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!
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
There are a lot of cool tractor auctions that I never got to write about for Interesting Iron this year. We see lots of neat tractors and trucks listed on Tractor Zoom by our auction partners. Unfortunately, I can’t write about ’em all.
Still, they deserve a little time in the spotlight, so let’s do a year-end wrap-up of 20 of the coolest tractors, trucks, and pickups that didn’t make it to Interesting Iron in 2020! Last week, we covered everything from record-setting red tractors to Big Buds to Cummins-swapped squarebodies. This week, let’s look at the rest of the list!
The Wagner Tractor story has a bunch of different angles – way more than I can cram into a paragraph or two, but suffice it to say that they were a pioneer in the 4WD tractor movement. They built great big beasts in an era where lots of companies couldn’t even imagine a farmer big enough to need a tractor like that!
This big TR14A was one of two Wagners on a Sullivan sale in northeast Iowa this past August. Neither one of them brought a lot of money, but they still deserve a spot in the history books. Wagner tractors are an integral part of the big power farming story. I don’t think they’ll ever see the collectability that their green stepbrothers have (Wagner built big tractors for John Deere for a little while – I told you there were a lot of angles to this story!), but they’re cool in my book!
Side note: For you big tractor collector types, the silver lining to the low-price cloud is that if you want to start a niche-y collection, they don’t typically sell for huge dollars when they do come up! (Sadly, you don’t see many Wagners at tractor auctions…once in a while, maybe, but not often.)
Usually if there’s a super-low-houred classic that’s coming up for auction, word gets around. Not this time. This 2-owner black stripe 1066 only had 794 original (and verified) hours on it! I’ve never seen a lower-houred 1066 in my entire life! Needless to say, this beautiful survivor brought big money. It smashed the previous record by $19K, hammering home for $46K after it was all said and done!
People have wondered if maybe the market is starting to slip on 1066s a little bit. I think this one, even though it’s a bit of an outlier example, still reinforces the case that there’s still demand for classics like this – both for collectors as well as for farm use!
Oddly enough, though…this wasn’t the highest-priced 1066 we’d see in 2020. More on that in a minute.
This is probably one of my favorite tractors that rolled across the block this year (maybe a tie between this one and Jerry’s 1256 Wheatland). I’m sure there are purists that are cringing over this pick because they think a “true” Wheatland couldn’t be ordered with fat tires like this, and they think it looks way too hot-rodded. To each their own. I’ve seen some of the ordering paperwork and I’m pretty certain you could order these with factory 24.5s like this one.
Anyway, this one presented very nicely in my opinion. In addition, this is the very last IH 1206 built in 1966! The bidders didn’t go as nuts over this one as I thought they might, but Deanco still got a pretty reasonable price out of it.
I think what I really like about this one is that it shows that you can still find a decent deal on a collector tractor at an auction. They don’t ALWAYS go for a small fortune. I don’t know who ended up with this one, but I hope it was a young collector, and it’s a cornerstone of their collection!
When Case got into the 4WD tractor market in 1963 with the 1200 Traction King, they did it in the typical Case way. They’d always produced a quality product with reasonable features at an affordable price. They drew a box around what they wanted, and they built a tractor that fit within those parameters. In this case, that meant using pieces and parts that were already sitting on the shelf to keep costs down. Had they wanted to, they could’ve built something super-robust that made a ton of power, but that would’ve been overkill. They had the components to build a 200-horse tractor that probably would’ve tipped the scales at 20,000 lbs., but that would’ve been more than what was necessary for the time.
The 1200 Traction King was, at the time, a great tractor with one rather glaring flaw…the turbocharger. A normal 451 cubic inch Lanova that Case put in this tractor normally made 105 horsepower, but that would’ve been just a little underpowered for this big tractor. The tractor needed more power, and the only way to get it was to turbocharge it. Unfortunately, though, the turbo’d 451 was a fragile motor with a tendency to run REALLY hot.
The 1200 didn’t sell tremendously well, and Case only turned out about 1500 of them. This one was nicely restored, and like the 1206 from the same auction, the bidders didn’t go crazy with it. Somebody got a pretty good deal on this piece of history and took it home for $10K!
Just like they say that they’re only original once…there’s only one “first one.” This is the very first 1066. Serial number 7101. Amazingly enough, this tractor lived in Iowa all of its life. It was originally sold on December 8, 1971 by Falb Implement in Elgin, IA and only changed hands twice since then. Sometime in 1976, it was sold by Rhomberg Implement in Elkader, IA to Ray Cassutt who farmed with it until November 6, 1987, when Jerry Everitt bought it at Ray’s retirement auction.
1066 #1 is an incredibly original tractor. What you see in the photo is essentially what it looked like in December 1971 when it originally sold in Elgin! I believe the only things that aren’t factory original are the tires. Otherwise, that’s the original paint and Hiniker cab! Here’s the real crazy part…even after three owners, it’s only got 2993 original hours on it!
There was a LOT of discussion about who would end up with it and how much they’d end up paying for it. Heck, we had even had a pool going with in our office on what it would bring! (And had we not been playing Price Is Right rules, I’d have won the darn thing…)
When the hammer finally fell, the winning bidder paid $86,100. Honestly, it was less than a lot of people thought it was going to sell for (I heard guesses of anything from $50K to a quarter million). There were a fair number of people who were pretty annoyed that Case IH wasn’t the buyer. That’s okay, though. I’m sure Case IH knows where it went… (I can also tell you that they’ll probably have to pay through the nose if they want to get their hands on it.)
If ever there was an iconic semi, the long-nosed 379 is it. They’re the most popular owner-operator semi in history, and it’s not at all uncommon to see them customized like this one. I’m telling you…if I were ever to own a semi, this is what it would look like. (I might stretch the frame a little wee bit further and it would likely have a fire-breathing 6NZ Cat under the hood.)
I had a few buddies who had their eye on this truck when it went up for auction, but none of them ended up picking it up. Truthfully, I only saw one thing that likely kept the price from six figures. Most buyers looking for a semi like this are expecting to see some sort of Caterpillar under the hood (a 6NZ or a C15 most likely), and this one had a 60-series Detroit in it. Still, it hammered home for a very nice price and the seller was happy with the outcome.
In the world of Olivers, finding a 2050 is a pretty remarkable thing. They only built a total of 383 of them – including Cockshutt variants. But to find a front wheel assisted model? That’s exceedingly rare. There were only 93 FWA variants produced in total!
As you can see, this one wasn’t in perfect shape, but it was all there for the most part. I don’t know where it ended up, but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t a collector that picked it up.
Rare classics are out there, kids. You just need to keep an eye open for them! They do show up at regular old tractor auctions once in a while!
Pro Tip: Smart auction buyers (and collectors) don’t waste hundreds of hours scrolling through endless auction listings for the equipment they’re looking for. They use Tractor Zoom’s custom search alerts and let our system do the looking! Set up a free TZ user account here, and then set up an alert to get a text or email whenever we get a match for whatever you’re looking for! With over 450 auctioneer partners, we’ll end up finding it faster! (And if you need to find out what equipment is worth, you need to take a look at Iron Comps!)
The Mediapolis Fire Truck
There’s been a resurgence in popularity of 70s and 80s pickups over the past few years. They’re tough trucks that are easy to work on or restore, and they’re darn good lookin’ things! For a lot of today’s gearheads, trucks like this remind them of learning to wrench with Dad or Grandpa in the garage. In that sense, they become more than just a hunk of iron. They’re sentimental.
At any rate, this 1979 F-350 served in the Mediapolis Fire Dept. from when it was new until the fall of 2013 when it was retired. Since then, it’s been stripped of the gear in the back (a water pump, tank, and hose reel), and generally freshened up a bit. Nothing crazy. It doesn’t need it! At the end of the day, it has 30K original miles and a 400 in it – the biggest motor you could have gotten it with! (And before you start the “You’re wrong, Interesting Iron Guy” emails…you couldn’t get a 460 in a 4×4 in 1979. I checked.)
Bidders LOVED this truck, and it was one of the hottest sellers on this sale. When the hammer fell, it brought nearly $24K!
A long time ago, I remember writing something about how, at the end of the day, these aren’t just machines. Whether it’s a truck, a tractor, a combine, or something else that can be driven, pivotal moments of life have been spent there. How many grandfathers planted corn after dinner with one of their grandsons riding on the armrest of a 1086? How many times has a father consoled a heartbroken teenaged daughter sitting in the buddy seat of a 9770 STS during harvest? Furthermore, how many teenage boys have saved every penny so they could put a lift kit on an old Chevy like this one? My point is that these things aren’t just tools that we’re talking about.
Life happens in these vehicles.
Nothing that crossed the auction block in 2020 drove that point home harder for me than this truck.
See, this truck belonged to a kid named Seth from Louisiana. It was his pride and joy. He drove it everywhere and I’m sure he had a lot of fun in that truck. I’m sure he drove that truck to his high school graduation ceremony, and maybe out to a party afterwards. Might’ve taken it out on a first date or two as well.
Then, on his first day of college, doctors discovered that he had bone cancer. Three years and a long, hard fight later, Seth passed away in 2013 at age 21.
Seth’s grandfather held on to the truck for the past seven years. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been for him to sit in that old Chevy and think about his grandson. My heart goes out to him, and his family. Nobody ever thinks that they’ll have to bury their grandchild. Still, it happens.
A month or two ago, Seth’s grandfather decided that it was time that the truck went to start a new life with a new owner, so he consigned it with our friends at Henderson Auctions in Livingston, LA. When the auction ended, the proceeds (including buyer’s premium) went to the family’s church to help build a memorial pavilion in Seth’s memory. It sold for $12,000.
Friends, we’re not promised tomorrow. Don’t wait to make memories with your family and friends.
So earlier this summer, there was another AC 8550 that sold at an Indiana retirement auction and smashed the existing record. I think 8550s are really cool and I wrote about that one for Interesting Iron. Super Beasts don’t show up at tractor auctions very often; to see two of them sell in a calendar year is somewhat uncommon. In the end of that article in above, though, I told the story of another Super Beast that lived at Loretta Lynn’s ranch in the late 70s into the 80s.
THIS IS THAT VERY TRACTOR THAT I TOLD THE STORY ABOUT!!!
See, back in the day, AC had a strong marketing partnership with Loretta Lynn. They had a working hobby-type ranch in Tennessee, and farmed with orange tractors. Early one Sunday morning, one of the local dealers got a frantic call from Loretta’s husband Mooney. Apparently he’d learned that Super Beasts can’t swim. I believe the story goes that there’d been a little Saturday night drinking involved, and he’d driven it into a pond and cooked the motor in the process.
After a bit of “discussion” between the involved parties, Allis replaced the motor in that tractor, and up until just a few weeks ago, it was still working on a farm in Ohio!
Now, this tractor didn’t set a crazy record when our friends at Harmeyer Auction sold it, but $24,000 is still pretty strong money. That Allis landed in a collection up in North Dakota a week or two. Not only did they get the tractor, but they got a heck of a story to go with it!
So there you have it, my friends. The 20 most interesting things that I didn’t have the chance to write about for Interesting Iron in 2020. Hope you enjoyed the stories! I’m going to be hard at work finding new stories to tell in 2021, and I hope to run into you at tractor auctions down the road!
This week’s Interesting Iron takes us to Liberty Center, IA, about an hour(ish) south of the Des Moines metro. This beautiful little 1946 Allis Chalmers B lives down there until Monday, October 19, 2020 when the auction wraps up. This auction is a fundraiser for the Southeast Warren County FFA chapter, and some of the proceeds will end up funding their operating budget.
If the bid goes high enough, that is…
This little Allis Chalmers was a tractor that a local farmer picked up at auction some years back, mainly because a) he needed a small tractor on the farm, and b) his wife had a thing for Persian Orange. ? Over the years, though, it saw less and less use. Eventually, Luke Wickett, the Southeast Warren County FFA president got his hands on it (I think it was his SAE project).
When he got it, it was a bit of a basketcase. The sheet metal was in pretty bad shape, and the little four-banger was seized. Over the next 6 months, Luke pretty much tore it down to the frame to restore it. He fixed the sheet metal (I’m pretty sure it’s all original to the tractor), broke the motor free and rebuilt it, converted it to 12V power, fixed the wiring, added a few lights, and even repainted it! He tells me that his stepdad helped out with a few things here and there, but for the most part, this was his deal from start to finish! It’s sporting new rubber and a comfy new seat, too!
The Allis Chalmers B was a success for a handful of reasons. One of the biggest ones was because Harry Merritt (AC’s tractor division manager) was a data nerd. While America was stumbling out of the Great Depression, Harry was looking at numbers in the census. Through some data analysis, he reached three conclusions.
The majority of American farmers worked less than 100 acres, and they used horses to do it. Horses are spendy to own and definitely less efficient.
The tractors being sold were bigger units, and working on bigger farms.
There was an emerging market for a small tractor that could replace the horse.
So, armed with this information, AC set out to build the tractor that would meet that need! In 1937, they released the Allis Chalmers B, a 17-horse tractor that got the job done, and did it cheaper than the cost of owning horses. It was sold at a price point that farmers could handle (less than $500 out the door), and eventually it did end up putting the horses out to pasture!
All in all, Allis Chalmers built nearly 121,000 of these handy little tractors over about 20 years! It was a handsome tractor, too! In an era where tractors were typically painted dark/drab colors, the Persian Orange paint really stood out! (One of AC’s goals for the B was that it had to be a good looking tractor and it needed to stand out. Brooks Stevens, the designer, delivered on the promise, too; the lines looked good then, and they still look good now, as far as I’m concerned!)
Our good friend Mark Putney (Indianola, IA) is hosting the auction, and it runs until Monday evening (10/19/20). As I’m writing this, the bid sits at just under $2000. But…in order for Luke’s FFA chapter to see any of the proceeds, the hammer price needs to hit $3500. That’s not HUGE money for an Allis Chalmers B, but it’s pretty good money (I did a little digging in our Iron Comps Insights database). If we find the right bidders, we can get there, and hopefully help fund a small school’s ag program and help shape the future of farming here in Iowa!
I typically never solicit bidders, but this is your chance to add one of Allis Chalmers’ finest to your collection. Not only that, you’ll help a small-town FFA program provide a better ag experience for their kids! So…that said, get out your wallets, and get to bidding! (If that’s not your thing, please do me a huge favor and pass this story on to your friends! Thanks!)
Somewhere, one of you is reading this and thinking, “Oh boy…here we go again. Another weird analogy between a farm tractor and a random Toyota vehicle… ?”
Stick with me for a minute. This one makes pretty good sense.
Does anybody else feel like there must’ve been an Allis 185 in nearly every barn in the midwest?
Nope? Just me, huh?
Well, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong, the Allis Chalmers 185 was one of the cornerstones of AC’s 100-series tractors. Allis Chalmers sold almost 15,000 of these things over 11 years of production (1970-1981). Sure, John Deere sold a 4430 every 36 minutes for 5 years straight, but that was a 139-horse tractor in the age of modern power farming. The 185 had a small-cube naturally-aspirated motor that only made 83 horse!
So why was it so popular? From where I’m sitting, the 185 was just about perfect for chores. I looked in our Iron Comps database (it’s basically the blue book of farm equipment) and nearly 20% of the 185s in there were sold with a loader or a bale spear attached to them!
What it boils down to, I think, is their size. The beauty in a tractor of this size is that it can do a lot of things that a big tractor CAN’T…because it’s too big! The 185 is about 15% (ish) smaller than a 4430 or a 1066 (the “big” tractors of the era). Still, the 301-cube inline six makes enough power that it can do big tractor things if it has to. There are still thousands of 185s on farms across America earning their keep by mowing ditches, running augers, and loading hay bales.
Do you know why the Toyota Tacoma is so popular? Aside from being really well-built, it’s because they’re big enough to do full-size truck things, but it’s small enough to still fit in a standard two-stall garage in the suburbs. That’s exactly why the Allis Chalmers 185 was so popular!
This one happens to be a lot nicer than your average 185, too. It’s a one-owner tractor from up in Minnesota, and it’s only got 4153 original hours on it. It lived a pretty easy life, too; the former owner used it mainly for dragging a 175-bushel gravity wagon and pulling an 18′ disc in the spring. So, if you’re looking for a really nice do-it-all kind of tractor that’ll hustle through small fields or spin an auger for hours on end, this little Allis might be perfect for you! My good friend Matt Maring are handling this sale, and it ends on Sunday!
Oh…one more thing. It was the 3rd one off the line in 1979!
Here’s a little of the Allis Chalmers 185 advertising that was available at local AC implement dealers.
Wait…what??? Allis made tractors and stuff…not trains!
I’ll get to it. There’s a tie-in here. Stick with me, please.
The Allis Chalmers 7080 was the flagship of the 7000 series line, and the biggest 2WD tractor they’d ever built. It was a big orange boss, and everything on it was built for business. The engineers installed an intercooler on the turbocharged 426 and cranked the horsepower up to 210. In fact, I think the 7080 was the first 2WD tractor to break the 200-horsepower mark.
Now, that said, most of the guys I know with 426 experience say that the motor is a little sketchy when you run it hard for extended periods of time. One guy I know even goes as far as recommending that owners detune them a bit for longevity. Still…even detuned, a 7080 will make a heck of a hay baling tractor!
This particular Allis Chalmers 7080 lives in Kansas for now. Personally, I think this would make a nice 4H/FFA/YF project for some high school kid to restore. Evidently, it’s spent a few nights under the stars, and it has some pump issues. Whomever picks this one up will have some work to do, but when finished it’ll be a pretty solid workhorse!
Finally, the reference to a freight train in the title is a throwback to some of the marketing surrounding this tractor’s release. Back in the mid-70s, Allis hooked one of these to a string of Union Pacific 30 rail cars and a caboose, weighing in at over 900 tons! Nobody knew whether the 7080 could yank ’em down the tracks, but sure enough, it did! Carl Stevens drove the big orange locomotive and even got the tractor into 3rd gear! (He also told an Allis dealer, “The seat of that tractor developed a permanent pucker when we tried to stop that string of rail cars!”)??
Want to see the TV commercial that Allis Chalmers released with the train? Watch it here.
Allis Chalmers was covering new ground during the 70s. The ground-breaking 7000 series was selling well, and they’d dipped their toes in the 4WD tractor market with the Steiger-built 440 earlier in the decade. Things were going well enough that in 1976, they unleashed “The Beast” – the 7580. It was AC’s first in-house 4WD tractor, and sported a bunch of nice improvements over the outgoing 440.
But…at 186 PTO horse, it was a little wussy for such a big tractor. Customers needed more.
In 1977, AC unleashed a badder animal…8550, known as The Super Beast. Where The Beast got its power from the 426, The Super Beast used one of the biggest motors Allis ever stuffed in a tractor. 731 ci of twin-turbo muscle, rated at 253 PTO horse! This tractor was literally so big that they had to disassemble part of it to get it into the Nebraska lab to test it!
This particular 8550 is a one-owner ’79 model with only 5342 hours, and it’s in GREAT shape for its age! Not only that, it still sees regular use on the farm! It lives in Indiana until Tuesday…then we’ll see where this big tractor ends up!
BTW: Funny story about another Super Beast…back in the day, AC had a strong marketing partnership with Loretta Lynn. They had a working hobby-type ranch in Tennessee, and farmed with orange tractors. Early one Sunday morning, one of the local dealers got a frantic call from Loretta’s husband Mooney. Apparently he’d learned that Super Beasts can’t swim. I believe the story goes that there’d been a little Saturday night drinking involved, and he’d driven it into a pond and cooked the motor in the process.
After a bit of “discussion” between the involved parties, Allis replaced the motor in that tractor, and it’s still working on a farm in Ohio today!