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!

 

Used Combine Values and What the Recent AHW Dealer Auction Can Teach Us

Used combine values are a big concern for many this year.  This is especially true going into the high demand August market with a tight supply of farm equipment. Just last week we saw a significant sale with Sullivan’s AHW dealer auction on June 15th. The listing was heavy with harvesting combines, draper heads, plus a few late model tractors and sprayers. This auction provides a great look at the market’s direction when analyzed with our Iron Comps database.

With over 60 lots of AHW’s equipment sold, we chose just a few significant pieces to test against the current trendline. Used combine values may be the most intriguing for dealers to look at now so they can gauge what the market may look like in August during prime selling season. For those interested in tractors, headers, and self-propelled sprayers, I’ll be diving into those in some upcoming analysis. The good mix of both Hagie and Case make for a nice brand comparison of sprayers!

Case-IH 2377

Harvester sales at this Sullivan auction ranged from $61,000 for a 15 year old Case-IH 2377, to a 2018 John Deere S780 2WD valued at $288,000. In addition to studying these bookends, a 2017 S680 4WD was analyzed. It has relatively low hours and some bells and whistles worth looking at.

The 15 year old Case 2377 may temper an overly bullish outlook on this market. With just over 2,000K separator hours, this would have justified $55,000 based on the Separator Hours vs Price graph which trends 2019 and 2020 values shown below.

Case IH 2377 Used Combine Values
Iron Comps Values Case IH 2377 Combines

10% above expectation may seem bullish, but compare that to the most recent sale where a 3,000 sep hour model sold for $67,000. This reaffirms what we have been sharing about late 2020 and early 2021 sales. Most older machines are seeing a flat or modest single-digit year over year increase in expected values.

If you caught our 5 Trends for Equipment Dealers webinar last month, you will recall that used combine values had not yet seen the post-pandemic bump that tractors have been experiencing. Some of this delay may be due to the void of late-model machines on the market. This theory was tested with a relatively young 2018 John Deere S780 at the AHW auction, which brought the top combine value of $288,000. We will dive into that next.

John Deere S780

The entire auctioneers description for this S780 is as follows:

2018 John Deere S780 2wd combine, ProDrive trans., ContourMaster feederhouse w/CommandTouch 5 spd. drive & hyd. fore/aft, 28.5′ unload auger, PowerFold bin extension, chopper, PowerCast tailboard, Active Yield, 650/85R38 drive tires and duals, 750/65R26 steer tires, LED lights, premium cab, 10″ display w/AutoTrac, Turn Automation, Data Sync, Implement Guidance, In-Field Data Sharing, Machine Sync, RowSense & Section Control activations, 899 eng./640 sep. hours, SN 1H0S780SJJ0801614

Our Tractor Zoom database has a significant number of these S780 for a quality comparison. In the  bottom bar graph below you can see a slight year over year average price increase in the S780 values. Because of all the variables in play we need to look at closer comparables to truly judge market movement. In the top graph, the orange square represents where this AHW combine ranks in terms of separator hours and sale price.

John Deere S780 Used Combine Values
Iron Comps Values of John Deere S780 Combines

Our AHW S780 is on the top end of expected values for its hours when compared to the past three years. High, but certainly not an outlier. Below we drill down even further into a look at two specific comparables. The first screenshot of Iron Comps Auction Results surfaces the most recent sale dates and closest hours. This view indicates that used combine values may have hit a ceiling.

John Deere S780 Combines Sold In 2021 Between 500 And 700 Sep Hours

However this does not indicate the market is reversing by any stretch of the imagination. Below the next image narrows down the search to the two closest sep hour comparables. Both sold in the combine flurry that was last August of 2020.

John Deere S780 Combine Between 600 And 700 Seperator Hours
John Deere S780 Combine Between 600 And 700 Separator Hours

You can see how much values have risen in just a year. From $249,000 average last year to $288,000 for this auction. A 15% jump!

John Deere S680

We have explored the top and bottom of used combine values in this auction. Approximately a 15% to 10% increase is seen, respectively, over last year. Let’s open it up and see if a mid-hour combine falls somewhere in between. A 2017 John Deere S680 4WD sold for $186,000 with just over 1,000 separator hours. Below is the full auctioneers description:

2017 John Deere S680 4wd combine, ProDrive trans., ContourMaster feederhouse w/CommandTouch 5 spd. drive & hyd. fore/aft, 26′ unload auger, chopper, PowerCast tailboard, bin extension w/tip-ups, 520/Interactive Combine Adjust, ActiveYield, LED lights, premium cab, 1,445 eng./1,071 sep. hours, SN 1H0S680SPG0795113

Comparing our S680 with other 2021 sales, the value is in line with others in the TZ database. A great comparison, pictured below, sold in late March of 2021 at a consignment auction in Minnesota for $200,000.

John Deere S680 Comparable Value for $200,000
Iron Comps S680 Combine Values

While this comp does have a refrigerator, the other options are similar and reinforce the theory that 2021 values may have hit a top and stabilized for now.

Iron Comps has the ability to filter by hours and auction type. Using this we can slice data to consist of only S680’s between 900 – 1100 hours sold at dealer auctions. Contrasting these historic equipment values, this AHW combine’s sale price exceeds 2019 and 2020 values by about 30%.

Comparable John Deere S680 At Dealer Auctions Between 900 And 1100 Hours
Comparable John Deere S680 At Dealer Auctions Between 900 And 1100 Hours

Used Combine Values in 2021

Big movements in used equipment values tend to coincide directionally with significant commodity price changes. With the exception of wheat, current cooling of the corn and soybean markets may be tapping the brakes on the rising used equipment values we have been riding over the past eight months. Another major factor at play will be the necessary demand of combines prior to this fall. Will a tight new and late model supply force prices even higher? Will downward pressure of the grain markets have any effect?  To answer these questions keep your Iron Comps app open and your eyes on the most recent sales!

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!

The Massey-Harris Pacemaker with the cowbell…

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

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

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

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

Sort of…

Wallis Tractor Co.

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

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

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

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

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

The Pacemaker & Specialty Variants

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

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

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

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

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

Seaborg Collection
A few more of Tom’s collection…

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

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

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

The Oregon Pacemaker

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

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

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

What’s the tractor worth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more thing…

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

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

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

 

Montana Monsters: The Case 4894

4894.1

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

See the details on these tractors.

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

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

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

Seems like a pretty legit question, right?

J.I. Case’s approach

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

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

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

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

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

Wait…what? Sweden? Why?

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

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

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

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

Theories

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

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

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

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

In the field…

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

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

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

The ones on next week’s sale…

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

…and that’s exactly what I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’ll they bring?

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

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

Well-maintained equipment sells, folks!

See the details on these tractors.

 

 

Why you should ALWAYS read the fine print…

Leader Tractor Model D
The Leader Model D is one of dozens of different 30(ish) horse farm tractors built in the 40s. This one goes home to a new owner on March 17, 2021!

See the details on this tractor.

Nope, it’s not a Farmall Cub. Looks like one from a distance, but it’s not. This little fella is an Ohio-built tractor called the Leader Model D! I think they’re neat. Maybe not because of the tractor itself (although they were good quality), more because of the lesson they can teach. More on that in a minute…

 

Lewis & Walter Brockway started the Leader Tractor Company in their hometown of Auburn, OH in 1939 building garden tractors and the like. A year or so later they started building “bigger” tractors using Chevy power and driveline components. The response was pretty good. The tractors were well-bult, high-quality machines and they sold well. After a few years, they moved a couple of miles northwest of Auburn to the bustling metropolis of Chagrin Falls. They did this mainly because that town had a post office and Auburn did not. They weren’t getting checks and business inquiry letters; that’s a problem when you’re trying to grow a business!

Eventually (I believe in 1944-45), the supply of Chevy power dwindled – likely because of the war. Consequently, the Brockway brothers changed over to Hercules powerplants because they were a) available and b) fairly similar to the Chevy. The Model D got a 31-horse IXB gas 4-cylinder that did a pretty good job – lots of other tractors of the era used similar motors with predictably good results, so it made good sense.

A lesson learned the hard way…

Unfortunately, Walter & Lewis Brockway made a pretty fatal mistake in 1946 when they entered into a loan contract with Walter Schott, their marketing partner, so they could expand. They didn’t read the fine print. Buried in the contract was a pay on demand clause. Ultimately, this was the company’s downfall; in 1948, Schott exercised that clause in a hostile takeover move, and when the Brockways couldn’t pay up, they had to forfeit the company. What was worse was that Walter Schott’s company sold cars; they had no idea how to run a manufacturing company! They completely shuttered the doors two years later!

What’s the lesson that this little tractor can teach us? ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT. (And don’t start a company in a town where there’s no post office.)?

About this particular Leader Model D…

This 1948 Leader Model D was part of Ron Hayworth’s tractor collection for the better part of two decades. Ron was a farmer for most of his life up in Woodbury County, IA over near Sioux City. He passed away going on about five years ago now, and this Leader tractor is among the last few left in his collection. Austin Popken and the good folks at Brock Auction Co. are handling this auction for Ron’s wife Jerane, and bidding wraps up next Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

Leader Model D
All it needs is a battery and a driver! Sells on March 17, 2021!

Earl Ellsworth, a close family friend for many years, worked on the tractors in Ron’s collection with him. I talked to him for a few minutes this morning and he told me that for many years, the Leader Model D served very faithfully on parade and tractor ride duty. About ten or so years ago, Earl & Ron tore the tractor completely apart and restored to the condition that you see it in today. It was at that point that the tractor was also repainted in that black cherry color – the color of Ron’s favorite shirt at the time! So, while it’s not the traditional tomato-red of other Leader tractors, it’s got a good story behind it! ?

Leader Model D
Here’s what the factory-correct shade of red looks like for the Leader Model D. This particular one is the 2nd Model D built according to the serial number, and it sold for just under $4000 at a Mecum Gone Farmin’ Auction in the fall of 2019! (Click the photo for Mecum’s archived listing.)

Earl told me that the only things the tractor needs to be perfectly functional is a new battery and a driver. It runs great; it doesn’t smoke or leak, and the rubber is nearly brand new!

What’ll it sell for?

Leader tractors are in a pretty unique spot in the collector’s market these days. They’re fairly uncommon, they’re not hard to work on (and many replacement parts are fairly easy to source), yet they remain relatively affordable! When Walter Schott shuttered the company in 1950, they destroyed the production records, so nobody really knows how many Leader tractors were built. This probably contributes to the affordability factor.

I’d imagine that when the bidding wraps up, this one will go for somewhere around $3000. Not bad for a nicely-restored, fairly uncommon tractor that runs like a top! It’d be a great addition to a collection!

See the details on this tractor.

 

 

The John Deere GP: How Deere proved their loyalty to the farmer.

GPWT
The John Deere GP was Deere’s first tricycle front end. The wide-track version is among the most collectible of all the “poppin’ Johnnies”!

See the details on this John Deere GP.

In the mid-20s, John Deere was in desperate need of a tractor to compete with Harvester’s new do-it-all tractor – the Farmall Regular. The Farmall Regular was a highly successful row-crop tractor that was rated for about 13 horse, or enough to pull a two-bottom plow.

Initially, Deere’s answer was the Model C – a tractor that I don’t believe they were ever really happy with. It was pulled from the market and several different changes were made all within about 10 months. The resulting tractor was renamed the John Deere GP (General Purpose) and what you see here is a variant thereof…the Wide Tread.

GPWT2
The GP-WT had a 76″ wide footprint!

Deere built the GP and its variants for roughly 7 years, from 1928-1935. Honestly, the tractors weren’t super-successful. They were heavy and underpowered, and quite frankly, there were some design issues that plagued the early tractors. They did manage to sell around 36,000 of them give or take a few, but the Farmall Regular was the clear winner in this fight.

The Wide Tread model was the first row-crop design for Deere, and it was definitely the most successful of the variants. Although it took a few different design changes for them to feel like they got it right, it did finally come together. CEO Charles Wiman was openly critical of how the Company had handled the design and development of the GP tractors. He considered the GP to be one of his biggest failures as a leader.

Personally, I think he did a terrific job of leading the charge – mainly because the company learned from their mistakes, and kept working tirelessly to fix the issues and make a better machine. That’s what the farmer needed, and Deere was devoted to making the product work!

The GP by the numbers

I’ve heard/found differing numbers as far as GP production goes, but all in all, there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 36-37,000 tractors built. It gets tricky because a few tractors ended up being recalled and rebuilt/resold with different options but using the same serial number, etc.

That said, here’s a basic breakdown.

GP: 30, 535
GP-WT: 5,103
GP-P (a modified GPWT specially made for potato farmers): 203
GP-O (Orchard): 717

Additionally, there was a fairly major design change in the GP-WT’s steering system that moved the linkage from the side (like you see on the tractor in the picture) to the top of the hood like you’d find on the Model A. The last 443 GP-WTs were all built this way, and they’re HIGHLY collectible.

So yeah, like I said…tracking production numbers on the John Deere GP is a little tricky.

The GP-WT at auction

I honestly don’t have a lot of information to go on with this tractor. Here’s what I know (or what I think I know). I’m just about positive that this tractor is a 1930 or maybe a 1931 model (I don’t have a serial number for it yet, but I’ve got a phone call in to the auctioneer). It currently lives in southern Illinois, and it sells to the highest bidder next Tuesday, March 2!

As I get more information on it, I’ll update the post. For now, though, there’s not much to go on.

Deere’s leadership during the Great Depression

Ever wonder why so many farmer families have been bleeding green for literally decades? The foundation of that brand loyalty was laid during some of the toughest years in America’s modern history…the 1930s. Deere was devoted to its workers and the farmer, and they showed it in several major ways.

Loyal to their employees

During the early years of the Great Depression, Deere’s sales plummeted over 85% in less than two years (1930-1932), forcing major cuts and a huge layoff. It was a horrible time to be in business. Still, Deere & Co. maintained a tremendous loyalty to their employees. They still paid 5% interest on employee savings accounts and they still maintained the group insurance policies for laid-off workers. But it didn’t stop there…

The People’s Bank of Moline was known to be where Deere & Company kept their accounts, and many of their employees banked there as well. In 1930 or 1931 – I’m not sure which – that bank found itself on the brink of collapse due to an internal embezzlement scheme. Deere’s CEO, Charles Wiman, brought the Board of Directors together on the day the bank was supposed to close. He made a motion to cover the bank’s losses – nearly $1.3 million! He stated, “If we do not do this, the bank closes…As I view it, there are appromixately $7 million of savings deposits in this bank, largely made by the wage earners of our factories, and the effects upon them of closing the bank, and the resulting consequences to this Company, are beyond calculation.”

That very day, Deere cut a check to the bank for $1.29 million to cover the losses, and kept that bank afloat. In turn, they saved the deposits of a great deal of their employees as well. From where I’m sitting, it was a pivotal moment in the world of corporate responsibility.

(Read more about this here.)

Loyal to the American farmer

Still, Deere wasn’t done. In 1931 alone, Deere assumed $12 million in farmer loans for equipment. For some farmers, they were the only institution that would extend credit. That was a tremendous show of faith on Deere’s part towards their customers. They knew that in addition to keeping the Company afloat, they needed to also extend a hand to the American farmer.

In an unprecedented move, Deere extended the terms on ALL of its loans to farmers. For every piece of machinery that cost more than $200, Deere extended terms to a full three years. In doing so, it helped literally thousands of farmers keep their equipment; for many, that economic relief was the difference between keeping the land and losing it!

Why did Deere do all of this? Because they knew that at the end of the day, they were forming a bond with their customers. It was a relationship that was so much more than company/customer. Deere’s actions during the early years of the Great Depression expressed faith in the farmer and helped preserve the farmer’s dignity. Farmers take a lot of pride in their occupation, and Deere’s faith in them was enough to turn red blood into green.

(Read more about how the GP-WT played into Deere’s leadership in the Great Depression here.)

(This is where I go off-script for a bit…)

Nearly every time I spotlight an older Deere on any of our social channels, I’m pretty much guaranteed to get a bevy of comments that range from “that’s the best tractor ever built!” to “the overpriced plastic tractors they make today are hot garbage blah blah blah.”

Opinions get loud and pretty fiesty, and sometimes the snide comments get pretty old, honestly.

The way companies do business has changed a lot over the years, and sometimes it ruffles feathers. That’s what happens when a company grows into a business with a large global footprint. Is any company perfect? Surely not. Deere isn’t. They’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, and they’ve suffered the consequences, too.

I’m not sure that there’s a company  in agriculture today that takes more heat for the way they run their business than John Deere. That’s okay, too; we live in a world of very diverse opinions, and everybody is entitled to their own opinion. However…at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s fair to question their devotion to the farmer.

 

 

Auction Video: Tim & Jodi Wiff’s Farm Retirement Auction

It’s cold and snowy outside, so let’s go back a few months to when it was nice and warm and watch some retirement auction video just for fun!

Our good friend Matt Maring sent these tractors off to new owners on July 24, 2020 at Tim & Jodi Wiff’s retirement auction. Tim & Jodi were gracious hosts, and there was a great crowd at the auction in their hometown of Spring Valley, WI.

First up was a ’92 John Deere 4455 Quad Range with 6400 hours on it. Super clean, duals, and a full front rack of weights. When the hammer fell, it went to a buyer in Oklahoma!

4455
This 4455 went home with a buyer from Oklahoma! Click the photo to find a 4455 on auction!

Next on the list, a pair of 4430s – one with a cab, one open station. For all-original tractors that are darn near 50 years old, these sure looked nice!

4430s
This pair of 4430s have aged really well! The hammer prices definitely reflected it, too! Click the photo to find 4430s at auction!

This last clip is of a handful of New Generation tractors – most of which Tim had restored himself over the years. They were beautiful! I’m not sure who they ended up going home with, but hopefully they’re jewels in a collection somewhere! (And if I ever owned a 4020, it would be a Wheatland like that first one!)

4020Wheatland
One of my favorite tractors at the sale – this was an all-original 4020 Wheatland with less than 4000 hours on her! Click the photo to search 4020s at auction!

One of our goals over the next year is to catch more retirement auction video and talk with sellers, auctioneers, and buyers! So…if you see a big bearded guy with a camera in his hand, come up and say hi! Let’s talk tractors and auction prices!

Searching for John Deere equipment at auction? Start here.

Personalized Tractors: What do they do to auction values?

CO-OP E-4
Some farmers like to personalize their tractors, like this CO-OP E-4 with a turbo wing kit from a Peterbilt. This tractor goes home with a new owner when the auction ends in February 2021. Click the photo to get the details!

See the details on this tractor.

Every once in a while, a personalized tractor shows up on Tractor Zoom and it’s always good for some social media mileage. Most of the time people have pretty polarizing opinions, and because it’s social media…they aren’t afraid to share them. Sometimes it’ll spark some reasonable discussion, sometimes not.

Obviously, this little CO-OP E-4 is a personalized tractor. More on all that in a minute.

The CO-OP/Cockshutt Connection

First, let’s look at this week’s Interesting Iron. CO-OP tractors (and Cockshutt, the company that built them) are neat tractors and the way they came together is pretty interesting.

Rather than start at the beginning and tell the story of where the CO-OP brand came from, we’re going to pick it up in the late 40s. If you want the full story (that goes back almost to the Civil War), there’s a pretty detailed account of it all here. Basically, the brand was an offshoot of the Farmer’s Union, and organization dedicated to helping farmers get ahead. Among other things, they marketed lines of implements and tractors (from other manufacturers) under the CO-OP brand.

At any rate, they hooked up with a Canadian company (Cockshutt) in 1946. Cockshutt had a good short line at the time and they were in the progress of launching their own tractor line – one that they desperately wanted to sell in the States. Putting the deal together with CO-OP was a win/win for everybody.

The Cockshutt Model 20/30/40/50 & the CO-OP Variants

Cockshutt launched the 30 in 1946. It was a small rowcrop tractor that made about 30 horse from a four-cylinder Buda engine. At the same time, they sent the CO-OP E-3 to the states to launch at the same time. The two tractors were absolutely identical, save for the paint and the decals. They were well-built, and featured an industry first – a live PTO. As a result, they sold really well.

Three years later, they launched the Cockshutt 40 and CO-OP E-4, smaller 20 and E-2, and the bigger 50 and E-5. Just like the first tractor, they sold very well. Production lasted up until about 1957(ish) before an investor’s group bought Cockshutt and took them in a different direction.

The success of those tractors was largely due to the fact that they’re fairly simple in design. Aside from the live PTO, there wasn’t anything massively new or high-tech about these tractors. They were reliable and pretty easy to work on when you had to. Who doesn’t love that combo?

CO-OP E-4
Our friends at CHJ Auctioneers & Appraisers are sending this CO-OP home to somebody new in early February 2021!

The “Personalized” CO-OP from Nebraska

This CO-OP E-4 lives in Winside, NE, about an hour or two north of Omaha, and our friends at CHJ Auctioneers & Appraisers are selling this one at auction on February 5, 2021. Overall, it’s in good shape; it’s not perfect, but fundamentally it’s a great example of a neat piece of history.

Now…let’s address the elephant in the room…

This little orange tractor has a ginormous wing on it. Why? I really don’t know. Everybody’s got their thing. Maybe the owner is a big NHRA top fuel fan or something.

I’m not passing any judgment. To each their own.

How personalizing will effect value

From where I’m sitting, there’s three categories of personalizing, and they’ll all effect value a little differently. Here’s how I break it down.

  1. Bolt-ons: If you wire up a light bar on top of the cab or add an aftermarket autosteer or something to make the tractor more efficient, that’s all completely reversible. That stuff can all be removed fairly easily, in most cases.


    Case in point: Ag Leader’s new SteadySteer product is completely reversible. When this video was finished, everything you see here was unclamped from the 4760’s steering column and it was like nothing was ever there.At the end of the day, even if you were to sell it or trade it in, it really shouldn’t effect the value of the machine in a negative way.

  2. Paint/Decals/Doodads: If you repaint a tractor back to factory spec, this doesn’t really apply to you (even if it’s a collector tractor in most cases). However, if you decide you’re going to re-paint your 1468 and put Case International decals on it, it will hurt the resale value of the tractor.
    1468 Customized
    This 1468 has a pretty non-traditional paint job and Case International decals on it. Unfortunately, buyers didn’t take to it when it sold at auction. Hammering home for only $13K, it sold for a fair bit less than the average 1468.

    Typically, you’d have to pay at least $20K for even a well-used example, and closer to $30K for a nice one or a survivor. If it’s going to take extensive work to return a tractor back to stock-appearing, buyers will reel in their bids. Even for rare collector tractors!

    Ford 8n Green
    Here’s another example of a mod that was too much for buyers to stomach. Our Iron Comps average on 8Ns is just over $1400. This one sold for $830 (and it was mechanically sound).

     

  3. Structural Modifications: If you start cutting sheet metal, there’s a good chance that you’re going to see a pretty sharp decline in the value. Chopping up a tractor means that if a bidder wants to bring it back to stock appearing or stock functionality, he’s going to need to source parts – and there are no guarantees that they’ll be available.
    4010 Forklift
    I tried to find any mention of an aftermarket 4010 conversion kit and I can’t find one anywhere.

    For this 4010 that was flipped around backwards to make a forklift (I don’t think there was a kit for this – if so, reach out to me), it was like pulling teeth to sell it. When the hammer fell, it went home with somebody for $1300. Iron Comps says the average price of a 4010 at auction these days is $5563. Ouch.

At the end of the day, I don’t think this little CO-OP E-4 will suffer too much as far as value goes. Based on comparable sales results in Iron Comps, I’d imagine this tractor will get close to $2000. That giant shopping cart handle is attached using about 8 bolts, so it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to remove it – including stashing it in the shed somewhere!

See the details on this tractor.