Jackson 4-44: The Edgeley Rebel

angled front photo of a Jackson 4-44 tractor at auction sitting in front of a cornfield on a sunny summer day
The Jackson Mfg. Co. built just 16 tractors between 1969-1972. This is one of them.

See the auction details on this tractor

If you think about it hard enough, anything can be rare if you describe it right. Even stuff like a 4430. You’ll see stuff like that at auctions once in a while, too. “This is the only 4430 ever sold in 1974 to a guy named Frank, living in Minnesota, who always ate a chicken salad sammich for lunch – but only on Tuesdays…when he wore red socks.”

Yeah…this isn’t that kind of tractor.

Jackson tractors are pretty darn rare.

Jackson tractor front grill
Jackson tractors are truly rare, and this particular one is probably the only one like it. Hit the photo to see the details on this tractor – and a bunch of photos!

The Jackson Mfg. Co. is a somewhat elusive company. Not elusive in a bad way, just awfully hard to track down. With a fairly common last name in the company name, that’s not terribly surprising. A Google search will probably turn up some kind of result in nearly every state in the union. Quite frankly, there just isn’t much information about this company and the tractors they built!

So that all having been said, it’ll be challenging to tell this story, but I’ll give it a shot!

Necessity is the mother of invention…?

Erval D. Jackson lived in Edgeley, ND, and he was the man who founded the Jackson Manufacturing Co. back in the sixties. My guess – and this is strictly a guess – is that he was like a lot of farmers from the upper Great Plains. Traditional farm equipment didn’t work well for the big expansive fields up there. As a result, several companies began innovating, creating bigger tractors – Steiger and Big Bud being the most notable.

Anyway, Erval was a guy who was pretty handy, and loved to invent things. In 1969, he started building tractors. Like other big tractors of the day, they were essentially component tractors. Builders like Erval would source engines and drivelines from whomever they could get them from, and basically drop them into a frame.

There were three (I’ve heard rumors that there may have been a fourth model) models that Jackson built; the 4-53, the 4-44, and the 534. The 4-53 and 534 both used Detroits for power, and the 4-44 used a Cummins V504C. I’m not sure who supplied the transmission, but I know that in the 4-44, it was a 5-speed with a 2-speed rear end.

The tractors were, from what I understand, pretty spartan. No real creature comforts to speak of. The company wasn’t very successful in the long run, either. In fact, Jackson built only 16 tractors between 1969-1972! From what I understand, though, they all still exist and most are still working!

The one you can bid on right now…

Jackson 4-44 tractor at auction
This particular Jackson tractor is pretty unique, in that it’s been re-powered with a 6V-92 Detroit! It sells at an Indiana collector’s auction on Saturday, August 21! Click the photo for more details!

This is likely the most famous Jackson tractor on the planet. It’s owned by Chris Wathen, a noted tractor collector in Evansville, IN. Jason over at Big Tractor Power has shot footage of this tractor (as well as the rest of Chris’s collection) on multiple occasions for his YouTube channel. Here’s one of those videos from a few years ago. The collection has grown a little since then, I believe!

One of one…(probably)

So what makes this particular Jackson tractor so unique? Well, as far as anybody is aware, this is the only re-powered 4-44 on the planet. The previous owner wanted more power, and made a pretty solid choice as far as engines go, too. He yanked the Cummins V504C (which is fairly similar to the 555 “Triple Nickel”) in favor of a Detroit 6V-92 Silver Series. That big Detroit packs a punch, too – it’s rated at 350 horse! That’s a far cry from the 210-horse Cummins that it originally had!

I had the opportunity to chat with Chris for a bit about this tractor yesterday, and he told me that while his collection is pretty focused on component tractors, he typically stays away from re-powers with massive power bumps. “Power will always find weakness,” he said, and with my background in tractor pulling, I definitely agree with that. However, Jackson tractors didn’t skimp on driveline components, and even with the bigger motor, he’s never had any problems with it. He did mention one thing that I found pretty interesting. The axles for the tractor were built by Rockwell. The tag even says something to the effect of “Rockwell for Jackson Mfg.” With such a small number of tractors built, I’m surprised that Rockwell would’ve even tooled up for an order that small!

The ideal buyer…

At the end of the day, Jackson tractors were reasonably well-built, but very spartan when it came to creature comforts. They had ample power and weight for farming the Great Plains. However, when it came to finishing touches, they left a little to be desired. For instance, no A/C. Today’s high temp. in Edgeley, ND is 94º F. If you’re in that tractor this afternoon…it’s going to be a sweatbox!

Chris has fielded a lot of phone calls about this tractor, but he got the feeling that a lot of them are tire kickers. I suppose that for a tractor like this, that’s going to be the nature of the beast. People are curious. They’ve never seen one before; heck, lots of you folks reading this are probably in the same boat! (Full disclosure: I am too – I’d heard of the brand but until Chris’s auction listed on Tractor Zoom, I’d never seen what one looked like either!)

At the end of the call yesterday, we both agreed that the ideal buyer for this tractor is a collector who’ll appreciate it for what it is. A tractor built by a guy with a little bit of a rebel streak in him. A guy who, when the right solution for a problem didn’t exist, created one of his own!

What’s it worth?

I have absolutely no idea, and I doubt anybody else does either. Truthfully speaking, I don’t think a Jackson has rolled across the auction block in decades! It’ll be interesting to see what it sells for – and who it goes home with!

Get the auction details here.

There’s quite a bit of really cool stuff on Chris’s auction on August 21, 2021. Check it all out here!

One more thing…

One of the reasons that Chris is a collector of component tractors is because of his dad. His father actually built two of them back in the late-60s/early-70s. One was a 4WD, and the other was a 2WD that looked like a front wheel assist tractor. Both saw use on the farm for a while, and then traded away at local dealerships. Chris tracked down the 4WD at a scrap yard a few hours away, and saved it from imminent destruction (had he talked to them just a couple of days later, that tractor would’ve been scrapped and lost to history). They’ve since restored it and it sits proudly in the collection.

The 2WD, however…that’s a different story – and it might be one that YOU can help with!

Chris’s dad traded the tractor in to a dealership in Evansville in the mid-70s. Chris remembers that it sat on the lot for a few months before moving to the back row. At some point, it disappeared from the lot, and that’s where the trail went cold.

The family desperately wants to find it again, and they need your help to do it. Here’s a few photos that the family has of the tractor. I realize they’re not much to go on, but if you live within a few hundred miles of Evansville, maybe show these to the older farmers in the area and see if it rings any bells.

Wathen2WD.2
Chris Wathen’s dad built this tractor in his shop in the late 1960s. It disappeared after Chris’s dad traded it in at a dealership in the mid-70s. Do you know where it is?

The tractor was red (even though it looks orange in this photo) and the wheels are white. The powerplant was a 220 Cummins, and it had a 10-speed RoadRanger in it. It was a bareback tractor with two remotes.

Wathen2WD
Here’s a better photo, from a color perspective. To me, this looks a lot like either Massey red or IH 2150 Red.

It’s a long shot, but we hope that one of you knows where this tractor is today. While it’s highly unlikely, we’ve both got our fingers crossed that it’s stashed in a barn somewhere with a tarp over it. The power of social media is an amazing thing, folks. Even if you don’t recognize this tractor, it might ring a bell for somebody you know, so please share this article on your social media!

Still, if these photos DO ring a bell for you, please call or text Chris Wathen at 812.483.9391. He’s a very nice guy, and he’d be eternally grateful for any leads you have!

Chris Wathen: 812.483.9391

Special thanks to my buddy Nellson Stout for the cover photo. He’s had a little hands-on time with the tractor not too long ago and snapped that one!

Peterbilt 359: Ain’t no feelin’ like Petermobilin’!

Collage of photos of a black Peterbilt 359 day cab semi truck at an auction
This Wisconsin Peterbilt 359 is ready for gear-jammin’! Sells on a Wisconsin consignment auction on Friday, July 23, 2021!

See the auction listing on this classic Pete

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about a semi. Probably too long. Our auctioneer partners have listed some nice ones lately, but the timing never worked out quite right for me to write about it. It stinks, but it’s the nature of the beast, y’know?

But then Ross at Integrity Sales & Auctions listed this Peterbilt 359 along with a bunch of other inventory for an upcoming consignment, and the timing worked out pretty well!

So, let’s talk Petes! They’re the biggest player in the US over-the-road truck market, and they continue to innovate today! They’re a great American success story, and one that’ll be around for a long time to come!

Passenger side view of a black Peterbilt 359 on a sunny summer day
The 359 is an American icon if there ever was one. Hit the photo to see the details on this one – it sells on Friday, July 23!

Replacing both the horse…and the river!

Peterbilt’s been at this thing for a long time. 82 years, if you’re keeping score. Theodore A. Peterman owned a lumber mill in the 30s, and it was efficient enough that the crew often sat there twiddling their thumbs waiting for felled logs to show up. The typical methods of getting logs from the forest to the mill were pretty slow – either relying on a river to float them, using teams of horses, or using a steam engine. Any way you sliced it, it was slow. Mills are like trucks; if the wheels ain’t turnin’, nobody’s earning.

Despite the tough times of the Depression, T.A. Peterman decided to try something new. He had a source for surplus Army trucks, so he bought a few to see if trucks might do a better job. As it turned out…they did!

So, after a few years of success with this, Peterman sees an opportunity with a failing truck company and he jumps on it. He gets out of the mill business and leaves lumber in the dust, and buys Fageol Truck & Coach out of Oakland in 1938, and just like that, he’s in the truck business!

While Peterman only turned out 14 trucks in 1939, they were all his own chain-driven design. No more modifying old Army trucks and making those work. With the new company (called Peterbilt), he could now build custom models that could be sold to the public.

Which is exactly what he did.

Built with a pre-determined purpose

Peterbilt went from building 14 trucks in all of 1939 to building one every three days in 1940. Impressive growth for a guy who was all about the lumber business two years earlier!

Actually, there was a good reason for that. Peterman believed in the idea of researching first, before he built anything. There was no haphazard, “guess we got lucky” success. He sent his people out into the field. They did ride-alongs, and interviewed drivers. Before pen was laid to paper to design anything, the engineers knew exactly what the customer wanted – it was a requirement for a project to get off the ground!

Sadly, T.A. Peterman never really got to see the fruits of his labor. He lost a battle to cancer at age 51, and passed away in 1945. He left the company to his wife Ida, who promptly sold the company’s assets (but not the land) to a management group. The company continued to grow, though; they’d been filling military contracts as well as building civilian OTR trucks, too.

In 1958, though, they ran into a problem. Ida Peterman still owned the ground in California where the factory was located, and when shopping mall developers came calling with a heck of an offer, she sold the land. This left the owner’s group scrambling for new ground.

New direction…same purpose-built quality

Ultimately, the owner’s group never found the ground when Ida sold the factory ground to developers. Peterbilt ended up changing hands; a guy named Paul Pigott bought the company and built a brand new factory in Newark, CA. By 1960, trucks were once again rolling off of the assembly line.

Pigott owned, among other things, Kenworth. He brought them under the same umbrella company (Pacific Car & Foundry, later to be known as PACCAR), but let them operate independently. Basically, he bought Kenworth’s toughest competitor. Smart move.

Over the next decade, Peterbilt would continue to build dependable, high-quality trucks that would solidify them as a key player in a very quickly-growing market. One of the most successful early models was the 351, and it became legendary long-hauler. Eventually, it gave way to the 359, and later the 379 and the 389 of today. The conventional design is timeless!

A low angle photo of the nose of a Peterbilt 351 on a sunny summer day
The Pete 351 earned the nickname “Needle-Nose Pete” and it’s pretty easy to see why. Later models would widen up the nose considerably to allow for a bigger motor and better cooling. They sure look cool, though!

The 359 was built from 1967-1987, and it was one of the most successful models Peterbilt ever sold – for three reasons (in my opinion).

      1. They were versatile.
        There was a ton of room underneath the tilting hood. I have yet to source an original dealer order blank, but the engine and transmission options were nearly unlimited. I’ve seen everything from a 6V71 Detroit to a 3408 CAT in these trucks!
      2. They were light.
        The Peterbilt 359 featured an aluminum cab and sleeper. This dropped weight, improved fuel economy, and resisted corrosion. I believe that you could even order the frame in aluminum too. The lighter weight was pretty important to anybody hauling super-heavy freight (produce, for instance).
      3. They had style.
        The shape of the 359 was almost immediately a classic. The lines are nearly perfect, as far as I’m concerned. When somebody says “truck” most people see a 359/379/389 in their heads.
Driver's side view of a black Peterbilt 359 day cab semi on a bright sunny day.
The lines of the Peterbilt 359 lines really are classic, aren’t they? I think they look good as day cabs, too! Hit the image to see the auction details for this one!

The truck that you can buy on Friday…

I tried to get in touch with Ross at Integrity Sales & Auction, but I haven’t heard back from him yet, so my information on this truck is a little bit limited. However, I’ll tell you what I do know.

This particular truck is a 1984 model, and it lives in Merrill, WI (about a half hour straight north of Wausau). It’s got an 855 Cummins under the hood (a Big Cam, I believe) factory-rated at 300 horse. It’s a fairly low-option truck from what I can tell, too. It shows just under a half million on the odometer. Most of the day cab 359s I’ve seen have either a 9 or a 10-speed Eaton Road Ranger in them, and I’d expect the same here, too. I believe that at some point in its life, it’s been repainted.

Peterbilt 359 shift knob
I still think these are the coolest shift knobs on the planet and you’ll have a hard time convincing me otherwise…

At the end of the day, this is nothing more than a classic working Pete that’s seen its fair share of life. It’s got a few battle scars (the driver’s side fender, for one, and the bumper for another), but overall, it’s a reasonably clean truck that would probably do just fine with a small hopper bottom or a pup trailer. A 300 Cummins won’t leave you stranded, and it doesn’t really have the power to get you into a lot of trouble. Being that it’s mechanical, it’ll be pretty easy to work on, too.

Driver's side interior, dashboard, and steering wheel of a Peterbilt 359 day cab
Peterbilt’s curved dash in the 359 is very similar to the dash in early Corvettes. Useless Trivia: The “Corvette dash” option was actually called “The Dash of Class” on the order blank!

What’s it worth?

I did a little digging in our Iron Comps database this morning to see how many Peterbilt 359 day cabs we had records for. In filtering the data a little bit, I came up with about 19 results over the last 3 years. Based on those numbers, coupled with the auctioneer’s description and the video on YouTube, I think this is about a $10,000 truck. 

Wrapping Up

The Peterbilt 359 is an icon, as far as I’m concerned. They’re a piece of history that connects us to an era where being a trucker was a respected career. Everybody I knew growing up wanted to be a trucker and drive a good looking Pete or a Kenworth, because it was a noble occupation. Today, we have over 3 million long haul truckers in the US, driving over 175 billion miles every year. Truckers haul nearly 70% of the stuff that we buy every day! Sadly, the perception of trucking has slipped from a career to more of a “job” and that’s a shame.

If it were up to me, I’d do everything in my power to bring some respect back to the profession. Let’s bring back the dress code; Wranglers, boots, pearl snaps, gold-rimmed aviator sunglasses, and cowboy hats. While we’re at it, bring back cool CB handles, too (mine was The Jolly Green Giant).

Want a head start on all that? Buy this Pete…because there ain’t no feelin’ like Petermobilin’!

Get the details on this classic Peter-mobile!

Browse trucks at auction

Also, smile pretty at the west bound 36 yard stick…there’s a Kojak with a Kodak waitin’ for ya.

 

Chuck Pelly: The guy who ran over a Volkwagen and became a legend at Deere…

John Deere 4430 at auction
For this week’s story, this 4430 plays a supporting role…keep reading to find out why!

See the details on this tractor

 

I know what you’re thinking…

“Ugh…another SoundGard??? This is getting real old, Interesting Iron-guy…”

Yes, I know I’ve written about the 4430 before. Stick with me. The 4430 is kind of a supporting cast member for this week’s Interesting Iron. There’s a Volkswagen involved too, but we don’t have one of those listed on Tractor Zoom right now. 😏  (Believe it or not, we’ve had a few…)

This isn’t just a story about a guy named Chuck, either. There’s a very strong connection to the history of ag. He wasn’t just some random dude.

He was Chuck Pelly, the guy who designed the SoundGard cab. Pretty important to modern farming, right?

The Life of Chuck

Before we get to the story of the Volkswagen, let’s talk about Chuck for a minute. He’s a super-talented (and pretty darn famous) industrial designer. In fact, I’m just about certain that he (or his company) designed stuff that significantly impacted your life, at one point or another. More on that in a bit.

Chuck Pelly was born in the early 40’s, and spent most of his life in Southern California. He studied design at The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and even as a young student, showed tremendous promise. In fact, before he’d even graduated, he’d designed two of the most beautiful race cars you’ve probably never heard of!

Scarab race car chuck pelly
Chuck Pelly designed the Scarab race car at only 18 years old! Click the photo to learn more about the Scarab – it’s a great story, and Petrolicious does an outstanding job telling it.
Chaparral MkI prototype chuck pelly
Chuck Pelly designed the Chaparral MkI race car for Jim Hall. This is the prototype car. Click the link for more photos from the RM/Sotheby’s 2016 auction catalog. She’s a beauty!

So how did a guy go from designing race cars in SoCal to designing tractors for Deere? Simple. He took a position with Henry Dreyfuss Associates.

Henry Dreyfuss Associates

HDA was a design firm founded by another noted industrial designer, Henry Dreyfuss, back in the 1930s. They took the term “long term relationship” pretty seriously, too – especially when it came to John Deere. Deere’s working relationship with HDA spanned (get this) 7 DECADES! HDA designed most of the two-cylinders as well as the New Generation tractors too. They were essentially Deere’s in-house design team.

When Pelly joined HDA in the mid-sixties, one of the projects that he led was the design of the replacement to the New Generation tractors…i.e., the SoundGard tractors. Specifically, his involvement was with designing the cab, but he also submitted some sketches for the actual tractor itself. I’ve seen one of them – imagine a six-wheeled 4430 with a stretched-out cab, and you’ll be fairly close. It was pretty wild!

At any rate, Chuck Pelly worked for HDA and John Deere up until the early 70s, when he struck out on his own, went back to Malibu and started his own design firm, DesignworksUSA, in his garage. Designworks has become a massive success since then, too, eventually being acquired by BMW! (They still own them, too.)

Like I’d mentioned earlier, Pelly and his team designed lots of things that you’ll recognize pretty quickly. Here’s a short list…

Ever drive a Steiger Panther? His company designed that.

Steiger Panther Concept
Chuck Pelly’s firm, DesignworksUSA, came up with the concept for the Steiger Panther tractors in the early 80s!

Take a ride in a dentist’s chair? He designed one of those, too.

Unitek Orthodontics Chair
Unitek’s line of ergonomic dental chairs was also a DesignworksUSA project.

Remember the old Nokia candy bar style cellphones that we all played Snake on way back in the day? Yep, Chuck managed that project too.

Chuck Pelly DesignworksUSA Nokia 5125 cell phone
I can almost guarantee that within five minutes, you can find somebody who had one of these phones back in the day!

…and the list goes on and on. Everything from Corvette seats to minivans and snowmobiles to mouthwash bottles – heck, Designworks even styled the Olympic team’s bobsleds for the Winter Games in Sochi, Japan a few years ago!

So what does all this have to do with a Volkswagen?

Well, that’s where we get back to the John Deere connection. One of Chuck Pelly’s projects in the late sixties was to design the SoundGard cab. He’d put months and months of hard work into the styling and layout, too. Designing something from scratch is hard work even for simple things, let alone complex things like the cockpit of a tractor!

The pressure was mounting, too. I mean, Deere basically said, “Look, we’re changing the way we think about tractors. Open stations are out, integrated cabs are in, and our next models need to change the way farmers think about tractors, too. You’re in charge of making sure that’s successful. Good luck, buddy! We’re all relying on you!”

I can’t imagine that kind of pressure. Can you?

At any rate, Chuck was adamant that when the SoundGard mockup was first presented to Deere’s top brass, it had to be in motion. It couldn’t just be a clay model sitting on a stand, or a scale model. They really needed to see what it looked like moving down a dirt road, y’know?

So, for this demonstration, Pelly and his team at HDA created the first model of the cab out of paper, cardboard, and plastic. They mounted it on a test mule, which Chuck was to drive out in front of all of Deere’s executives. But there was a problem…

Demonstration Day and “the incident”…

The problem was that while Chuck Pelly could do lots of amazing things…he wasn’t real skilled with driving a tractor. This was probably one of his first times driving anything bigger than a lawn mower, if we’re being honest. But since he wanted to present the concept in motion, he sucked up his nerves and pressed on.

And right there, with all of the head honchos from Deere watching, Chuck brings the concept out…and that’s where it all goes wrong in spectacular fashion. Somehow he lost control of the tractor, and before he knew it, he’d gone off the test track…where he promptly hits a Volkswagen Beetle in the parking lot.

It wasn’t a fender bender, either. He put one of the right rears up and over the hood of the Beetle! He utterly destroyed this little car…even punched a hole in the gas tank! (Which sent everybody running for the hills…)

Chuck Pelly Sketch Octanepress
Chuck Pelly later doodled a picture of what that fateful day looked like, and it appeared in Octane Press’s excellent history of farm tractor development. It’s called TRACTOR. If you haven’t got a copy, you need to order this one. It’s full of great stories like this one about interesting tractors, and the photography is GORGEOUS. Well worth the purchase!

I don’t know about you, but at that point, I think I’d have put that test mule in road gear, never to be seen again! 😂

The Aftermath

Chuck figured that his career with Deere and Henry Dreyfuss Associates was pretty much done. Later on, while he was cleaning out office waiting for the inevitable…the inevitable never happened. Instead, the head of engineering popped his head in the door and made a verbal job offer.

The position? Rollover test engineer. 😂

It was all in jest, and thanks to some pretty level heads and good senses of humor, Chuck was able to keep his job.

In fact, even after leaving Deere & HDA to start his own firm, he maintained a relationship with the folks in Waterloo. And when BMW bought Designworks in 1995, who came aboard as one of their first clients? John Deere.

The two companies have worked together ever since, too. Designworks has been heavily involved in everything from construction equipment like the giant 1050K dozer to small stuff like the 1025R. They just celebrated 25 years of a successful partnership last year! 

John Deere 1050K Crawler Dozer 02
The 1050K Crawler Dozer is the biggest, baddest piece of equipment Deere has ever built! At 94,000 pounds, it’s a beast! Click the pic to read Motor Trend’s review of it!
John Deere 1025R at auction
Designworks was also heavily involved in the 1025R – one of Deere’s smallest machines.
John Deere 8RX410
The latest Deere/Designworks project is the newly re-styled 8R line. Here’s a prototype unit testing the sled safety settings at a tractor pull in Mound City, MO last year.

The 4430 you can bid on…

Brad and the team over at Tony Montgomery Realty & Auction up in Plainview, MN are sending this tractor off to a new owner at an auction on Tuesday, July 20, and it’s a pretty nice one! It’s a two-owner 1977 Quad Range with just under 5700 hours on a working tach, fresh Michelins on the back, duals, LED lights, a quick hitch, and a fresh oil change! The interior (which I believe is original) is nice and tight, and pretty clean too! Overall, a pretty clean example of one of the thousands of 30-series tractors that have farmed the midwest for 50 years!

John Deere 4430 at auction

The farmer who currently owns it has put about 1500 hours on it since he picked it up a few years ago. I talked with Brad this afternoon for a few minutes and he told me that this gentleman was really proactive in his maintenance, and if it ever needed anything more than the standard stuff, it always went to SEMA Equipment’s dealership there in Plainview where he lives.

What’ll it bring? 

Based on what we’re seeing in the market these days, I don’t think $20-22K is out of line at all. There’s always be a market for clean, well-maintained equipment that farmers can work on – even when it’s 44 years old. This one checks off all of those boxes, as well as selling with new rubber and lighting upgrades. It’ll be a great tractor for somebody…maybe you!

Auctioneer: Tony Montgomery Realty & Auction Company

Click here for the auction details!

One more thing…

If you’re a John Deere fan, you need to check out John Deere Evolution, the new book from my friend Lee Klancher and Octane Press. It’s 350 pages chock-full of John Deere’s history, and some utterly jaw-dropping photography! It’ll end up being a permanent fixture on your coffee table! It’ll be available on October 15, 2021!

John Deere Evolution 3d
If you’re a John Deere fan, this will be the coolest thing to ever sit on your coffee table!

The Thieman Tractor: Harold’s Hearse

 

Thieman Tractor Hearse

Get the details on this tractor

Every now and then, our auction partners post stuff on Tractor Zoom that might be stretching it a bit. For instance, last month, an auctioneer listed an ancient tug boat. Last year, I remember seeing a few Corvettes, an RV or two, and a couple of restored Chevelles. Heck, I even wrote about a Ford Galaxy that Matt Maring sold way back when Interesting Iron was just an email!

But we’ve never had a hearse listed before. Yep, you read that right.

A hearse.

Made out of a tractor.

By a man called Harold.

Now, I haven’t done a ton of research on topics like this, but I think this could be the world’s only actual hearse constructed from a tractor. Furthermore, Harold didn’t use just any old garden variety Farmall or John Deere. Nope, he built it from a fairly obscure tractor that’s actually pretty interesting in and of itself.

He used a Thieman.

ThiemanHearse
It began life as a big wooden crate full of parts shipped to a farmer assemble. By 2012, when Harold acquired it, it was a basketcase. Now it looks like this! Click the photo to see the Tractor Zoom listing for this one!

What’s a Thieman? (Pronounced “Tee-min”, by the way)

Well, it’s the last name of five industrious brothers from Albert City, IA who started the Thieman Harvester Co. in 1921. They built a variety of things – everything from silage harvesters to tractors, and even burial vaults. The main goal was to build quality products at affordable prices – a welcome relief, given the hardships that farmers faced in the 30s.

The tractor was the brainchild of William B. Thieman, the company’s president, general manager, and inventor. From what I’m told, he was the kind of guy who could see a concept in his head, build it in the shop, and then manage a product rollout. In 1929, he began experimenting with a tractor built around the idea of cheap, economical horsepower. It was pretty rudimentary, but after 3 years of design and testing, they began selling it in 1932. Thieman sourced most of the important parts from salvaged Fords; it used a Model A engine, driveshaft, and rear end. I’m not sure if the transmission came from Ford or not, but I know it had 3 forward speeds and reverse.

Thieman tractor
Most Thieman tractors used Ford Model A engines. Harold decided to pay tribute to that with his hearse.

The Ikea method…before Ikea did it!

Thieman had an interesting model for selling these tractors, too; they were all sold as build it yourself kits (just like Ikea does today with just about everything they sell). For about $500, the kit came in a big wooden crate with everything needed to put the tractor together (including salvaged Model A parts). However, if a farmer wanted to save money and source his own parts, Thieman also sold the kit for $185 without a motor, driveshaft, or rear end. The instructions told the farmer to use a motor from one of the Big Three. That said, I’m sure that somewhere, some farmer probably pulled a Farmall four-banger from an F-20 and made it fit, too.

Because of the way they were sold, and because the engines were all sourced from the scrapyard, each Thieman tractor was somewhat unique. If you find one at a tractor show today, who knows what you’ll find between the frame rails? I’ve heard of flathead V8s being used, and as I’m writing this, I’m sure somebody’s wondering if they could shoehorn an old 5.9 Cummins under the hood…

Most of the $500 Thieman tractors are painted red like the one below. If you see one that’s painted another color, that was one of the $185 kits. As I understand it, those were not painted before leaving the factory.

Thieman tractor
Gary Alan Nelson is an unbelievably talented photographer from MN. Here, he captures a 1936 Thieman tractor in the afternoon sun. Click the photo to see more of his work…it’s utterly gorgeous!

Successful…ish

By 1936, the Thieman tractor had gathered some steam. The factory in Albert City was running around the clock to put these kits together and get ’em out the door. When I say “around the clock”, I’m not kidding; Thieman never turned the lights off in the factory. They employed over 150 people at one point!

Thieman tractors were, for their time, fairly powerful. The Model A motor made about 40 horse, so that put them in a fairly good position – especially given the cost of the competition! Over time, Thieman added a few well-received upgrades; $123 would get you rubber wheels all the way around, $7 would get you an air cleaner, $9 would get you a combination drawbar, and $15 would get you a governor.

That last option – the governor – was money well spent, in my opinion. These are pretty lightweight tractors, and from what I’m told (I’ve never driven one), it was easy to flip the tractor over backwards if your foot slipped off the clutch!

The Thieman tractor also does deserve a spot in the history books for a mechanical innovation they put into production before anybody else. They fitted their tractors with a starter! No more spinning the flywheel to start the motor!

The 40s

Sadly, Thieman Harvester Co. came to an abrupt end in the early 40s. Several of the five Thieman brothers passed away at a relatively young age; in fact, none of the brothers lived to see their 60th birthday. Furthermore, the war effort brought on a steel shortage, making it all but impossible for the small tractor builder to source materials.

At the end of the day, nobody really knows how many Thieman tractor kits were sold; most estimates are in the 4-5000 neighborhood. The company changed hands twice before it shut the doors for good in 1944. At some point, those records must’ve been lost or (more likely) destroyed. Either way, it’s a shame.

Thieman never set out to set the farming world on fire, because that wasn’t really what America’s farmers needed during the 30s. They simply needed to get by, and put food on their tables. Thieman tractors weren’t super-stylish, they were cobbled together using second-hand parts pulled out of junkyards, fencerows, and junk piles. But they helped many farmers through some awfully lean years when providing for a family was a struggle. Furthermore, the Thieman brothers employed hundreds of people around Albert City, and helped keep their town from being wiped off the map during the Great Depression! That’s a pretty noble cause in my book! (Even if the tractors did tip over once in a while!)

Harold and his hearse…

First, some video.

Harold Boquist is the guy behind this neat Thieman tractor hearse creation, and I chatted with him for a few minutes tonight after dinner. He’s a super-nice guy with a great sense of humor, as you’ll find out later on…

The first question I asked him was simply, “Why?” He said, “Y’know, my wife and I have watched old Westerns for years, and you always see the horse-drawn hearse in the funeral scenes. Well, this isn’t much different…just updated a few years!”

Harold went on to tell me that he’d been a Thieman collector for years. At one point, he’d had 10 of ’em! He sold most of them a few years ago at an auction hosted by our friends at Nixon Auctioneers. Over time, he’s whittled the collection down to just a couple projects that he and his wife have really enjoyed – this Thieman, and an Empire tractor (that hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to show you at some point in the future). Empire tractors are pretty interesting, and his is probably the most unique one left!

The Hearse Project

At any rate, Harold’s had a thing for Thieman tractors. The company’s ideology – helping farmers get by when times were really tough – is one that he really believes in. This particular Thieman was rotting away in a boneyard in Sioux City until he and his wife rescued it back in 2012. “It wasn’t much when we got it,” he said, “They put it on my trailer with a big forklift!”

The nuts & bolts of the build…

Over the next year, Harold transformed it from a basketcase to what you see here. “It really wasn’t all that hard,” he told me, “Thiemans are easy to modify, and the driveline is a pretty simple thing to mess with, too.” He lengthened the chassis by about 14-15″ so he could install a second transmission back-to-back with the first one. “I needed a lower set of gears so I could creep it up on to a trailer,” he said, “They’re not much for road gears, so if we were going to put it on display, we had to trailer it there. The extra gears really helped with that.”

He further explained that he swapped out the original tricycle front end to a wide-front axle to make it more stable (I believe that also came from a Model A). Once he’d built the frame, he turned to the cosmetic side, and the wooden/glass chamber. All of that is hand-built, and he even built a coffin and put it in the chamber!

Harold did all the work himself, from welding to fabrication, even the paint and cosmetics. He did a pretty darn nice job too, from where I’m sitting! This is a very well-engineered project! When I asked him what his favorite part of the project was, he said, “I think we enjoyed showing it more than anything. We really got around with this thing!”

Img (7)
When Harold said that they got around in this thing, he wasn’t kidding. This is one of a handful of “Best In Show” honors the hearse took home from gatherings!

In all actuality, though, Harold built this Thieman tractor hearse for his own funeral. Both he and his wife had planned on taking one last ride in it. However, as time went on, they felt that perhaps somebody else should enjoy it. Reading between the lines a little bit, I felt like maybe they didn’t want the next owner to feel weird knowing that it had actually served its intended purpose.

I get that. As a buyer, that might make me feel a little weird, too.

Wrapping Up…

If you told me a year ago that I’d write a column about a tractor turned hearse, I’d have probably laughed at you. Yet…here we are! That said, I’ve learned to never say never. This must be one of the most unique tractors I’ve ever seen, and I’m really glad that I talked to Harold about it.

What’s it worth?

I couldn’t even begin to guess. Hopefully it’s worth a small fortune, and that whomever ends up buying it will appreciate it – and the story of it – as much as I have! Bidding doesn’t open up for another few days, and the auction doesn’t close until July 21, 2021, so there’s plenty of time for it to travel around the internet a little. It’ll be fun to watch it sell, and I know Harold will be excited to see who takes it home!

(I do have somebody in mind for this tractor. I’m not sure if he’ll bite on it or not, but if there’s one guy on this planet that really NEEDS this tractor…it’s a certain super farm puller who lives near Rossville, IL.)

For those of you who follow the NTPA Super Farms, here’s your clue. 😁

PartingShot Andersen

Auctioneer: Sweeney Auction & Realty – Greeley, NE

Auction Details

John Deere 4030: Rare ones from Nebraska!

John Deere 4030 tractors
These two John Deere 4030 tractors are pretty rare! They sell at a Nebraska auction on July 14, 2021! Click the photo for the details!

See the details on these John Deere 4030 tractors here!

Although nobody knew it at the time, August 19, 1972 was to become one of the most pivotal days in John Deere history. Actually, it was a pretty big day for farming in general.

The Generation II tractors launched at Deere dealers nationwide on August 19, 1972. Four all-new tractors with a brand new game-changing design, and a new objective – operator comfort. These were the first tractors built with a cab in mind, and they did it right. The 4030, 4230, 4430, and 4630 coupled with the SoundGard body changed farming as we know it!

The 4030 was the baby of the Generation II line (a little like the 766 was to Harvester’s 66-series). It was a do-it-all tractor built to replace the 3020. Most 4030s were powered by a naturally-aspirated diesel 329ci inline six (more on that in a bit). Rated at about 80 horse, they worked well for smaller tasks on the farm. In total, there were 15,690 built from 1973-1977, and lots of ’em are still at work on farms across America. We see John Deere 4030 tractors at auction once in a while – according to our Iron Comps database, 29 have sold over the past year.

You said “most”…what’s the story there?

By 1973, gas-powered big tractors were on their way out. Deere was nearly certain of this, but they did offer a gas 4030 to see what it would do. I don’t think they had a lot of faith that they’d sell, though. They never sent one to the Nebraska Lab to be tested. Results were pretty predictable…it didn’t sell well. So, after building 222 tractors, they dumped the option.

And that’s where we get into this week’s Interesting Iron, selling at a Ruhter Auction & Realty consignment sale on July 14!

1973 John Deere 4030 Gas/Syncro/STANDARD

4030 Gas Synchro Standard
Is this a one of one John Deere 4030? Steve Plambeck thinks it could very well be! Click the photo to see the auction listing on Tractor Zoom!

Steve Plambeck is the seller of both of this week’s tractors (and a friend of mine as well). When I talked to him yesterday, he told me that this might be the rarest 4030 on the planet. He’s well-qualified to speak on the subject, too; he’s a noted Deere historian, and has a heck of a collection of SoundGard-era tractors at his farm southwest of Grand Island, NE!

Deere built a total of 222 4030 gassers, 122 with Syncro Range transmissions. What makes this one hyper-unique, though, is that it’s a factory Standard configuration. No rock shaft, no 3-point, and a wide-swing drawbar! Steve told me that he’s never seen another one like this in all his years as a collector!

4030 Gas Standard Wide Swing DrawbarThis 4030’s got a wide-swing drawbar, and that coupled with a factory rock shaft delete might just make this one a unicorn!

4030 Cab Tricycle Dealer Decal

A collector found this tractor in North Dakota about 8-10 years ago, I believe. It’s changed hands a few times since then, but nobody restored it. That’s all-original paint and patina, which is the way I like ’em!  It originally shipped to Taylor Bros, Inc. in Great Falls, MT. Based on my research, Taylor Bros incorporated around the same time this tractor rolled off the line. This is probably one of the first tractors sold at their dealership! The meter shows 3510 hours, and Steve’s kept it in good running condition. I believe he may have replaced the rubber and maybe the seat as well.

4030 Gas Standard Hood
This one is all-original too, save for fresh rubber all the way around (and maybe a new seat).

 

Wrapping up…

Can we claim it as a one of one? No. Steve hasn’t seen all 222 4030s to verify, and Deere didn’t keep detailed records during the 70s. That said…collectors talk. If there’s another 4030 gas syncro standard out there, nobody’s found it yet. So, for now, let’s call it 1 of 122. That’s rare as far as Generation II tractors go! It’ll be fun to watch this one sell!

1975 John Deere 4030 Diesel/Syncro/Factory Convertible Front End/Soundgard Cab

Boy, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?

4030 Cab Tricycle
Remember the tractor that Tow Mater tipped over in Cars? This may as well have been the inspiration for it…and now you can own it! It sells at a Nebraska auction on July 14, 2021! Click the photo to see the details!

 

When’s the last time you saw a tricycle with a SoundGard? Definitely not something you see everyday. The best part of this one? It’s all factory! 4030s and 4230s could be had with either a Roll-O-Matic narrow front end (with one or two wheels) or a wide-front axle. The neat thing about the narrow-front option is that Deere’s engineers designed it to be converted it to a wide-front whenever you want! Factory wide-front tractors didn’t have this feature. If you ever see a narrow front like this one on a 4030, 4230, or 4040, it’s a safe bet that it came from the factory that way!

This tractor has spent pretty much all of its life in Western NE. It’s had two owners before Steve. The second owner hung on to it for close to 30 years before selling it to him.

 

This is a low-houred tractor, too. Only 5511 original hours! Steve says that it’s nice and tight, and drives really nicely too! It’s very clean inside, and the interior is a lot cleaner than a lot of 30-series tractors I’ve seen! It was resprayed at some point during the second owner’s time with it, and the rubber is fresh, too.

4030 Cab Tricycle Hood

Wrapping up…

Overall, this is a really nice tractor, and it’s pretty rare, too. Like I said, Deere’s records from this era aren’t awesome, making it hard to know how many they built. But that said…there definitely aren’t many. I know that Tom Renner has a 4230 set up like this in his collection, I saw a 4230 like this sell at an auction in Missouri a couple of years ago, and there was a 4030 sitting on a dealer’s lot in Ohio about 10 years ago that showed up on AgTalk, but that’s about it.

4030cab Agtalk
This 4030 was on a dealer’s lot in Findlay, OH about 10 years ago. No idea where it went, though…

Honestly, I have no idea what either of these will bring. Both of these fall into that unique category where there aren’t many comps. I’ll be really interested to see what they sell for!

One more thing…

If you saw a bunch of photos of really nice green tractors at a show over the past few days on social media, Steve had something to do with that, too. In addition to being a collector and restorer, he also sits on the board of directors for the Classic Green Society. Every other year, they host the Classic Green Reunion, and this past weekend it was in Columbus, OH. I couldn’t go, but I’m told it was a terrific show! Well-attended, too!

Classic Green Reunion 2023
If 2021 was any indication, the 2023 Reunion will be bigger than ever!

That said, I do intend to get to the next one in 2023. I won’t have anything to exhibit, but I’ll bring the camera and video gear and take y’all along for the ride!

Click here to see more of these cool 4030s!

 

Wasted Nights!

Wasted Nights Modified Pulling Tractor
The Wasted Nights Limited Mod is part of the Red River Valley’s pulling history…with an interesting connection to a 80s county fair legend! It sells to the highest bidder on Monday!

See the details on the Wasted Nights mod here.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time (or you got here because of the email), you know that I’ve been a fan of tractor pulling since I was 8 years old. So, when Wasted Nights showed up on Allen Henslin’s auction for Jeff Janke this week, I was pretty excited. Finally, a pulling tractor to write about!

Wasted Nights is a mod with a good storyline, and a neat connection to a county fair staple from the 80s. More on that in a minute…

Wasted Nights modified pulling tractor
Wasted Nights is definitely an old-style mod, but who says you can’t have fun kickin’ it old-skool? Click the photo to see the rest of the photos and auction details.

History

Back in the late 90s, Gene Brend and Jeff Janke partnered up on this tractor, which came from a couple of local truck pullers who weren’t doing anything with it. They repainted it, got it into shape, and campaigned it pretty successfully for about 15 years! As Gene was a die-hard Chevy mechanic, and it always sported a big block – usually a 454 punched out to about 477 cubes. Bowtie power won three points championships in the 6200 pound Limited Mod class with the Central Minnesota Pullers with it too! in the 6200 pound Limited Mod and 6500 pound Mod class. I talked to Jeff this morning for about a half hour, and it sounds like he and Gene had a lot of fun with it! They won three points championships with it, too!

Sadly, Gene had some health problems and had to park the tractor. It’s been a while since the tractor has gone down the track – probably 7 or 8 years (maybe more). He’d always had plans to get it back together after his health improved, but unfortunately the health problems got worse. Sadly, Gene passed away in 2019. Before he passed away, though, he left the tractor to Jeff. He told him, “Get it running again and go have fun with it, or get it in the hands of someone who’ll continue with what we started.”

Jeff recently got it back together for this auction. His intent is to give most of the proceeds of the sale to Gene’s kids.

Specs

The Wasted Nights mod was really built for the 6200 pound Limited Mod classes in central and western Minnesota. However, it also was pretty darn competitive in the 6500 pound classes when they weighted up.

Today, I believe the class is allowed a 530 cubic inch V8 on gas or alcohol, with one carb, and (this was a new one for me) a single stage of nitrous. Back when Wasted Nights was regularly competing, though, the cube limit was 485. Jeff put it back together using those rules. It’s got a fresh 454 in it, aluminum ‘Vette heads, and a Holley 1050 Dominator on top. It’s also jetted for nitrous, but it’s not currently installed. Gene always figured that the motor was good for 900 horsepower. I got the feeling from Jeff that Gene’s number might’ve been a little optimistic, but with a little tuning, I’m sure it’s within reach.

Wasted Nights modified pulling tractor
Here’s the heartbeat of Wasted Nights…a fresh Chevy big block 454!

On the chassis/driveline side, it’s got a planetary rear end setup from a Ford log skidder. The power transfers through a Turbo 400 transmission. In that class, that’s a fairly bulletproof combo. I know the chassis is solid, and it hooks up to the track really well.

What it needs

Overall, Wasted Nights has good bones. Most importantly, it’s got a good chassis that hooks. You can have the best motor and driveline in the world, but if the chassis isn’t right, none of it’ll do you any good. That said, there are a few things that need some attention before you can go waste nights of your own on the track!

Jeff has most of the wiring finished, but I know he didn’t get around to the kill switch. There might’ve been one or two other things too – maybe the tach and some dashboard stuff.

Wasted Nights Modified Pulling Tractor
It’s not perfect; it’ll need some work to get it in competitive shape, but in the right class, this thing would be a BLAST!

The motor would definitely benefit from a trip to a race shop with a dyno. Pulling motors are pretty high-strung, and to run their best, you really need a professional to dial ’em in. Jeff advised that the heads should be re-torque’d, the timing should be checked. Furthermore, this motor has a pretty high-lift camshaft; spending some time finding the sweet spot with valve lash would definitely be time well spent. Aside from snapping a rod, breaking a rocker is about the most destructive internal failure you can have. A good engine builder can probably get this motor lined out fairly easily.

Lastly, I think I’d probably recommend giving the tires a once-over. They look reasonably good to me in the photos, but I’m sure it’s been a while since the lugs have been sharpened. Sharp, smooth lugs definitely bite the track better – and in the sport of inches…you take every advantage you can!

The County Fair Connection

So how many of you have heard of The Silver Bullet? No, not that one.

SilverBullet
Oops…wrong Silver Bullet.

THIS one. The Coors Light-sponsored Silver Bullet “jumping combine”.

Silver Bullet Jumping Combine
The Silver Bullet was a big hit on the county fair circuit during the 80s!

The Silver Bullet was the brainchild of a guy named Ernie Brookins, an event promoter from Fargo. At the time, Ernie and his wife Gail were promoting combine demolition derbies in the midwest, but Ernie had a crazy idea to jump a combine over a car Evel-Knievel-style as a promo thing for the derbies. What’s even better was that he got Coors to sponsor the build!

The “combine” was basically a tube-frame chassis, a big block, and a hollowed-out combine body sitting on top of it. Ernie would jump the 1450-horse monster during the intermission of his demolition derby shows. It was a weird form of entertainment, but it definitely got the crowd’s attention! It got the attention of Hollywood, too – in 1987, it was featured in a movie called Race For The Harvest!

Anyway, Ernie and Gail ran this combine all over the country for about five years, from 1985-1990 before retiring it and moving on to other ventures.

So what’s the connection?

Shortly after Gene & Jeff started pulling Wasted Nights, they windowed the block of the motor they’d been running. They were in a bind, because it was the middle of the points chase, and they needed a new motor in a bad way. Well, Gene made a few phone calls to some of his circle-track buddies in Fargo – one of whom had ties to Ernie. A day or two later, Ernie brought one of the backup combine motors out and sold it to them! They bolted it into the chassis and away they went!

Here’s the best part…some of the parts from that motor are STILL in the tractor today! Jeff couldn’t remember if it was the camshaft or the crankshaft, but one of ’em came from the Silver Bullet! I think that’s a pretty cool little tie to the past, don’t you?

What’s it worth?

I have no idea. Our Iron Comps database covers millions of points of data from all kinds of farm equipment, but I’m pretty certain this will be the only modified pulling tractor in it! It’ll be fun to watch this one sell on Monday, June 28!

Get the auction details (and the full sale bill) here.

Big Buds from South Dakota!

Interesting Iron 0617
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…

Interesting Iron 0610
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

DSC 2539 Scaled Copy
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…