured 48″ wide, and the vineyards were 40″ wide. These are definitely small, skinny tractors.

I knew that the variants were far less common, but I could never really find any documented production numbers. So, I made a phone call to my friend Tom up in Fargo. Tom and his granddad have one of the world’s largest Wallis & Massey-Harris collections (over 120 tractors), and I figured he’d know.

Seaberg Collection 2
Part of Tom’s collection. That’s a Wallis orchard model on the far left, and you can see how low it sits!

Oddly enough…he did. He knew quite a bit about these tractors, and he was more than willing to share.

Seaborg Collection
A few more of Tom’s collection…

Apparently they made somewhere in the neighborhood of 170-180 orchard models (mainly gas-powered, but a few kerosene/distillate models too), but only 42 of the vineyard tractors. 42! Tom also told me that as of now, only 7 of the vineyard model are known to have survived!

So, adding the one in the picture at the top to the mix, that makes 8 left out there. Some have been restored, but others are still in use on farms across the planet.

Massey Pacemaker Vineyard
This Pacemaker Vineyard is one of only 8 known to exist! Click the photo to see the auction listing!

The Oregon Pacemaker

I called JB Dimick at J&C Auctions the other day to get the story on this rare tractor. JB told me that this is the second time he’s sold this tractor. One of his regulars, an antique tractor collector, bought it many years ago with the intentions of restoring it to its former glory. Sadly, that collector passed away before he had the opportunity to restore it. He did get it running at some point, but never made progress beyond that.

JB didn’t know the entire history of the tractor, but he’s fairly sure that it was originally sold at a local dealership, so it’s been in Southwest Oregon/Northern California all its life. It’s missing the side panels, swoopy fenders, and the cowling over the steering wheel. It’s not currently running, and the team at J&C hasn’t tried to turn the motor over as far as I’m aware.

There are a number of antique tractors on this auction, and they all belonged to that regular customer. When they came in, JB noticed that this one had a small cowbell attached to the front, and he asked about it. Denise, the wife of that deceased customer, said that the cowbell was what her husband always did when he got one running. I thought that was kind of a neat signature, and I really hope that it goes with the tractor when it sells. A lot of the collectors and restorers that I know appreciate those little connections to the prior owners. Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but I know that if I restored it, that cowbell would stay with the tractor forever.

What’s the tractor worth?

Honestly, I have no idea. Our Iron Comps database has hundreds of thousands of auction values, but no Pacemaker vineyard tractors. Bidding just opened last night, and it’s currently sitting at $3400.

Based on my conversation with Tom, my guess is that the only folks who will be bidding are dedicated Massey-Harris collectors – likely a fairly small group (and they probably all know each other, too). Whomever takes it home will definitely have a rare tractor, but to restore it properly, it’ll cost $10K or more.

Would they be able to turn a profit after restoration? Based on where the bidding sits right now, I’d imagine the answer is no. There’s only been one restored Pacemaker vineyard model that’s crossed the auction block recently (serial number 201031). It sold at a Mecum Gone Farmin’ auction in 2016 for  $10K. Two years later, it sold again at another Mecum sale for just over $13K. The tractor on next week’s auction does have an earlier serial number, though, which could push the value a little. This tractor’s serial number is 201008, so it could easily be one of the first Pacemaker vineyards built!

Massey-Harris Pacemaker Vineyard Serial
Nobody’s unearthed a list of vineyard serial numbers, but we know that this one is pretty early!

My guess, though, is that whomever wins this one won’t really care about resale. If they’ve gone far enough down the Massey-Harris rabbit hole to be looking for a Pacemaker vineyard, they’re completing a set or something. Once it’s been restored, it’ll stay in their collection for the foreseeable future.

See the auction details on this Oregon Massey-Harris Pacemaker.

This is definitely one of the rarest tractors we’ve seen on Tractor Zoom in a long time, and it’ll be fun to see where the bidding ends up. If you win the bid, reach out to me! I’d love to follow the progress of the tractor’s restoration!

One more thing…

While I was on the phone with Tom the other day, we got to talking about steam engines and really old gas engine tractors. He mentioned that he’d recently taken a spot on the organizer team for the Divide County Threshing Bee, a tractor show held in Crosby, ND (way up in the northwest corner of the state). The show focuses mainly on these big old steam engines and gas tractors, and if you’re out west, it sounds like a great time! This year’s date is July 16-18. I may try to get out there if I’m not booked for tractor pull that weekend!

Crosby Show 2019
Here’s an aerial view of the Threshing Bee in Crosby, ND. What a great lineup! Click this photo to visit the Threshing Bee’s website for details on the ’21 show!
Crosby Show 2014
A couple of the giants from a few years ago.

He was pretty excited that this year’s featured mark was Massey-Harris, so I’m sure he’ll drag a couple of semi loads of tractors up there for it!

 

Montana Monsters: The Case 4894

4894.1

4894.4
Beneath this pretty red paint are a pair of Case 4894s with great big Swedish hearts…the last hurrah for JIC’s 4WD lineup. They sell next Tuesday, April 27!

See the details on these tractors.

That’s right, kids…not one Case 4894, but a pair of ’em this week!

In the late 70s and into the 80s, big 4WD power was where it was at. The idea itself wasn’t new; the Steiger brothers had been building 4WDs for nearly 20 years at this point. But, with farm expansion in the 70s, farmers needed more power to pull bigger implements, and the industry was really starting to take off.

The typical 4WD of the 70s followed a pretty basic formula. Build a big tractor that bent in the middle (or have Steiger build you one…), let the marketing & advertising people do their thing, and voila! Well, the people at J.I. Case thought that was pretty much the most ridiculous thing ever. How do you keep a tractor that BENDS IN THE MIDDLE going straight?

Seems like a pretty legit question, right?

J.I. Case’s approach

Ever since the factory in Racine turned out their first 4WD (the 1200) back in the early sixties, they felt a straight frame with axles that could pivot did a better job. That was their story, and they were stickin’ to it. Honestly, they’d had pretty good success with their 4-wheel-steer setups, too. They were complex systems, and they took a little more TLC than a center pin. Man alive, though, they sure could turn a tight circle! Less than 19′ even with duals! Good luck doing that with a Steiger! Additionally, the crab steer was a big help on hillsides. It all but eliminated side draft!

082620Deanco1200TK
JIC’s first entry into the 4WD market was the 1200. Neat tractors, and they’re become pretty darn rare these days!
1470TK Copy
An early 70-series Case…again, with a face that only a mother could love. Plenty capable, though!
Case 2670
The later 70-series tractors showed a more refined design and addition capabilities for Case’s 4WD tractors.

So in August of 1979 when Case launched the 90-series tractors, they touted them as “the most advanced 4WD tractors had ever built”. They were impressive tractors, too. The new “Silent Guardian” cab was a game changer for sure; it was roomy and quiet – even quieter than a SoundGard!

4890
The predecessor to the 4894 was this one, the 4890. (It’s missing side shields.)

In 1984, they updated the 90-series tractors to the 94-series. Fundamentally, they were the same tractor (save for one all-new tractor at the top of the stack – the 4994), but where the 90 was pretty analog, the new model incorporated more electronics and a digital dashboard. They still retained the same transmission and powerplant…which for the Case 4894, came from Sweden.

Wait…what? Sweden? Why?

Yep. Sweden. Home of meatballs, IKEA, the northern lights, and an unintelligible Muppet.

Scania was (and as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Volkswagen today, it still is) a major player in the diesel industry, and they’re a driving force in the global trucking market. They build semis and city buses, as well as lots of motors for various applications. They’re a big deal!

JIC partnered with Scania for motors for the top tractors in the 70, 90, and 94 series. The 2870, 4890, and 4894 used Scania’s DS11 motor, a 674-inch inline six that made about 300 horse. The 4994, Case’s biggest-ever tractor, used the DS14, an 866-inch V8 that made 400 horse! They were stout powerplants that performed very well in the field.

Partnering with a Swedish company, no matter how beefy the motors, though…it seems…well, a little strange, honestly. I’ve wondered why Case chose Scania for a long time. Never found a really reliable answer to the question, either. I’ve heard theories as to why Scania got the contract, though.

Theories

Steiger & Versatile were pretty heavily involved with Cummins at the time. There could’ve been a clause in their contracts that Cummins wouldn’t sell to anybody else. It wouldn’t be the first time a company had negotiated a contract like that.

Interestingly enough, the last five or ten 4994s built left Racine with an 855 between the frame rails. I believe one of them actually sold at a Canadian farm sale in October of 2019. I also know of one 4894 living in Minnesota that has what appears to be a completely factory-installed L10 Cummins in it. I’m not sure what the serial number is, though, so I don’t know if it’s early or late. I’m guessing it might be a late one.

I do know that Scania made a push into the US market with a small contract with Mack over the road trucks earlier in the 70s. That might’ve caught JIC’s eye, especially if the big motors were a cost-effective option. Case could’ve been taking a gamble on Scania’s success in the States.

It could’ve also been a case where the top brass at JIC & Tenneco were just huge ABBA fans, too… ?

In the field…

In the field, the 4894s were monsters. They were very popular in the west as well as in the Canadian wheat and canola fields. Hilly country was where these tractors made their mark. They might look a little funny when they crab-steer, but man alive, it sure is effective!

They were powerful and capable, but as with most complex systems, they did need maintenance. The crab-steer system had a lot of moving parts, and if the owner didn’t look ’em over and address issues, consequences could be costly. An ounce of prevention definitely saved a pound of cure, in the case of the big crab-steer tractors!

Even though they sold relatively well, the factory only churned out 872 of these big tractors. Part of that was due to the merger between Case and IH, just a year after the 4894 rolled onto the market. Once the merger happened, the 94 series was scrapped because IH was already in a pretty strong partnership with Steiger. The remaining tractors were all painted red and rebadged as Case Internationals. Once they were gone, they were gone.

The ones on next week’s sale…

With tractors like the 4894, proper usage and preventative upkeep is definitely the key. If you’re looking at one on an auction or a classified ad, etc., check for service records. The key is to get the story.

…and that’s exactly what I did.

I called Clint Mullins, the man who owns these tractors. He lives just southwest of Williston, ND, just across the Montana state line. Until fairly recently, Clint and his son Zach farmed a fair amount of grain out there (wheat, I think?). They’ve decided to downsize their operation by a fair bit, and the team over at Musser Bros. is handling the sale.

At any rate, Clint told me that he bought the pair of 4894s in the late 90s to restore and use. He’s been completely through the tractors from stem to stern. Rebuilt both of the big Scania motors, been through the transmissions, differential, planetaries…the whole works. While he had them apart, he also repainted them IH red and re-decal’d them.

Once they’d been redone, they went to work on the farm. One of ’em pulled a 45′ air drill in the spring and served on grain cart duty during harvest. The other spent its life pulling a sprayer.

4894.3
This is the grain cart tractor. It’s tuned up a little bit from the way it left the factory, making about 360 horse. Click the photo to see the details and a bunch more photos!

The hours are accurate. The grain cart tractor has 3300 original hours, and it’s got a bit more grunt. Clint turned the motor up to about 360 horse. It’s got dual 20.8x38s on it and a full rack of front weights go with it. The sprayer tractor has 7600 hours on it, and he left it set at 300 horse. It also sports dual 18.4x38s, a nearly full front weight rack, as well as being outfitted with Trimble EZ-Steer!

4894.5
The sprayer tractor is set at 300 horse, and has a little less rubber under it, but no less capable! Click the photo to see the details and a bunch more photos!

What’ll they bring?

Honestly, I expect they’ll bring quite a bit. I checked our Iron Comps database for prices on the Case 4894, and of the few listed (they don’t change hands very often), they’ve been hovering in the $8-10K range. That said…these are a LOT nicer tractors, and they’re selling in area where these were well-regarded. If they don’t bring between $20-25K each, I’d be very surprised.

Will they set all-time records? No. The all time record is somewhere in the $45K range at least 10 or 12 years ago. But, for the “modern” era that we’re living in now, these will set a very high mark!

Well-maintained equipment sells, folks!

See the details on these tractors.