Actually, you could probably say the same thing about the entire 50-series lineup.
Mother Deere’s 50-series lineup was the biggest product line of new tractors in the company’s history. Between 1981-1986, the company launched 22 new tractors. I believe 19 of ’em were available in the States, and 3 were local to Argentina. I think that’s pretty impressive, given that the Farm Crisis was happening at the same time!
At any rate, the 4450 was definitely the bread-and-butter model. It took everything that the American farmer loved about the 4430/4440 models and improved them.
(This is the point where the 4440 guys start lighting the torches and sharpening the pitchforks…)
Wait, what? The 4440 was the perfect tractor! There was nothing better! You’re an idiot, Interesting Iron guy!
I said what I said. ?
Here’s why I think they’re a better tractor from a mechanical perspective.
Prior to 1983, most (if not all) of Deere’s rowcrop 4WD systems were run off of the hydraulic pump, and they really weren’t all that great. They were notoriously unreliable, didn’t like to work when it was cold, and they were spendy to maintain. With the introduction of the 50-series tractors, the company implemented a mechanical system that used gears and a driveshaft. It was a lot more reliable, less expensive to maintain, and unlike the hydraulic system, built to work all the time if needed.
The 15-speed Powershift was, in most cases, better for field work. It gave the operator more gearing options to more effectively use the engine’s power (i.e., less “in between” issues than an 8-speed). Furthermore, because the gearing wasn’t spaced so far apart, shifts were a little less clunky. (Come on 30/40-series guys, you gotta admit that they shift pretty hard…)
Lastly, Castor Action. Castor Action was a system that tilted the kingpin on the front axle 13° so you could turn sharper. No more taking three acres to get the tractor turned around. It was faster and more efficient because it used less fuel. It wasn’t perfect, but it definitely saved farmers time and money.
Anyway, I’m sure the 4440 crowd would argue with me until the cows come home, but in my opinion, the 4450 was the better machine. The 4440 was definitely more iconic, but it did have its shortcomings.
Farmers seemed to think so, too. While the older tractors may have moved more units, the 4450 still accounted for 1 out of every 5 tractors sold in the 50-series lineup. Hard to argue with sales numbers like that!
So, why did I choose this one for this week’s Interesting Iron? Because it’s probably one of the nicest 4450s you can buy on the market right now. I talked with Riley Sieren, the auctioneer who’s hosting this estate auction, about this tractor earlier this week. He told me that Marvin, the man who owned this tractor, was the only owner. He bought it new from R.J. Schott’s John Deere dealership in Sigourney, IA in 1986. Since then, he only put 5925 hours on it. He also told me that Marvin took a lot of pride in his equipment; he always kept it in the shed, and he was quite particular about keeping his tractors spotless inside and out.
If ever there was a cream puff, this is it. Go check out the listing. There’s a ton of great photos and Riley took the time to capture the details. I’m pretty confident in saying that this is one of the cleanest all-original John Deere 4450 MFWDs on auction that I’ve seen all year long.
Honestly, I could see this tractor hitting $45-50K before the hammer drops on December 3. I looked at some of the trends using our Iron Comps data to see what these were doing and boy, these 50-series tractors are continuing to climb in value. They’re tough tractors that are really handy on a farm of nearly any size. They’ll do nearly all the tasks that a big tractor will do, while still being handy enough to maneuver around in tight spaces. Furthermore, you can still work on ’em!
Side note: There’s a ton of great equipment on this sale. Lots of good, one-owner, well-maintained green stuff. Check out the full sale bill here.
There’s a bunch of different interesting angles on the Fate-Root-Heath Company. They made everything from bricks to locomotives, and honestly I’m surprised nobody’s written a book yet. Their most successful venture was tractors like this Silver King R66. Heck, Henry Ford owned several of ’em, and thought they were the best tractor buy on the market!
Like many smaller tractor companies of the 30s and 40s, they outsourced parts and essentially ordered them as needed. The finished product was a good quality piece, though – a very versatile little 4-banger gas tractor. Because of their gearing, you could put a Silver King into the field, plow 5 acres with it, and hustle home at 45 mph! They became pretty well known for being a fast tractor on the road!
The crazy road trip story…
And on that note…I stumbled on an old interview with one of Silver King’s sales guys not too long ago. Apparently, a local customer once bought one of their 3-wheeled tractors; he planned to pull a small camper behind it from Plymouth, OH all the way down to Florida! So the story goes, he got a few miles down the road and stopped for dinner. After a few beers, he got a fair bit more ambitious and decided to go to Florida…but with a pit stop in California first!
That’s exactly what the guy did, too! He drove his trusty Silver King from Ohio to California, then Florida, and all the way back to Ohio! That camper bumping along behind him the whole way! Not only that, but when he returned, he sold the tractor to a local farmer who worked it in the field!
This particular Silver King R66 currently lives in NE Iowa, and I know it’ll need some TLC to get it back into good shape. That said, it’s all there (for the most part), and I suspect that this tractor will sell fairly inexpensively. Parts aren’t tremendously difficult to find, as the components are fairly common. Depending on the serial number, it’ll probably have a Hercules or a Continental gas 4-banger in it and a 4-speed transmission. If you buy it and decide to drive across the country with it, plan an overnight stop in Des Moines! I’d really love to see it!
First, let’s cut to the chase before we get into some of the stories. As of the time I publish this post, you’ll have about 10 days to get to Avoca to see Farmall Land. After 5PM on Sunday, September 27, Jerry & Joyce Mez are retiring, off to travel the world and spoil their grandkids! Subsequently, our friends at Girard Auctions will be sending everything off to new owners. Everything will be sold through a series of online auctions (the land and the buildings too) beginning later this fall. You’ll be able to find all of the details for the tractors and equipment on Tractor Zoom, so keep an eye on the site!
Now…on to the stories.
In the event you’re a red fan, the long lines of flourescent lights probably give it away. Today, we’re celebrating one of the coolest collections of interesting red iron on the planet. Welcome to Farmall Land USA.
If you’ve ever wondered what true passion looks like, Farmall Land USA is where you’ll find the answer. From the moment you walk in the doors and sign the 3-ring binder guest book on the table, you’ll not only see the passion – you’ll feel it. Over the past 50 or so years, Jerry & Joyce Mez have built an utterly amazing collection of the red machinery that built this country. They genuinely appreciate the opportunity to show it to anybody who walks through their doors, too.
The Dealership Days
Jerry’s grown up around red tractors almost all of his life. The Mez family moved to Avoca, IA from Falls City, NE and Max (Jerry’s father) opened Avoca Implement in 1943 when Jerry was just a toddler. The dealership was quite successful, and eventually expanded to locations in Greenfield, IA and (for a short time) Atlantic, IA. Jerry & Joyce sold both dealerships to Titan Machinery in 2008. The museum has been their full-time focus since then.
“Since I was 3 years old, everything I have is attributable to farm equipment,” Jerry said in a 2010 INTERVIEW.
Jerry began collecting red tractors in the mid-70s when he got out of the Army. The first one in the collection? One of the first tractors his Dad ever sold, a Farmall F-20. It was all downhill from there! Jerry & Joyce have close to 220 tractors in the collection now (nearly all of them pre-merger tractors), give or take a few. You’ll usually find about 150 on display at any given time.
The Farmall 1206
So what’s his favorite? A Farmall 1206 narrow-front that his father sold new out of the Avoca dealership to a local farmer in 1966. Jerry bought it back from the original owner in 1988. When I last talked with Jerry in late June, this 1206 was one of the few that he was planning on keeping after retiring from the museum.
The ih 4300
In addition to his 1206, another favorite that Jerry really enjoys showing off is a 1962 IH 4300 – one of the rarest production tractors IH ever built! IH didn’t build many to start with (I think the number was in the low-mid 40s; they were essentially built-to-order by Hough). Many were used pretty hard by construction companies, and Jerry believes there are only about six of them known to still exist. Weighing in at 30,000 pounds and sporting an 817-cube turbocharged inline six mated to an Allison automatic transmission, this one is definitely a crowd favorite. He looked for it for about 15 years, too, and the restoration process was extensive (it was a basketcase when he got it). All in all, it took two full nights to clean it up enough to see what they were working with for the restoration!
The museum typically sees well over 5000 visitors per year, and Jerry figures that he’s had conversations with guests from every continent and every state in the union as well! One of the last times I visited, I actually had an international (no pun intended) encounter while drooling over a wide-fendered Wheatland 1256! I met a man who was here in the states from Australia. He really wasn’t involved with agriculture in his day job back home, but he’d heard about Farmall Land and wanted to stop. “Stuff like this, and the people who run this museum is what makes America so great!” he said. Indeed it does, my friend.
The farm and garden tractors themselves are one thing, but that’s not all that makes up this amazing exhibit. Additionally, the memorabilia and examples of other products that International Harvester (fridges, freezers, etc.) built is mind-blowing! Altogether, I’m sure there are well over a thousand die-cast toys ranging from 1/64th up to 1/8th scale, plus a load of nice pedal tractors too! Basically, according to Jerry, “If it’s red, we’ve probably got it.”
So, like I’d mentioned earlier…if you want to see this collection in all of its glory, you need to make some plans within the next week or so. After September 27, the doors will close permanently.
Additionally, here are some details if you decide to make the trip!
Address: 2101 N. Lavista Heights Rd., Avoca, IA 51521
(Basically, it’s at the intersection of I-80 and Iowa 59 off of exit 40; an hour or so west of Des Moines, or about 45 minutes east of Omaha.)
Hours: Closed on Monday, Tuesday – Saturday 10AM-5PM, Sunday 12PM-5PM.
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for 13-18, $3 for 5-12, and free under 5!
COVID-19 rules do apply as well, folks, so out of respect for Jerry & Joyce’s wishes you’ll want to have a mask with you, and wear it while in the museum.
All in all, there’s no community of people nicer than tractor people, and honestly, folks like Jerry & Joyce Mez and their small staff are the reason why. They absolutely love what they do, and love to share their passion for tractors with anybody who stops in to say hello. They’ve given very selflessly to the industry, farmers, and tractor collectors. In fact, I think I’m going to sneak away on Saturday the 26th and stop in one more time to say thank you. I hope I’ll see you there, too.
Finally, here’s a gallery of photos from several of my visits, as well as a few shots from Girard Auctions! At the end of the day, though, neither my photos nor anybody else’s do Farmall Land proper justice. You really need to take it in for yourself.
Again, special thanks to my friend Lee Klancher and the team over at Octane Press for lending me the photo of that Jerry’s beautiful 1206. Lee wrote a great piece about one of his visits to Farmall Land. He’s got lots of photos that I didn’t get during my visits, too! Read that here.
Yep. When Mother Deere set her sights on the ‘burbs in the late 60s with their line of garden tractors, you could buy a 110, 112, 120, or 140 in the traditional green and yellow, or in any of 4 different special colors. It was a marketing ploy that only lasted for a couple of years because they didn’t sell very well. To collectors right now, they’re pretty hot!
They were actually called the Custom Color series, but these days everybody just calls them The Patio Series tractors. They were mechanically identical to their green counterparts, but they were painted Dogwood White from the factory (sans hood), and the customer was given the choice of matching hood and seat. Available colors were Patio Red, Sunset Orange, Spruce Blue, and April Yellow.
The advertising for the Patio Series was interesting. Deere played with different concepts appealing to upper middle class life like letting your wife pick out her favorite color (I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole…) or matching the color of your mower to the color of your boat/car/lawn furniture. Obviously, it didn’t work because they didn’t sell a ton of them, but I will say that the Spruce Blue bears a reasonably close resemblance to Mulsanne Blue (one of the more popular colors for the Camaro).
This Spruce Blue 112 lives in Reedsburg, WI for now, but I’m pretty sure that there’ll be a lot of action on the bidding before it’s all said and done. A buddy of mine who’s knowledgeable on these tractors is pretty sure it’s all-original, and the Spruce Blue is one of the rarer of the colors (the rarest is April Yellow). It’ll be fun to see where the bidding ends up on this one! While it’s by no means “comprehensive” in Patio Series tractor auction results, our Iron Comps Insights data suggests that it’ll sell for somewhere in the $1000-1200 neighborhood.
By the way, the folks at Green Magazine published a great article about the history of the Patio Series tractors. Read it here!
If you’re shopping for a Patio Series tractor, try to find one with an original seat in decent shape. Unfortunately, there aren’t many NOS seats available these days, and as far as I know, nobody makes a reproduction. Consequently, when NOS originals show up on eBay, the bidding quickly goes bonkers!
Nothing to see from an auction perspective. Not this time.
This post is all about a road trip to the best heritage farm show you’ve never heard of. It’s a little off the beaten path just south of Ellston, IA, and it’s awesome!
Now in its 10th year, the Blackmore Corner Antique Farm Show is the brainchild of the Dolecheck family. It started as a way to play with old iron that they (and their neighbors) had used over the years. Since then, it’s grown quite a bit, with a lot of iron being trailered in from the surrounding area! The day before the show, they host a 70-80 mile tractor ride and a big cookout, too, so it’s a full weekend!
The afternoon that I was there, they were threshing wheat with an old belt-driven thresher (running off of an old F-20, no less). In another area, there were six or eight plows hard at work turning the dirt! The plan was to pick corn the following day using a variety of pickers and some old combines, but intermittent rain hampered their plans.
The Blackmore Corner Antique Farm Show ended the Saturday night festivities with an old-style tractor pull. Lots of kiddos sitting on hay bales, lawn chairs in the bed of old Chevys, that sort of thing. I love pulls like that!
The Dolechecks don’t do a lot of marketing for this show, but they do have a Facebook page with more information and some cool drone footage from years past! I would expect that this show grows quite a bit over the next few years, so if you’re able to come out, I’m sure they’d love to have you!
Here’s what I saw while I was there.
Later in the evening, the plow demonstrations gave way to a tractor pull, and these next photos are from that portion of the day. Although some are still working tractors, those with roll cages definitely aren’t!
Timing. Is. Everything. I do love taking photos at sunset.
So there you have it, the gallery from the Blackmore Corner Antique Farm Show 2020!
It seems like there are more unique and interesting Ford conversions out there than with any other tractor brand. Most of them never made it over to American soil, though, which makes this one, a Roadless 95, all the more interesting! Goodrich Auction Service in Newark Valley, NY, sends this fairly rare tractor home to a new owner on Friday, July 10. I’m really interested to see what it this odd little tractor sells for!
The Roadless 95 started as a Ford 5000; however, before selling it, the Roadless Traction Company made some “minor” modifications to it. The British company stretched the frame about 6″ so they could stuff a 95-horse 6-cylinder Ford diesel motor into it. Roadless also turned it into a 4WD using a transfer case (built in-house) and the axle from a military 6×6. They’re pretty beefy!
I think this is a 1966-68 model. If it is, that make this one VERY rare. Roadless only made 210-215 of these, and I don’t think many of them made it over here. They’re still quite popular with English and Dutch tractor collectors as I understand it.
Admittedly, this one is rough. At some point in its life, an aftermarket turbo kit has been added to it (possibly an M&W?), so this tractor definitely makes more power than your average Roadless 95. Evan Goodrich, the auctioneer, says that it runs well and that the 4WD works too. This would be a fun one to bring to a plow day!
I have no idea what this tractor is worth, but to the right collector, it might be just what they’re looking for! I’d imagine that if a collector does pick it up, that turbo might be the first thing to go in the restoration process.
It’s getting hard to find a low-houred John Deere 4455 like this one these days; every now and then, however, one sneaks out of the barn and heads to auction. Like this one! This beautiful tractor only has 2743 original hours on it, and it sells at an auction hosted by Wears Auctioneering in Iowa City, IA. Sells with duals, full rack of front weights, new interior, and sales and service records.
The 4455 MFWD was a hot seller, because among other improvements, this tractor could turn sharper than the competition. Deere built a push-button system for the 50-series called Caster Action that tightened the turning radius. However, on the 55-series, it engaged automatically. By tilting the kingpin on the front axle a few degrees, the front wheels could lean over while turning; therefore tightening your turning radius. In fact, the stat nerds at Deere figured that if you dragged a 6-row 30″ cultivator through a square 100-acre field, you’d turn around 139 times! With Caster Action, the John Deere 4455 could cut about 18 feet off of each loop! When you do the math, that saves about a half mile per field! It doesn’t sound like much, but if you did the math all the way through the year, it’d add up to some decent fuel savings!
(That said…many owners turned their 4455s up a little, so the fuel savings went straight out the stack. Still, it was nice idea, right?)
This particular tractor is a 3-owner with 2743 hours (verified – service records and sale history comes with the tractor). The tractor has never left the state of Iowa all of its life, and each owner has maintained it very well. A Deere technician replaced the dash at 2727.9 hours in 2014; he engraved the original hours on the underside of the new dash to document the change. Since then, the owner has only it used a few hours per year mowing set-aside land. The new meter currently reads 14.9 hours.
Bidding on this one is pretty hot right now; I’ll be surprised if this tractor doesn’t hit close to $50K when the bidding is finished!