The Massey-Harris Pacemaker isn’t super-rare. They’re not super-common, either. There were about 3,000 built over two(ish) years. They were a great little Depression-era farm tractor.
They’ve got an interesting history, though. The Pacemaker was a direct descendent of a pretty ground breaking tractor with ties to the Case family.
Wallis Tractor Co.
The Pacemaker’s bloodline began with a company called Wallis Tractor Co. Henry Wallis was Jerome Increase Case’s son-in-law, and he started the company in 1912. Wallis Tractor Company pioneered the uniframe, a revolutionary concept in tractor-building.
See, before Wallis, companies built tractors like old steam engines. They bolted channel iron together to build a frame, and bolted the motor to that. It worked, but it it wasn’t great. Because the frames were bolted together, they flexed a lot, and that was really hard on driveline parts (which are NOT made to flex).
Wallis made a solid U-shaped steel frame, and bolted all the components to it. It made the resulting tractor a lot stiffer, which was a lot easier on driveline parts!
Massey-Harris was watching. At that point, they were just a harvesting equipment manufacturer; they didn’t really have a tractor line to sell. So, taking a page from Cyrus McCormick’s book, they bought Wallis so they’d have one. It proved to be a smart move, too.
The Pacemaker & Specialty Variants
The Pacemaker was actually an updated Wallis model. It was available as a as a standard, as well as two variants – an orchard and a vineyard model.
Specialty crop tractors like this usually feature similar characteristics. They sit lower than the standards, for one. Additionally, they usually feature swoopy rear fenders covering the wheel. The exhaust is also routed off to the side, or under the tractor. Everything is designed to protect the trees or the vines. The orchard models measured 48″ wide, and the vineyards were 40″ wide. These are definitely small, skinny tractors.
I knew that the variants were far less common, but I could never really find any documented production numbers. So, I made a phone call to my friend Tom up in Fargo. Tom and his granddad have one of the world’s largest Wallis & Massey-Harris collections (over 120 tractors), and I figured he’d know.
Oddly enough…he did. He knew quite a bit about these tractors, and he was more than willing to share.
Apparently they made somewhere in the neighborhood of 170-180 orchard models (mainly gas-powered, but a few kerosene/distillate models too), but only 42 of the vineyard tractors. 42! Tom also told me that as of now, only 7 of the vineyard model are known to have survived!
So, adding the one in the picture at the top to the mix, that makes 8 left out there. Some have been restored, but others are still in use on farms across the planet.
The Oregon Pacemaker
I called JB Dimick at J&C Auctions the other day to get the story on this rare tractor. JB told me that this is the second time he’s sold this tractor. One of his regulars, an antique tractor collector, bought it many years ago with the intentions of restoring it to its former glory. Sadly, that collector passed away before he had the opportunity to restore it. He did get it running at some point, but never made progress beyond that.
JB didn’t know the entire history of the tractor, but he’s fairly sure that it was originally sold at a local dealership, so it’s been in Southwest Oregon/Northern California all its life. It’s missing the side panels, swoopy fenders, and the cowling over the steering wheel. It’s not currently running, and the team at J&C hasn’t tried to turn the motor over as far as I’m aware.
There are a number of antique tractors on this auction, and they all belonged to that regular customer. When they came in, JB noticed that this one had a small cowbell attached to the front, and he asked about it. Denise, the wife of that deceased customer, said that the cowbell was what her husband always did when he got one running. I thought that was kind of a neat signature, and I really hope that it goes with the tractor when it sells. A lot of the collectors and restorers that I know appreciate those little connections to the prior owners. Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but I know that if I restored it, that cowbell would stay with the tractor forever.
What’s the tractor worth?
Honestly, I have no idea. Our Iron Comps database has hundreds of thousands of auction values, but no Pacemaker vineyard tractors. Bidding just opened last night, and it’s currently sitting at $3400.
Based on my conversation with Tom, my guess is that the only folks who will be bidding are dedicated Massey-Harris collectors – likely a fairly small group (and they probably all know each other, too). Whomever takes it home will definitely have a rare tractor, but to restore it properly, it’ll cost $10K or more.
Would they be able to turn a profit after restoration? Based on where the bidding sits right now, I’d imagine the answer is no. There’s only been one restored Pacemaker vineyard model that’s crossed the auction block recently (serial number 201031). It sold at a Mecum Gone Farmin’ auction in 2016 for $10K. Two years later, it sold again at another Mecum sale for just over $13K. The tractor on next week’s auction does have an earlier serial number, though, which could push the value a little. This tractor’s serial number is 201008, so it could easily be one of the first Pacemaker vineyards built!
My guess, though, is that whomever wins this one won’t really care about resale. If they’ve gone far enough down the Massey-Harris rabbit hole to be looking for a Pacemaker vineyard, they’re completing a set or something. Once it’s been restored, it’ll stay in their collection for the foreseeable future.
This is definitely one of the rarest tractors we’ve seen on Tractor Zoom in a long time, and it’ll be fun to see where the bidding ends up. If you win the bid, reach out to me! I’d love to follow the progress of the tractor’s restoration!
One more thing…
While I was on the phone with Tom the other day, we got to talking about steam engines and really old gas engine tractors. He mentioned that he’d recently taken a spot on the organizer team for the Divide County Threshing Bee, a tractor show held in Crosby, ND (way up in the northwest corner of the state). The show focuses mainly on these big old steam engines and gas tractors, and if you’re out west, it sounds like a great time! This year’s date is July 16-18. I may try to get out there if I’m not booked for tractor pull that weekend!
He was pretty excited that this year’s featured mark was Massey-Harris, so I’m sure he’ll drag a couple of semi loads of tractors up there for it!
There are a lot of cool tractor auctions that I never got to write about for Interesting Iron this year. We see lots of neat tractors and trucks listed on Tractor Zoom by our auction partners. Unfortunately, I can’t write about ’em all.
Still, they deserve a little time in the spotlight, so let’s do a year-end wrap-up of 20 of the coolest tractors, trucks, and pickups that didn’t make it to Interesting Iron in 2020! Last week, we covered everything from record-setting red tractors to Big Buds to Cummins-swapped squarebodies. This week, let’s look at the rest of the list!
The Wagner Tractor story has a bunch of different angles – way more than I can cram into a paragraph or two, but suffice it to say that they were a pioneer in the 4WD tractor movement. They built great big beasts in an era where lots of companies couldn’t even imagine a farmer big enough to need a tractor like that!
This big TR14A was one of two Wagners on a Sullivan sale in northeast Iowa this past August. Neither one of them brought a lot of money, but they still deserve a spot in the history books. Wagner tractors are an integral part of the big power farming story. I don’t think they’ll ever see the collectability that their green stepbrothers have (Wagner built big tractors for John Deere for a little while – I told you there were a lot of angles to this story!), but they’re cool in my book!
Side note: For you big tractor collector types, the silver lining to the low-price cloud is that if you want to start a niche-y collection, they don’t typically sell for huge dollars when they do come up! (Sadly, you don’t see many Wagners at tractor auctions…once in a while, maybe, but not often.)
Usually if there’s a super-low-houred classic that’s coming up for auction, word gets around. Not this time. This 2-owner black stripe 1066 only had 794 original (and verified) hours on it! I’ve never seen a lower-houred 1066 in my entire life! Needless to say, this beautiful survivor brought big money. It smashed the previous record by $19K, hammering home for $46K after it was all said and done!
People have wondered if maybe the market is starting to slip on 1066s a little bit. I think this one, even though it’s a bit of an outlier example, still reinforces the case that there’s still demand for classics like this – both for collectors as well as for farm use!
Oddly enough, though…this wasn’t the highest-priced 1066 we’d see in 2020. More on that in a minute.
This is probably one of my favorite tractors that rolled across the block this year (maybe a tie between this one and Jerry’s 1256 Wheatland). I’m sure there are purists that are cringing over this pick because they think a “true” Wheatland couldn’t be ordered with fat tires like this, and they think it looks way too hot-rodded. To each their own. I’ve seen some of the ordering paperwork and I’m pretty certain you could order these with factory 24.5s like this one.
Anyway, this one presented very nicely in my opinion. In addition, this is the very last IH 1206 built in 1966! The bidders didn’t go as nuts over this one as I thought they might, but Deanco still got a pretty reasonable price out of it.
I think what I really like about this one is that it shows that you can still find a decent deal on a collector tractor at an auction. They don’t ALWAYS go for a small fortune. I don’t know who ended up with this one, but I hope it was a young collector, and it’s a cornerstone of their collection!
When Case got into the 4WD tractor market in 1963 with the 1200 Traction King, they did it in the typical Case way. They’d always produced a quality product with reasonable features at an affordable price. They drew a box around what they wanted, and they built a tractor that fit within those parameters. In this case, that meant using pieces and parts that were already sitting on the shelf to keep costs down. Had they wanted to, they could’ve built something super-robust that made a ton of power, but that would’ve been overkill. They had the components to build a 200-horse tractor that probably would’ve tipped the scales at 20,000 lbs., but that would’ve been more than what was necessary for the time.
The 1200 Traction King was, at the time, a great tractor with one rather glaring flaw…the turbocharger. A normal 451 cubic inch Lanova that Case put in this tractor normally made 105 horsepower, but that would’ve been just a little underpowered for this big tractor. The tractor needed more power, and the only way to get it was to turbocharge it. Unfortunately, though, the turbo’d 451 was a fragile motor with a tendency to run REALLY hot.
The 1200 didn’t sell tremendously well, and Case only turned out about 1500 of them. This one was nicely restored, and like the 1206 from the same auction, the bidders didn’t go crazy with it. Somebody got a pretty good deal on this piece of history and took it home for $10K!
Just like they say that they’re only original once…there’s only one “first one.” This is the very first 1066. Serial number 7101. Amazingly enough, this tractor lived in Iowa all of its life. It was originally sold on December 8, 1971 by Falb Implement in Elgin, IA and only changed hands twice since then. Sometime in 1976, it was sold by Rhomberg Implement in Elkader, IA to Ray Cassutt who farmed with it until November 6, 1987, when Jerry Everitt bought it at Ray’s retirement auction.
1066 #1 is an incredibly original tractor. What you see in the photo is essentially what it looked like in December 1971 when it originally sold in Elgin! I believe the only things that aren’t factory original are the tires. Otherwise, that’s the original paint and Hiniker cab! Here’s the real crazy part…even after three owners, it’s only got 2993 original hours on it!
There was a LOT of discussion about who would end up with it and how much they’d end up paying for it. Heck, we had even had a pool going with in our office on what it would bring! (And had we not been playing Price Is Right rules, I’d have won the darn thing…)
When the hammer finally fell, the winning bidder paid $86,100. Honestly, it was less than a lot of people thought it was going to sell for (I heard guesses of anything from $50K to a quarter million). There were a fair number of people who were pretty annoyed that Case IH wasn’t the buyer. That’s okay, though. I’m sure Case IH knows where it went… (I can also tell you that they’ll probably have to pay through the nose if they want to get their hands on it.)
If ever there was an iconic semi, the long-nosed 379 is it. They’re the most popular owner-operator semi in history, and it’s not at all uncommon to see them customized like this one. I’m telling you…if I were ever to own a semi, this is what it would look like. (I might stretch the frame a little wee bit further and it would likely have a fire-breathing 6NZ Cat under the hood.)
I had a few buddies who had their eye on this truck when it went up for auction, but none of them ended up picking it up. Truthfully, I only saw one thing that likely kept the price from six figures. Most buyers looking for a semi like this are expecting to see some sort of Caterpillar under the hood (a 6NZ or a C15 most likely), and this one had a 60-series Detroit in it. Still, it hammered home for a very nice price and the seller was happy with the outcome.
In the world of Olivers, finding a 2050 is a pretty remarkable thing. They only built a total of 383 of them – including Cockshutt variants. But to find a front wheel assisted model? That’s exceedingly rare. There were only 93 FWA variants produced in total!
As you can see, this one wasn’t in perfect shape, but it was all there for the most part. I don’t know where it ended up, but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t a collector that picked it up.
Rare classics are out there, kids. You just need to keep an eye open for them! They do show up at regular old tractor auctions once in a while!
Pro Tip: Smart auction buyers (and collectors) don’t waste hundreds of hours scrolling through endless auction listings for the equipment they’re looking for. They use Tractor Zoom’s custom search alerts and let our system do the looking! Set up a free TZ user account here, and then set up an alert to get a text or email whenever we get a match for whatever you’re looking for! With over 450 auctioneer partners, we’ll end up finding it faster! (And if you need to find out what equipment is worth, you need to take a look at Iron Comps!)
The Mediapolis Fire Truck
There’s been a resurgence in popularity of 70s and 80s pickups over the past few years. They’re tough trucks that are easy to work on or restore, and they’re darn good lookin’ things! For a lot of today’s gearheads, trucks like this remind them of learning to wrench with Dad or Grandpa in the garage. In that sense, they become more than just a hunk of iron. They’re sentimental.
At any rate, this 1979 F-350 served in the Mediapolis Fire Dept. from when it was new until the fall of 2013 when it was retired. Since then, it’s been stripped of the gear in the back (a water pump, tank, and hose reel), and generally freshened up a bit. Nothing crazy. It doesn’t need it! At the end of the day, it has 30K original miles and a 400 in it – the biggest motor you could have gotten it with! (And before you start the “You’re wrong, Interesting Iron Guy” emails…you couldn’t get a 460 in a 4×4 in 1979. I checked.)
Bidders LOVED this truck, and it was one of the hottest sellers on this sale. When the hammer fell, it brought nearly $24K!
A long time ago, I remember writing something about how, at the end of the day, these aren’t just machines. Whether it’s a truck, a tractor, a combine, or something else that can be driven, pivotal moments of life have been spent there. How many grandfathers planted corn after dinner with one of their grandsons riding on the armrest of a 1086? How many times has a father consoled a heartbroken teenaged daughter sitting in the buddy seat of a 9770 STS during harvest? Furthermore, how many teenage boys have saved every penny so they could put a lift kit on an old Chevy like this one? My point is that these things aren’t just tools that we’re talking about.
Life happens in these vehicles.
Nothing that crossed the auction block in 2020 drove that point home harder for me than this truck.
See, this truck belonged to a kid named Seth from Louisiana. It was his pride and joy. He drove it everywhere and I’m sure he had a lot of fun in that truck. I’m sure he drove that truck to his high school graduation ceremony, and maybe out to a party afterwards. Might’ve taken it out on a first date or two as well.
Then, on his first day of college, doctors discovered that he had bone cancer. Three years and a long, hard fight later, Seth passed away in 2013 at age 21.
Seth’s grandfather held on to the truck for the past seven years. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been for him to sit in that old Chevy and think about his grandson. My heart goes out to him, and his family. Nobody ever thinks that they’ll have to bury their grandchild. Still, it happens.
A month or two ago, Seth’s grandfather decided that it was time that the truck went to start a new life with a new owner, so he consigned it with our friends at Henderson Auctions in Livingston, LA. When the auction ended, the proceeds (including buyer’s premium) went to the family’s church to help build a memorial pavilion in Seth’s memory. It sold for $12,000.
Friends, we’re not promised tomorrow. Don’t wait to make memories with your family and friends.
So earlier this summer, there was another AC 8550 that sold at an Indiana retirement auction and smashed the existing record. I think 8550s are really cool and I wrote about that one for Interesting Iron. Super Beasts don’t show up at tractor auctions very often; to see two of them sell in a calendar year is somewhat uncommon. In the end of that article in above, though, I told the story of another Super Beast that lived at Loretta Lynn’s ranch in the late 70s into the 80s.
THIS IS THAT VERY TRACTOR THAT I TOLD THE STORY ABOUT!!!
See, back in the day, AC had a strong marketing partnership with Loretta Lynn. They had a working hobby-type ranch in Tennessee, and farmed with orange tractors. Early one Sunday morning, one of the local dealers got a frantic call from Loretta’s husband Mooney. Apparently he’d learned that Super Beasts can’t swim. I believe the story goes that there’d been a little Saturday night drinking involved, and he’d driven it into a pond and cooked the motor in the process.
After a bit of “discussion” between the involved parties, Allis replaced the motor in that tractor, and up until just a few weeks ago, it was still working on a farm in Ohio!
Now, this tractor didn’t set a crazy record when our friends at Harmeyer Auction sold it, but $24,000 is still pretty strong money. That Allis landed in a collection up in North Dakota a week or two. Not only did they get the tractor, but they got a heck of a story to go with it!
So there you have it, my friends. The 20 most interesting things that I didn’t have the chance to write about for Interesting Iron in 2020. Hope you enjoyed the stories! I’m going to be hard at work finding new stories to tell in 2021, and I hope to run into you at tractor auctions down the road!
Let’s set the stage a little bit here before we start talking about the 806.
It’s the early sixties, and IHC has just gotten punched in the jaw with the dumpster fire that was the Farmall 560, the failing rear ends, and the biggest recall they’d ever issued. Some estimates push upwards of $19 million bucks ($167 million today) to deal with the fallout of that recall.
Harvester is bleeding and their backs are up against the wall…but they ain’t dead yet. In fact, they’re pretty salty. They know the 560 deal was their own dumb fault, they know what it cost them, and they’re tired of continually hearing about it.
Armed with a new CEO, a chip on their shoulder, and a point to prove, it was time to start punching back.
(You can queue up the theme from Rocky right now if you want…I’ll wait until the good part to start up again…)
Harry Bercher was the new CEO, and he was determined to get IH back on top. The 706 and 806 were the first all-new designs from Harvester in close to 30 years. Bercher told the engineers to make darn sure that they were built tough, and the engineers listened. They beat the everlovin’ snot out of those tractors, to the tune of about 75,000 hours of testing before the product launch.
They marketed the 806 as “the toughest tractor ever built,” and it was a heck of a mean right hook, too. One of the biggest reasons for the success of that tractor was the all-new D361 motor. It’s the single toughest motor that Harvester ever turned out. You couldn’t hardly kill ’em even if you tried. It was a beefy dry sleeve block that dissipated heat really well, which meant you could run ’em harder for longer periods of time without warping the block and blowing the head gasket. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to find 20,000 hour 806s that have never had the pan dropped or the head taken off!
(You 414/436 guys can argue with me all you want, but y’all know you overhaul those 66-series motors a lot more frequently than 20,000 hours even if you won’t admit it!) ?
The comeback of the decade
All in all, Harvester rolled nearly 43,000 806s out the door between 1963-1967. Not only that, they set annual sales records in every one of those years, too. From where I’m sitting, the 806 was the comeback story of the decade. We just talked about this in the office just a few minutes ago, and I made the comment that the 806 was the tractor that saved the company, and I believe that. Had the 806 been a flop, I think IHC would’ve likely imploded before the end of the decade.
In any case, it wasn’t a flop. Even though John Deere’s 4020 outsold the 806 by a pretty wide margin, the 806 made more power from less fuel in the Nebraska tests. It was brute of a tractor, and there’s a reason that even the Deere guys respect them.
This particular 806 is a 1965 IH model and until Tuesday, November 24, it lives at a ranch in Montana. It’s not perfect; the motor is locked up, it needs a new starter and batteries, and you’ll definitely want to put some new rubber on it, as the tires are cracked and I doubt they’ll last for much longer. Ultimately, though…for an owner who’s willing to give it some TLC, this could make a great tractor. The nice thing about these tractors is that parts are readily available. Even if the motor is locked up and it’s beyond repair, there are plenty of motor options available out there that fit in there pretty easily. The DT361, the D407, and the DT407 are all fairly common motor swaps. Additionally, there’s loads of information on the internet about how to do it right.
Finally, the 806 is a tractor with values that go all over the place. I checked our Iron Comps data, and we’ve seen them sell for a thousand bucks, and we’ve seen them sell for upwards of $20,000. This one is a true IH Wheatland model with no PTO or T/A. That does add to the rarity and collectability. Still, given the condition and its needs, I’d estimate that it’ll sell for the lower end of that spectrum. Maybe $3000-3500?
Note: If you have to rebuild a D361, you need to find a machine shop to do it. These are dry-sleeve blocks and you can’t just hammer them into place with a block of wood. The tolerances in the cylinders are very tight; sleeves need installed with a hydraulic press to get the heights exact. It pays to spend a little money here; take it to a machine shop that knows with these motors.
More about the 806:
Sherry & her team at Heritage Iron wrote a really nice profile on the 806 a few years ago for their magazine. They do have reprints available here.
By now, y’all know that I have a thing for old tractor advertising. Here’s a few pieces that Harvester put out during the sixties for the 806 that are pretty cool! BTW, if you’re into this stuff, 3 Point Ink has a pretty cool book that focuses on IHC advertising. (It’s on my Christmas list if anybody’s shopping for me…) ?
This week’s Interesting Iron takes us to Liberty Center, IA, about an hour(ish) south of the Des Moines metro. This beautiful little 1946 Allis Chalmers B lives down there until Monday, October 19, 2020 when the auction wraps up. This auction is a fundraiser for the Southeast Warren County FFA chapter, and some of the proceeds will end up funding their operating budget.
If the bid goes high enough, that is…
This little Allis Chalmers was a tractor that a local farmer picked up at auction some years back, mainly because a) he needed a small tractor on the farm, and b) his wife had a thing for Persian Orange. ? Over the years, though, it saw less and less use. Eventually, Luke Wickett, the Southeast Warren County FFA president got his hands on it (I think it was his SAE project).
When he got it, it was a bit of a basketcase. The sheet metal was in pretty bad shape, and the little four-banger was seized. Over the next 6 months, Luke pretty much tore it down to the frame to restore it. He fixed the sheet metal (I’m pretty sure it’s all original to the tractor), broke the motor free and rebuilt it, converted it to 12V power, fixed the wiring, added a few lights, and even repainted it! He tells me that his stepdad helped out with a few things here and there, but for the most part, this was his deal from start to finish! It’s sporting new rubber and a comfy new seat, too!
The Allis Chalmers B was a success for a handful of reasons. One of the biggest ones was because Harry Merritt (AC’s tractor division manager) was a data nerd. While America was stumbling out of the Great Depression, Harry was looking at numbers in the census. Through some data analysis, he reached three conclusions.
The majority of American farmers worked less than 100 acres, and they used horses to do it. Horses are spendy to own and definitely less efficient.
The tractors being sold were bigger units, and working on bigger farms.
There was an emerging market for a small tractor that could replace the horse.
So, armed with this information, AC set out to build the tractor that would meet that need! In 1937, they released the Allis Chalmers B, a 17-horse tractor that got the job done, and did it cheaper than the cost of owning horses. It was sold at a price point that farmers could handle (less than $500 out the door), and eventually it did end up putting the horses out to pasture!
All in all, Allis Chalmers built nearly 121,000 of these handy little tractors over about 20 years! It was a handsome tractor, too! In an era where tractors were typically painted dark/drab colors, the Persian Orange paint really stood out! (One of AC’s goals for the B was that it had to be a good looking tractor and it needed to stand out. Brooks Stevens, the designer, delivered on the promise, too; the lines looked good then, and they still look good now, as far as I’m concerned!)
Our good friend Mark Putney (Indianola, IA) is hosting the auction, and it runs until Monday evening (10/19/20). As I’m writing this, the bid sits at just under $2000. But…in order for Luke’s FFA chapter to see any of the proceeds, the hammer price needs to hit $3500. That’s not HUGE money for an Allis Chalmers B, but it’s pretty good money (I did a little digging in our Iron Comps Insights database). If we find the right bidders, we can get there, and hopefully help fund a small school’s ag program and help shape the future of farming here in Iowa!
I typically never solicit bidders, but this is your chance to add one of Allis Chalmers’ finest to your collection. Not only that, you’ll help a small-town FFA program provide a better ag experience for their kids! So…that said, get out your wallets, and get to bidding! (If that’s not your thing, please do me a huge favor and pass this story on to your friends! Thanks!)