Interesting tractors and trucks selling soon, and tying up some $60K loose ends…

Collage of photos of three red tractors and a semi

You can always tell when it’s getting close to planting, harvest, and the end of the year. That’s when there’s always a massive amount of auction inventory that hits Tractor Zoom. Along with that, you’ll usually find some interesting tractors showing up too!

Such has been the case the past couple of weeks, actually. Our auctioneers have had some terrific pre-harvest sales, and there’s more coming!

Let’s hit some interesting tractors and trucks crossing the auction block, and then we’ll get to those $60K loose ends.

Allie: The 1939 Allis Chalmers B Low Rider!

Interesting Allis Chalmers B at a tractor auction
This is Allie, the 1939 Allis Chalmers B low rider from Madison, South Dakota!

See the Tractor Zoom listing for Allie here – lots more photos!

I love rat-roddy stuff, and I always have. So, when Jared Sutton listed this one late last week, I kind of fell for it!

Collectors and hot rodders have been modifying antique tractors for years now. The process is relatively straightforward; basically, the front axle turns upside down and the rear drop boxes rotated 90º. After that, it’s a process of relocating stuff (tie rods, for instance), flipping the final drives and swapping them left/right so the brakes still work, and a lot of cosmetic stuff.

This one is nicely done, too. It’s been outfitted with elephant-ear fenders (which are from a WD, I believe) and the exhaust has been re-routed under the tractor. It’s been sprayed red, too – I wouldn’t swear to it, but it looks quite a bit like IH 2150 red. That would make sense, too. Jack Bader, the man who owned this tractor, was a red collector. This is the one and only Allis Chalmers on his estate sale.

What’s it worth? Honestly, I don’t know. These low-rider tractors don’t tend to change hands very often, and because of that, there aren’t a lot of comps. This one is a fairly standard build with not a lot of extra custom touches (there are a few of these out there that are pretty wild – custom exhaust manifolds, custom wheel and tire setups, crazy paint jobs, etc.). It’s well-built, and pretty well-known, too. Bidding currently sits at $2100, but I’d imagine it’ll go for at least double that.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t REALLY want to get in on the bidding for this one, but my lovely wife made it pretty clear that a single-seat low-rider tractor was about the LAST thing we need…

(That may rule this one out, but if I can find a two-seater…..) 😏

1987 Ford LTL 9000: Packin’ 4 ¼…

1987 Ford LTL 9000
This is a darn good-lookin’ daycab!

See the Tractor Zoom listing for this Nebraska Ford LTL 9000 – lots of photos!

The LTL 9000 came out in the mid-70s when Ford decided they wanted to play in the long-haul game with Kenworth and Peterbilt. The trucks were well-built and pretty stout, but they didn’t come with the same kind of options for powertrains and drivelines. As a result, they didn’t sell nearly as well as the W900 or the Pete 359/379. They’re still pretty darn nice trucks, though, and the styling is a little different than what you typically see running up and down the road everyday.

This one is an ’87 model day cab that, for the time being, lives in Ashland, NE. The owner restored it in 2013. It’s powered by one of the best analog powerplants you can get, too – the venerable CAT 3406B. Granted, it’s not tuned up quite like a Michigan Special, but at 435 horse, it’ll do just fine with a hopper bottom on the back! It’ll do it with some style, too!

LTL9000 Selective
Somebody took their time on this one and did it right. Lots more photos at the link up above!

IH 1468 MFWD

IH 1468 with a Coleman FWA front axle interesting tractor
For a lot of IH nuts, a 1468 FWA is one of the most desirable models ever!

See the Tractor Zoom listing for this South Dakota 1468 FWA!

OK, quit drooling. Actually, go ahead. I drooled over it for a few minutes too.

This is another one of the tractors on Jared Sutton’s auction this coming Saturday up in Madison, SD.

I wrote a fairly lengthy article about 1468s back in January talking about why Harvester built a V8-powered tractor (spoiler alert…it was all Marketing’s fault). Honestly, they look cool and they sound great, but they really aren’t much for farm tractors. The DV550 that sits in these things is tremendously fragile, but it DOES make a cool noise.

This one is probably no different, except for one or two important details. First, the Coleman FWA axle is pretty neat. It is hydraulically controlled front drive axle that you could add at the dealership when you ordered your tractor, or as an aftermarket deal. In the field, they did help with traction, but they also added a LOT to the tractor’s turning radius. I sent this to my buddy Chris the other day and he shot me back a text saying, “Man, that thing probably sounds cool, but it’ll take 40 acres to turn around!”

He’s probably not wrong, either, to be honest! 😂

The second thing that makes this tractor a little unique is the stack configuration. I believe that the manifolds on these tractors are interchangeable from side to side, so if you wanted the exhaust closer to the operator, you could do it. Most farmers didn’t because it was extra work and they look good the way they were. But, if your tractor is like Jack’s and has a canopy, you can make that thing a LOT quieter if you put the stacks in the back. The stacks poke just above the roofline, which is likely a lot quieter. Good for long days on a tractor ride, I’d imagine!

At any rate, while the 68s weren’t real successful in the field, time HAS been very kind to them. They are prized by collectors, and the rare ones that still have functional FWA axles from Coleman or Elwood fetch REALLY big money. I watched one sell back in March at the Mecum Gone Farmin’ Auction and it sold for $63,000! They sold another in June for just over $47,000, too. I think you’ll need at least $40K to play in this game. These tractors continue to appreciate; I don’t think we’ve seen the peak values for them yet!

A4T-1600: The Minneapolis Moline Maverick

Minneapolis Moline A4T-1600 interesting tractor at auction
Internally, the A4T tractors were termed “Project Maverick”…now’s your chance to own one!

See the Tractor Zoom listing for this big Moline in South Dakota – lots of photos!

Here’s a big fella you don’t see very often! The A4T-1600 tractors were Minneapolis Moline’s first foray into the 4WD market in the late 60s. As other manufacturers began building 4WDs, Moline saw their sales of FWA tractors start to slip. So, they assigned the project to an up and coming engineer in his 20s named Mike Verhulst. Mike took Project Maverick from start to finish, and even won an award from the state of Minnesota for his efforts!

You’ll note that this tractor isn’t painted in the familiar Prairie Gold paint scheme that most Molines wore. With White Motors owning Moline, Oliver, and Cockshutt, there was a lot of badge engineering that happened around that time so that they could appeal to multiple markets. There are multiple versions of this tractor, and they’re all badged and painted just a little differently. Oliver had a green one (the 2655), Moline had yellow ones and red ones, and White had one called the Plainsman. All the same basic tractor, but badged and painted just a little differently. Sort of confusing, right? My friend Sherry Schaefer does a good job ironing it all out in an article in this month’s Heritage Iron! Well worth picking up a subscription, or just ordering that issue on its own!

This particular A4T-1600 is an LP gas tractor that was originally an open station tractor, one of just 115 built! To make this one a little more rare yet, it was one of only 76 ordered with 23.1×30 tires. I’m not sure what the serial number was, but it’s safe to say that this one is fairly uncommon. I doubt you’ll see another one sell this year.

What’s it worth? Again, it’s a crapshoot here. They don’t change hands very frequently. I checked our Iron Comps database and only found one of these big 4WDs in it. It sold for $12,000 about two years ago. I think that one was more original, though. Still, with $5 corn, you might find a couple of bidders that’ll drive this one into $10-13K territory. You never know! It’ll be fun to watch!

Tying up a couple of loose ends…

The Empire from last week…

Last week, I wrote about Harold and his Empire 88 that he’d modified so that he and his wife Wilma could take her mobility scooter with them on tractor rides. It was a really neat piece; Harold was very thoughtful in the design process for the modifications, and they all came together really nicely.Highly modified red Empire tractor

Well, the hammer just dropped on that auction about an hour or so ago, and I’m happy to say that this little Empire sold for $3,193! That’s great money for an Empire – probably one of the highest sale prices ever seen for one of these little guys!

Did Harold end up coming out on top? If you asked him, he’d tell you that from the numbers perspective…no, he probably lost money on the tractor if you counted the value of his time in building and restoring it. But, from an overall perspective? I’ll bet he’s tickled to death with it. The modifications that he made to that tractor allowed he and his dear wife to do what they loved…together. What more could you ask for?

The F-250 Power Stroke from two weeks ago…

Boy oh boy, did this one ever generate some attention…

The auction wrapped up yesterday at about 11AM, and the final hammer price? A whopping $60,300!

Ford F-250 power stroke truck at auction
Yep, she really sold for $60,300.

When I posted something congratulating the seller, auctioneer, and the new buyer, I think I almost broke the internet. Man alive, people got bent outta shape about that price! They either thought that we were lying, or that the buyer had lost his mind, or some other ridiculous combination of things.

“SOMEBODY PAID SIXTY GRAND FOR THAT THING??? You’ve gotta be kidding!?!? That’s a $20K truck at most…what kinda drugs was the buyer taking?”

Yep, somebody actually wrote that.

You should see the stuff I had to delete from the thread on our Facebook page. I’m not gonna lie…there are some people with some real bad attitudes in this world, and they all seemed to find that post yesterday afternoon.

Here’s the thing that most people don’t understand about stuff like this:

    • New(ish) pickups can be collector’s items.
      Clean, low-mileage examples of OBS Fords with the 7.3 Power Stroke are becoming collector’s items. This one is 24 years old. 25 years old allows it to be titled as a collector car, and you can put collector car insurance on it.
    • Collector cars attract a different market of buyers.
      They buy stuff based on a different set of characteristics. For many of them, they’re looking at a truck like this as an investment. They’ll hold on to it for another ten years in a clean, climate controlled environment alongside six Mustangs, two Corvettes, and thirteen other old pickups that are just as nice. They won’t use it like a farm truck. They’ll take it out a few times a year just to keep it in good working order. The next time we’ll probably see it is when they decide they’re going to sell it at Barrett Jackson or Mecum…and when they do, some other collector is going to buy it for $100,000 and do the same thing with it!
    • Lastly, and most importantly…nobody got ripped off.
      Lots of people claimed that this truck was a fake, or that sketchy stuff was going on behind the scenes with this auction. None of that is true. Phil Wieck, the auctioneer, did a terrific job of documenting and presenting this pickup. He provided tons of photos, videos, and all of the information needed for buyers to decide whether or not it was worth it. Nobody rolled any odometers, nobody slapped 500 pounds of Bondo on a clapped-out farm truck and painted it and tried to pass it off as minty-fresh. This was, and is, the real deal. It’s a survivor pickup, and collectors want those!
    • If it proves anything, it proves that presentation matters.
      If you want to get top dollar for whatever you’re selling – whether it’s on AuctionTime, Craigslist, or anywhere else…presentation is important. Three photos, two of which are blurry…that ain’t gonna cut it. Drag it out of the barnyard, wash it and detail it, and take a ton of photos. Show the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be truthful in your descriptions, and show the documentation you have. Do yourself a favor and put the time and effort into presenting it nicely. I guarantee that it’ll help you get more for whatever you’re selling.

Some of you may take issue with me on this, and that’s fine. You’re welcome to your opinion. I get it; it’s tough to see a pickup that’s not quite “old” but definitely not “new” as anything more than a utilitarian piece of metal. A trusty pickup. Something to throw junk in the back of, and do truck stuff with.

Believe me, I get that. I drove past a Ford dealer every day on my way to high school back in Michigan, and I drooled over trucks just like this one too. To me, that doesn’t seem so long ago, but the numbers don’t lie. I graduated in 1996, so I’ve been out of high school for 25 years now. Those trucks still seem “new” (ish) to me, too.

Would I have thrown down $61K to own that pickup? No. But that’s the thing. I’m not a collector. I couldn’t justify a truck like that in my garage. But somebody did. To them, it was worth that much, and I chose to be happy for them because they got something that they really wanted! I don’t think they’re insane for paying that, either. They have a different perspective than I do, and that’s cool with me. I would hope that it’s cool with you, too…even if you think that it sold for too much money.

Somebody thought it was worth it. Be happy for them!

1947 Empire 88: “It’s more fun to do this together…”

Highly modified red Empire tractor

See the details on this unique Empire 88!

Back in July, I featured a pretty unique tractor rescued from a bone yard in Sioux City and turned into a hearse! It began life as a Thieman tractor, and Harold Boquist, a tractor collector from Nebraska, turned it into a hearse. (You can read about that tractor here.)

When I talked to Harold about the Thieman, I remembered him telling me that he also had another oddball tractor that he would sell later this year. It is an Empire 88, and he said that it is likely the most customized one on the planet.

This week, that tractor showed up on Tractor Zoom, and I knew I had to write about it. This truly is one of the nicest Empires on the planet, and it’s definitely the most unique!

The Cliff Notes version of Empire Tractors and their history…

I’ve written about Empires before. They were fairly run-of-the-mill light duty farm tractors built in the mid-late 40s. Empire built the frames in-house, and used surplus Jeep motors and drivelines to make ’em go. Upon completion, they sold them back to the US government under the Marshall Plan. The US government sent these little 40-horse tractors all over the place to help with WWII reconstruction!

empire tractor badge
The badge of an empire-builder!

Ultimately, their downfall came when the Argentinian government suddenly declared them unfit for farming. Oddly enough, Time magazine printed a story right about the same time that claimed that the tractors were junk as well. Within months, the company was bankrupt. The remainder of the tractors sold here in North America for about $700 apiece.

I’m not one to put on the tinfoil hat very often, but the timing sure seems suspect on this deal. I sort of feel like maybe somebody who was pretty well-connected had beef with Frank Cohen (the guy who started the company) and organized this.

But that’s not really what this story is about. This story is about what Harold did to this tractor when he restored it…and why.

Empire 88 tractor
This is what an Empire looks like in normal form (without the blade). What Harold did with it is truly remarkable! (Click the photo to see the listing!)

Making an Empire fit for a King and a Queen

Harold and his wife Wilma are in the tractor hobby together. Always have been. They’ve really enjoyed putting their unique collection of tractors on display over the years. From the Nebraska State Fair to tractor rides all over the midwest, they’ve had a blast making new friends and using their tractors!

With this one, though, the restoration was a little different. Wilma needs a scooter to get around comfortably. On a tractor ride, space is at a premium, so Harold found a unique solution to let let both of them ride along, and carry the scooter too! “If I ride, she rides,” Harold told me on the phone today!

The Cab

The Empire 88 never came with a cab, so Harold solved that problem first. He was at a sale in Iowa when he stumbled upon this cab in the photo below. It was rough, but it was exactly what he wanted.

tokheim tractor cab laying on the ground
This tractor cab came from a rather unlikely source…a gas pump manufacturer!

The cab was built by Tokheim Tank & Pump Co. out of Fort Wayne, IN. Their main business was gas pumps and tanks and such. However, they did also make a line of all-steel cabs for a few tractors like the Farmall H, M, and Cockshutt 40.

He took it home and then made it wider and taller (kind of the opposite of chopping & channeling a hot rod). When finished, he adapted it to fit on the platform of the Empire – which he had also made wider and longer. “If it was going to work, it needed to seat both of us,” he told me, “so I made it wide enough to put the two of us up there comfortably!”

A place to park a scooter!

The next challenge was to give the Empire 88 a trunk (or a flatbed, I guess), and a ramp so that Wilma could access the cab. The ramp setup unfolds by a winch. Once unfolded, Harold uses a second winch to pull the scooter up onto the platform. The winches both tie in to the tractor’s electrical system. All in all, it’s pretty slick!

red empire tractor at auction with a handicapped-accessible ramp on the operator's platform
The winch on the right unfolds the ramp. The one on the left pulls the heavy scooter up on to the platform. Neat!

When Harold finished the fabricating, the tractor was treated to a snazzy paint job (which to my eye looks a lot like Massey red and gold, but I’m not positive of it). It’s been their parade and tractor-ride tractor ever since!

What’s it worth?

Honestly, I have no idea. We’ve seen a couple of Empires come through Tractor Zoom over the past few years, but none of them have had this level of restoration or customization. There weren’t a lot of these tractors sold here in North America after the company went bankrupt in the late 40s, so they are somewhat rare. Of all of them (about 1300), this one is surely the nicest one left. That said, it is customized, and that tends to depreciate the value of rare tractors a little bit. Still, Harold did a terrific job with the workmanship, and it does serve a purpose. It’ll take a special buyer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it brings $3-4000.

At the end of the day, Harold built this Empire 88 because he loves his wife, and because the idea of doing a tractor ride without Wilma just didn’t sound like much fun. What resulted is a very well-built, very unique tractor that solves a challenge faced by more tractor folks than we probably realize. I’ll just about guarantee that somewhere, one of you reading this column has already thought of a husband and wife who this tractor would be PERFECT for – and I really hope you’ll share this article with them!

The antique tractor hobby is lots of fun, and very family-oriented. Still, due to the nature of the design, it’s not for everybody. People who love tractors but aren’t able to climb up on to them for one reason or another are sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place. This little Empire 88 would fix that challenge for somebody!

Auction Details
Bidding opens: Thursday, September 2, 2021 at 5PM Central
Bidding closes: Thursday, September 9, 2021 at 11:29AM Central
Location: Saint Paul, NE (about 45 minutes or so north of Grand Island)
Auctioneer: Sweeney Auction & Realty
Contact: 308.223.0145

Tractor Zoom auction listing & a link to place your bid!

 

 

 

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

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!

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Putting the horses out to pasture: The Allis Chalmers B

Luke Wickett SEW FFA AC B
Luke Wickett (the guy in the photo) has hundreds of hours in restoring this 1946 Allis Chalmers B to the beautiful condition you see today. Click the photo to see the listing and LOTS more photos! Auction wraps up on 10.19.20, and it’s raising money for Luke’s FFA chapter!

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…

The Backstory

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).

SEW FFA AC B Copy
Fun fact: The fella who designed this tractor in 1937 later went on to design the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. (True story!)

The Restoration

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!

SEW FFA AC B Duringrestoration
Humble beginnings. Time had definitely gotten the best of this little Allis. The motor was seized, the sheet metal was rough, and it needed a lot of work!

The Tractor

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.

      1. 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.
      2. The tractors being sold were bigger units, and working on bigger farms.
      3. 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!)

The Auction

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!)

Click here to see the details on this little Allis, and lots more photos!

*If you end up winning the bid on this tractor, please send me an email! I’d really like to chat with you about it! interestingiron@tractorzoom.com

 

Empire Tractor: It’s a Jeep thing…

Empire 90.2
Empire Tractors were built for export using surplus WWII Jeep parts!

I need to caveat this week’s story. This tractor sold on a Colorado sale earlier this afternoon, so there’s no way to bid on it. I try not to ever do this, but sometimes these things happen. Furthermore, the story of these little tractors is worth telling. Very few were sold in the US, and who knows when another one will cross the block? As far as I can tell, 2010 was the last time a complete tractor sold at auction.

Now, that said, the Empire 90 is a neat little tractor with an interesting story.

Empire Tractor incorporated in 1946 by a guy named Frank Cohen in New York. During WWII, he owned several companies in Philly that supplied the Allies in the war efforts. However, once the Germans surrendered, those factories had nothing to do! He developed an idea to put his factories back to work, though, and quite frankly, it was brilliant.

The plan was to build tractors specifically for export to Europe to help farmers recover from the devastation. There wasn’t much of anything that was super-special about the tractor; honestly, they were just basic two-bottom light duty farm tractors (click here for detailed specs on the Empire 90). The one unique thing about Empire’s design (and Cohen patented this) was the hitch design; it pulled from directly beneath the center of the tractor, which made it nearly impossible to turn over!

Anyway, back to the brilliant plan and all that. Because these tractors were to be exported, Cohen could buy surplus Jeep motors and drivelines from the government for pennies! Empire built the frames, bolted everything into place, and VOILA! they had a tractor to sell to BACK to the government for the Marshall Plan. Empire piled up a TON of these little 40-horse tractors (6,663 in total) between October ’46 and December ’47!

The Downfall

The government shipped Empires all over the world. For the most part, things went well and the tractors went to work without issue. However, there was a problem with one country. The Argentinian government declared that Empire tractors were unfit for farming, and refused delivery of the remainder of their order. To make matters worse, Time magazine published a story claiming that the tractors were junk and shouldn’t have been sold in the first place. When it rains, it pours!

By mid-1948, the bad publicity left Empire Tractor in a real tough spot. They had 1,200 tractors in their inventory, and not a single buyer for any of ’em. Sadly, the company went bankrupt in pretty short order. By 1950, the bank was in the process of liquidating assets. The bank found distributors who sold the remaining 1,294 tractors for about $700 apiece in North America. The tractor that you see here was one of them.

This Empire tractor has had three owners. The first owner had some overheating issues with it, so he mounted a bigger radiator from a McCormick-Deering. The second owner was a Wyoming rancher, and owned it for most of its life. He built the 3-point and blade setup for cleaning a calving barn. It also raked a little hay, from what I understand. The rubber is good and the little Willys Jeep motor runs like a top!

So that’s the story of how a Time magazine and a corrupt Argentinian government ruined a tractor company that helped rebuild war-torn Europe. Nobody seems to know how those two pieces of bad publicity came about, but the timing sure seems pretty suspect.

Hopefully this one ends up in a collector’s hands and gets a full restoration!

(If you bought it, send me an email! I’d love to hear the plans for it!)