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!
If I ever write a book about the 1468, I think I’ll call it The 1468: It Was All Marketing’s Fault...
To be fair, there were likely a lot of reasons why the 68-series tractors didn’t sell well. It’s wasn’t all Marketing’s fault. But…Harvester’s Marketing execs did start the ball rolling.
Basically, this whole deal started because Massey had attacked the horsepower race with the 1150. The 1150 used a 510 inch Perkins V8 (a motor built for a city bus) dialed up to 146 horse. It was a handsome tractor with all the right stuff, and it sold fairly well to young farmers. Not only that, but it sounded good too – way better than any city bus motor should! Adding insult to injury, the 1150 made 2 more horse than the 1456. In 1970, it was the 2WD king of the horsepower hill!
Well, getting kicked off the hill didn’t sit real well with Harvester’s Marketing execs. They HAD to respond…
Somehow, they convinced top brass that the only thing to do was to retaliate with a tractor of their own. And if Massey did it with a V8, by gosh that’s what we need as well! Talk about jumping on a trend…
Now, let’s stop for a second and let’s talk about how inline sixes and V8s make power and torque. Inline sixes make power and torque down low. Farmers are used to that. A V8 makes power and torque at higher engine speed. But…farmers aren’t used to that.
You can see where this is a bad idea, right?
Jumping on the bandwagon
Okay, back to the story. Harvester somehow buys in to the idea of a V8 tractor and began development on the 1468. Basically, to save time, the engineers used as much of the 1466 (since it was pretty much ready for prime time) as they could – final drive, gearbox, cab, tin work, grille, etc. The motor they chose was the DV-550, a 550 inch diesel V8 from the truck division. If I’m not mistaken, these were used in light-duty semis (think in-town straight trucks and the like). The engineers tuned it to make 161 horse at the crankshaft. In turn, this put IH back on top of the horsepower hill for 1971. That made Harvester’s marketing team happy, at least.
One thing that’s unique is the way it operated. It only ran on four cylinders until the load on the motor hit about 80%. Many people think this was a fuel economy thing, but it’s not. Actually, they set it up that way on purpose because it ran too rich and REALLY rough otherwise…not a good thing for the field. But…among other annoying little glitches, it sounded real weird and farmers HATED that. Lots of them were re-engineered (de-engineered?) to run on all 8 at once.
The DV-550 made the power it needed to, but it definitely wasn’t without its faults. It was fragile and very finicky. It didn’t like to start in cold weather, and it smoked like a freight train until you dropped the hammer. They’d vibrate a lot at low RPMs, and they didn’t like it if you wound ’em out real tight, either!
Was there anything worthwhile about it?
Actually…yes. It wasn’t all bad. I mean, let’s be clear. It looks mean. It looks like a muscle tractor is supposed to look. Farmers thought that was really cool. There’s no denying that the 1468 is a good looking tractor.
And oh, the sound it made when running wide open…oooh, they sound good.
Launching the 1468
Harvester wasted no time in building up the hype on the 1468 prior to launch. They touted it as “The Big Power Champ” for “the man who won’t take less than the best.” The strategy paid off, too – to a point. When the tractors got to dealers, farmers lined up by the dozens to give them a go!
Ultimately, though, the tractors didn’t sell all that well. Farmers soon realized that V8 power didn’t cut it in the field. M&W had a twin turbo kit available for the DV-550, but that ended up making things worse! I have a close friend who’s father worked for a red dealer in NW MO. He installed those kits and cranked up the pump screw on a bunch of those tractors.
Half a season later, they were all back in the shop for new heads. Yikes!
The added air and fuel was just too much for those fragile motors. This wasn’t just the trend in Missouri, either; this happened all over the country. Some farmers would pony up for a rebuild (which was spendy). However, a lot more would go looking for a DT-436 at the local scrap yard. The swap was easy. All it took was a change of frame rails and a couple of relatively minor tweaks and presto! The farmer would have, for practical intents, a 1466…a tough tractor that made useful torque at low RPM!
All things considered, the 1468 wasn’t one of the great tractors that came out of Melrose Park, mainly due to the motor. Had they used another V8 from the truck group (the DVT-573 would’ve been a good one), things might’ve played out differently. Ultimately, IH only built 2905 of them in four years. They tried selling a “big” brother 1568 (basically the same as the 1566 but with the V8 under the hood). Alas, that didn’t work either. They only managed to move 839 of those!
HOWEVER, there’s more to this story. Stick with me…
This particular 1468 is part of the famed Farmall Land collection. I don’t know exactly how long Jerry Mez displayed it at the museum in Avoca. Suffice it to say, though, it shows beautifully. The tin work is straight (I’ve looked it over multiple times) and the paint looks GREAT! It’s got new rears, and the fronts (originals) look new as well. What’s more, this is one of the few tractors that I’ve observed in Jerry’s collection that doesn’t have any extra personalization on it. No pinstripes on this one. Basically, it’s been restored to factory stock. If you’re a purist who wants a nice original(ish) 1468, this is definitely one to bid on.
Jerry’s 1468 is a beautiful example of what has become one of the world’s most desirable muscle tractors! Click the photo to see the details!
That leads me to the last part of the tale…
The Aftermath & Skyrocketing Sale Prices
Twenty years ago, farmers couldn’t offload these tractors fast enough. They sold for peanuts! $3-4K would buy one any day of the week. But oh, how that has changed…
Over the past ten or fifteen years, the resurgence on these tractors has been astonishing. As farmers moved them out, collectors who want a prime example of a muscle tractor have jumped on them. Prices have gone through the roof! I looked at our Iron Comps database (you can too – click here to start a free 7-day trial) and based on what I’m seeing over the past few years, you’re going to need $30K to play in this game.
Although most tractor collectors out there are farmers, they view their “collection” iron differently than what they farm with. In the case of the 68-series tractors, the fact that they weren’t a great farm tractor doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s more important that they look good and sound good, and I think that’s what’s driving prices up.
As I write this post, the bid on Jerry’s 1468 is $25,250. However, the sale doesn’t end until next Monday. I think we’ll see the bidding continue to climb throughout the weekend. It wouldn’t shock me to see a hammer price of $35K or higher. It’s a beautiful, non-modified, nicely-restored tractor; the collectors will push this one pretty darn high.
Let’s set the stage a little bit here before we start talking about the 806.
It’s the early sixties, and IHC has just gotten punched in the jaw with the dumpster fire that was the Farmall 560, the failing rear ends, and the biggest recall they’d ever issued. Some estimates push upwards of $19 million bucks ($167 million today) to deal with the fallout of that recall.
Harvester is bleeding and their backs are up against the wall…but they ain’t dead yet. In fact, they’re pretty salty. They know the 560 deal was their own dumb fault, they know what it cost them, and they’re tired of continually hearing about it.
Armed with a new CEO, a chip on their shoulder, and a point to prove, it was time to start punching back.
(You can queue up the theme from Rocky right now if you want…I’ll wait until the good part to start up again…)
Harry Bercher was the new CEO, and he was determined to get IH back on top. The 706 and 806 were the first all-new designs from Harvester in close to 30 years. Bercher told the engineers to make darn sure that they were built tough, and the engineers listened. They beat the everlovin’ snot out of those tractors, to the tune of about 75,000 hours of testing before the product launch.
They marketed the 806 as “the toughest tractor ever built,” and it was a heck of a mean right hook, too. One of the biggest reasons for the success of that tractor was the all-new D361 motor. It’s the single toughest motor that Harvester ever turned out. You couldn’t hardly kill ’em even if you tried. It was a beefy dry sleeve block that dissipated heat really well, which meant you could run ’em harder for longer periods of time without warping the block and blowing the head gasket. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to find 20,000 hour 806s that have never had the pan dropped or the head taken off!
(You 414/436 guys can argue with me all you want, but y’all know you overhaul those 66-series motors a lot more frequently than 20,000 hours even if you won’t admit it!) ?
The comeback of the decade
All in all, Harvester rolled nearly 43,000 806s out the door between 1963-1967. Not only that, they set annual sales records in every one of those years, too. From where I’m sitting, the 806 was the comeback story of the decade. We just talked about this in the office just a few minutes ago, and I made the comment that the 806 was the tractor that saved the company, and I believe that. Had the 806 been a flop, I think IHC would’ve likely imploded before the end of the decade.
In any case, it wasn’t a flop. Even though John Deere’s 4020 outsold the 806 by a pretty wide margin, the 806 made more power from less fuel in the Nebraska tests. It was brute of a tractor, and there’s a reason that even the Deere guys respect them.
This particular 806 is a 1965 IH model and until Tuesday, November 24, it lives at a ranch in Montana. It’s not perfect; the motor is locked up, it needs a new starter and batteries, and you’ll definitely want to put some new rubber on it, as the tires are cracked and I doubt they’ll last for much longer. Ultimately, though…for an owner who’s willing to give it some TLC, this could make a great tractor. The nice thing about these tractors is that parts are readily available. Even if the motor is locked up and it’s beyond repair, there are plenty of motor options available out there that fit in there pretty easily. The DT361, the D407, and the DT407 are all fairly common motor swaps. Additionally, there’s loads of information on the internet about how to do it right.
Finally, the 806 is a tractor with values that go all over the place. I checked our Iron Comps data, and we’ve seen them sell for a thousand bucks, and we’ve seen them sell for upwards of $20,000. This one is a true IH Wheatland model with no PTO or T/A. That does add to the rarity and collectability. Still, given the condition and its needs, I’d estimate that it’ll sell for the lower end of that spectrum. Maybe $3000-3500?
Note: If you have to rebuild a D361, you need to find a machine shop to do it. These are dry-sleeve blocks and you can’t just hammer them into place with a block of wood. The tolerances in the cylinders are very tight; sleeves need installed with a hydraulic press to get the heights exact. It pays to spend a little money here; take it to a machine shop that knows with these motors.
More about the 806:
Sherry & her team at Heritage Iron wrote a really nice profile on the 806 a few years ago for their magazine. They do have reprints available here.
By now, y’all know that I have a thing for old tractor advertising. Here’s a few pieces that Harvester put out during the sixties for the 806 that are pretty cool! BTW, if you’re into this stuff, 3 Point Ink has a pretty cool book that focuses on IHC advertising. (It’s on my Christmas list if anybody’s shopping for me…) ?
They say that bad news travels at the speed of light, and in 1959, International Harvester found that out the hard way with the Farmall 560. It resulted in one of the first “major” tractor recalls in history!
Now…that said, this particular tractor doesn’t have anything wrong with it. I literally just hung up the phone with the seller out in Wyoming. It’s a one-owner tractor that’s never had any major issues. Obviously it’s slept outside a few nights, but mechanically it’s pretty sound. The hour meter was replaced a couple of times, so the hours aren’t accurate, but it starts right up and drives just fine!
For a few years during the late forties and early fifties, Harvester was broadening its horizons. Management felt like the ag equipment market was hitting a saturation point, so they set their sights on other markets. Development dollars went towards residential products like fridges and freezers, trucks, and lots of other things. The tractor division of IH wasn’t making great strides in development, they were sort of set on cruise control. They made some incremental improvements here and there, but other than that and some minor cosmetic refreshes, the tractors remained essentially unchanged from the stuff from the late 40s.
In the mid-50s, though, they got back on track as farmers began expanding their operations and asking for more capability. The 60-series was a new, modern looking machine with six-cylinder power. They were cutting-edge tractors poised to take the market by storm.
Except for one thing.
They broke a cardinal rule of product development.
Never release a product until you’ve beaten it to death…twice.
Harvester made a late-stage decision to put a bigger motor in the Farmall 560 so it could compete with the Deere’s 730, and they didn’t test the drivetrain hard enough. The rear end was a legacy piece from the 400/450, and the extra power from the new motor accelerated bearing wear in the bull gear assembly. Basically the ball bearings deteriorated enough that they fell out of the cage anda jammed in between the bull gear and the cast rear end housing. At that point, the housing would go kablooey!
At the end of the day, though, I want to be clear. The failure was NOT a widespread thing. In all actuality, the failures were pretty regional; they usually happened in areas where farmers were pulling 5-bottom plows in sticky, gumbo-y soil. BUT…the failures were catastrophic, and 2/3 of American households had telephones at this point.
Like I said…bad news travels fast. Word traveled from the field to the feed store, and then to the phone. It didn’t take long before it became pretty highly publicized and Harvester had to do something about it. In mid-1959, they issued a full recall of all 460s, 560s, and 660s whether they’d blown out the rear end or not. Dealerships would then replace the rear end parts, and IHC would eat the bill for it all.
It was a costly lesson for Harvester, too. It’s rumored that they spent $19 million bucks to fix those tractors, which was an enormous amount of money at the time (in 2020 dollars, that’s over $167 million). In a tremendous stroke of luck, though, IH had their best sales year ever in 1959!
At the end of the day, the Farmall 560 was – and still is – a great tractor. Dealerships fixed the tractors with issues, and Harvester implemented those fixes on the assembly line as well. If you’ve got a 560 today and it runs and drives, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I doubt there’s more than a hundred tractors out there that haven’t had the fix already applied!
Fun fact: Want to know how to spot a tractor that was part of the recall and fixed at the dealership? Look at the serial number. There’s a triangle after the serial number that the dealership added to each one that they fixed.
One more thing; if you need a gift idea for the IH fans in your life, I’ll bet they don’t have Paul Wallem’s book! Paul was an IHC executive in the fifties and then owned several successful Illinois IH dealerships into the late 80s. He recently published The Breakup: What Really Happened. It’s a terrific insider’s look at the multiple problems that came together at the wrong time to take down a farm equipment giant. It’s a great read!
First, let’s cut to the chase before we get into some of the stories. As of the time I publish this post, you’ll have about 10 days to get to Avoca to see Farmall Land. After 5PM on Sunday, September 27, Jerry & Joyce Mez are retiring, off to travel the world and spoil their grandkids! Subsequently, our friends at Girard Auctions will be sending everything off to new owners. Everything will be sold through a series of online auctions (the land and the buildings too) beginning later this fall. You’ll be able to find all of the details for the tractors and equipment on Tractor Zoom, so keep an eye on the site!
Now…on to the stories.
In the event you’re a red fan, the long lines of flourescent lights probably give it away. Today, we’re celebrating one of the coolest collections of interesting red iron on the planet. Welcome to Farmall Land USA.
If you’ve ever wondered what true passion looks like, Farmall Land USA is where you’ll find the answer. From the moment you walk in the doors and sign the 3-ring binder guest book on the table, you’ll not only see the passion – you’ll feel it. Over the past 50 or so years, Jerry & Joyce Mez have built an utterly amazing collection of the red machinery that built this country. They genuinely appreciate the opportunity to show it to anybody who walks through their doors, too.
The Dealership Days
Jerry’s grown up around red tractors almost all of his life. The Mez family moved to Avoca, IA from Falls City, NE and Max (Jerry’s father) opened Avoca Implement in 1943 when Jerry was just a toddler. The dealership was quite successful, and eventually expanded to locations in Greenfield, IA and (for a short time) Atlantic, IA. Jerry & Joyce sold both dealerships to Titan Machinery in 2008. The museum has been their full-time focus since then.
“Since I was 3 years old, everything I have is attributable to farm equipment,” Jerry said in a 2010 INTERVIEW.
Jerry began collecting red tractors in the mid-70s when he got out of the Army. The first one in the collection? One of the first tractors his Dad ever sold, a Farmall F-20. It was all downhill from there! Jerry & Joyce have close to 220 tractors in the collection now (nearly all of them pre-merger tractors), give or take a few. You’ll usually find about 150 on display at any given time.
The Farmall 1206
So what’s his favorite? A Farmall 1206 narrow-front that his father sold new out of the Avoca dealership to a local farmer in 1966. Jerry bought it back from the original owner in 1988. When I last talked with Jerry in late June, this 1206 was one of the few that he was planning on keeping after retiring from the museum.
The ih 4300
In addition to his 1206, another favorite that Jerry really enjoys showing off is a 1962 IH 4300 – one of the rarest production tractors IH ever built! IH didn’t build many to start with (I think the number was in the low-mid 40s; they were essentially built-to-order by Hough). Many were used pretty hard by construction companies, and Jerry believes there are only about six of them known to still exist. Weighing in at 30,000 pounds and sporting an 817-cube turbocharged inline six mated to an Allison automatic transmission, this one is definitely a crowd favorite. He looked for it for about 15 years, too, and the restoration process was extensive (it was a basketcase when he got it). All in all, it took two full nights to clean it up enough to see what they were working with for the restoration!
The museum typically sees well over 5000 visitors per year, and Jerry figures that he’s had conversations with guests from every continent and every state in the union as well! One of the last times I visited, I actually had an international (no pun intended) encounter while drooling over a wide-fendered Wheatland 1256! I met a man who was here in the states from Australia. He really wasn’t involved with agriculture in his day job back home, but he’d heard about Farmall Land and wanted to stop. “Stuff like this, and the people who run this museum is what makes America so great!” he said. Indeed it does, my friend.
The farm and garden tractors themselves are one thing, but that’s not all that makes up this amazing exhibit. Additionally, the memorabilia and examples of other products that International Harvester (fridges, freezers, etc.) built is mind-blowing! Altogether, I’m sure there are well over a thousand die-cast toys ranging from 1/64th up to 1/8th scale, plus a load of nice pedal tractors too! Basically, according to Jerry, “If it’s red, we’ve probably got it.”
So, like I’d mentioned earlier…if you want to see this collection in all of its glory, you need to make some plans within the next week or so. After September 27, the doors will close permanently.
Additionally, here are some details if you decide to make the trip!
Address: 2101 N. Lavista Heights Rd., Avoca, IA 51521
(Basically, it’s at the intersection of I-80 and Iowa 59 off of exit 40; an hour or so west of Des Moines, or about 45 minutes east of Omaha.)
Hours: Closed on Monday, Tuesday – Saturday 10AM-5PM, Sunday 12PM-5PM.
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for 13-18, $3 for 5-12, and free under 5!
COVID-19 rules do apply as well, folks, so out of respect for Jerry & Joyce’s wishes you’ll want to have a mask with you, and wear it while in the museum.
All in all, there’s no community of people nicer than tractor people, and honestly, folks like Jerry & Joyce Mez and their small staff are the reason why. They absolutely love what they do, and love to share their passion for tractors with anybody who stops in to say hello. They’ve given very selflessly to the industry, farmers, and tractor collectors. In fact, I think I’m going to sneak away on Saturday the 26th and stop in one more time to say thank you. I hope I’ll see you there, too.
Finally, here’s a gallery of photos from several of my visits, as well as a few shots from Girard Auctions! At the end of the day, though, neither my photos nor anybody else’s do Farmall Land proper justice. You really need to take it in for yourself.
Again, special thanks to my friend Lee Klancher and the team over at Octane Press for lending me the photo of that Jerry’s beautiful 1206. Lee wrote a great piece about one of his visits to Farmall Land. He’s got lots of photos that I didn’t get during my visits, too! Read that here.
Nothing to see from an auction perspective. Not this time.
This post is all about a road trip to the best heritage farm show you’ve never heard of. It’s a little off the beaten path just south of Ellston, IA, and it’s awesome!
Now in its 10th year, the Blackmore Corner Antique Farm Show is the brainchild of the Dolecheck family. It started as a way to play with old iron that they (and their neighbors) had used over the years. Since then, it’s grown quite a bit, with a lot of iron being trailered in from the surrounding area! The day before the show, they host a 70-80 mile tractor ride and a big cookout, too, so it’s a full weekend!
The afternoon that I was there, they were threshing wheat with an old belt-driven thresher (running off of an old F-20, no less). In another area, there were six or eight plows hard at work turning the dirt! The plan was to pick corn the following day using a variety of pickers and some old combines, but intermittent rain hampered their plans.
The Blackmore Corner Antique Farm Show ended the Saturday night festivities with an old-style tractor pull. Lots of kiddos sitting on hay bales, lawn chairs in the bed of old Chevys, that sort of thing. I love pulls like that!
The Dolechecks don’t do a lot of marketing for this show, but they do have a Facebook page with more information and some cool drone footage from years past! I would expect that this show grows quite a bit over the next few years, so if you’re able to come out, I’m sure they’d love to have you!
Here’s what I saw while I was there.
Later in the evening, the plow demonstrations gave way to a tractor pull, and these next photos are from that portion of the day. Although some are still working tractors, those with roll cages definitely aren’t!
Timing. Is. Everything. I do love taking photos at sunset.
So there you have it, the gallery from the Blackmore Corner Antique Farm Show 2020!