Man and his Machines

Antique tractor collectors
are avid about their hobby

Trend continues to grow,
driving up prices and club membership

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(November 2007) – Bill Ford loves to take his bright orange 1937 Allis-Chalmers tractor to shows around the country and show it off. “There were only 96 of them made without an Allis-Chalmers engine, and I have one of the last ones left,” he said.

November 2007 Indiana Edition Cover

November 2007
Indiana Edition Cover

Ford’s enthusiasm for that tractor and his 25 other antique tractors is infectious. The Jefferson County, Ind., resident has been collecting tractors for more than 25 years, and he is not alone. Across the nation, antique tractor collectors are snatching up the rusty relics. As a result, membership in antique tractor clubs and participation in antique tractor shows is exploding.
The trend is noticeable regionally, both in Indiana and Kentucky. Clubs have grown in Trimble, Carroll and Oldham counties in Kentucky, and Ripley, Switzerland and Dearborn counties in Indiana. It’s rare these days to attend a local festival and not see a row of brightly colored, antique tractors on display from some local club.
Many of those collectors say the new zeal for antique tractors has made the hobby pricier and the old machines harder to find.
Ford, 72, grew up on a farm and became very familiar with old farm equipment. “Tractors are a part of American history,” he said. “They represent how this country was developed.”
He regularly travels throughout the country to farm shows and auctions looking for “that special” one, and he has noticed a definite increase in collectors and simply admirers of the old farm equipment. “People of all ages seem to really like the old tractors,” he said. “I think many of them have some sort of farming history in their background. Perhaps they grew up on a farm or remember their grandparents’ farm.”

View photos of more antique tractors!

Not only does Ford visit six to eight shows throughout the country, he is a member of the board of directors of Neavill’s Grove. Since 1885, the Neavill’s Grove Association has held the annual “Old Settlers Meeting” in late August that features an antique farm equipment show, arts and crafts, food, entertainment and a variety of contests.
“We regularly have 25 to 30 old tractors on display at the Neavill’s Grove event,” he said. “We’ve even had a steam engine tractor on display there.”
Ford finds information about the shows and auctions that he attends and from the “Farm Collector’s Show Directory” that he buys at the beginning of each year. It is published by Ogden’s Publication Inc. and lists hundreds of shows and auctions throughout the country. The guide also provides hundreds of pages of pertinent information for collectors about their beloved hobby.

Oldham County, Ky., Tractor Club

Ballardsville, Ky., resident Gene Crady has been collecting antique tractors for about 15 years. He is a member of the Oldham County Tractor Club and the Salt River Tractor Club, based in Taylorsville, Ky.

The Farm Collector Show Directory
lists these area shows in this region:

• F.A.R.M. Club Antique Tractor and Engine Show, June, Ripley County, Ind., Fairgrounds. Visit: www.RipleyCountyTourism.com.
• Greensburg Power of the Past, August, Decatur County Fairgrounds. Visit: www.GreensburgPowerofthePast.org.
• Old Settlers Days Festival & Antique Tractor Show, Salem, Ind. Visit: www.CityofSalemIn.com
• Farm Toy Show, Washington County 4H Fairgrounds, Salem, Ind. (812) 849-5295.
• Other antique tractor displays can be found at many area festivals, including the Trimble County Apple Festival in Bedford; KOI Auto Parts parking lot in Carrollton; Oldham County Day in La Grange; Milton Lions Club picnic in Milton; and the Historic Bethlehem Fall Festival in Bethlehem, Ind.

Source: 2007 Farm Collector Show Directory

The Oldham County Tractor Club annually displays at Oldham County Day on the lawn of the Oldham County Historical Society. The display is sponsored by the area’s Masonic Lodges. This past July, 75 tractors were on display and hundreds of people turned out to see them. “Things turned out great” he said.
Crady, too, sees the hobby of antique tractor collecting growing. When he talks to people at shows or antique tractor parades, many of them collect because they never had the chance to be a farmer but grew up around the old tractors. Crady grew up on a farm, and the tractors are just part of his life.
He owns 15 antique tractors from various manufacturers. “I love collecting the old things because they each have a story to tell,” he said. “They also let the youth of the future see the hardships past farmers had to overcome.”
He also said collecting the antique machines is far more affordable than collecting antique cars because collectors don’t have to invest in licensing and insurance for them.
Also, a collector can buy one of the old relics for as little as $200 or as much as $10,000.
“For me, price dictates the sale,” he said. “It’s really a value judgment when you are out there bartering for them.”

F.A.R.M. Club

Chuck Heck of Aurora, Ind., said he was “accidentally bit by the bug” after being appointed chairman of a tractor show at the Dearborn County, Ind., Fair in the early 1990s. His father-in-law, Charlie Thies, was on the fair board and thought it would be a great idea to show older tractors during the event. “In asking collectors to join the show, we met the nicest people,” he said. “Through that event, and visiting other shows, we realized how fun collecting antique farm equipment really was.”

Bill Ford

Photo by Don Ward

Bill Ford of Madison, Ind.,
with his 1943 Model "H" tractor

Heck, 55, and his wife, Sherri, 50, own 10 antique tractors, plus many pieces of antique farm equipment, including an antique cider press, wheat thrasher and hay baler. They prefer to collect International Harvesters dating prior to 1939, and one of their favorites is an International Harvester-Farmall F20.
During the early years of his collecting, Heck usually found his tractors through “word of mouth.” Now, however, the advent of the Internet has changed things drastically.
“You can find tractors for sale on E-Bay and many Internet sites if you do a search,” he said. “Unfortunately, as more collectors have gotten into the hobby, prices have risen because of demand.”
Heck helped organize an antique tractor club in Dearborn County, the Farming Antiques Related Machinery (F.A.R.M.) Club, which has now changed its name to Southeastern Indiana F.A.R.M. Club because so many of its members live outside of the country. Although the club started small, it now boasts more than 250 families as members.
“We attract people who don’t necessarily live on farms but who have ties to farming somehow,” he said. “Most people realize this is a great way to meet wonderful people and great family fun.”
Each year, the club plays host to an annual antique farming show, this year held at the Ripley Country Fairgrounds in late June.

Pioneer Power Club

In Sanders, Ky., near Carrollton, Randal and Debbie Miles are the proud owners of 45 antique tractors. While they have a variety of brands in their collection, they prefer Farmalls because of a passion Randal’s dad, Roy, had for them. “We have the very first tractor that Roy owned,” said Debbie, 45.

Gene Crady

Photo by Don Ward

Gene Crady of La Grange, Ky., with his
1957 Model "CA" Allis-Chalmers tractor

The couple has made collecting a family event for the past 15 years. They travel all over the country searching for that “perfect addition” to their collection. At this point, their oldest is a 1929 McCormick Deering 2236.
Randal, 47, said he enjoys collecting because it is a way to preserve the agricultural history of our grandfathers and is a way to meet other people interested in the same thing. “There is a whole world of people interested in preserving a bit of our history,” he said.
Randal and his brother, Calvin Miles, started the Pioneer Power Club for antique tractor collectors as a way to keep their father occupied when he started getting older. Roy died earlier this year, but his passion for the tractors will live on through his family.
The Pioneer Power Club, which started out with just a few families, has grown in six years to more than 35 families, with more interested in joining. According to Debbie, antique tractor collecting has taken off in the past few years, much like NASCAR did when it first became popular. “Women are very active in our club too,” said Debbie, who is the current president of the club.
Each year the Pioneer Power Club plays host to an annual Mother’s Day weekend tractor show at the Kentucky Motors Showground in Carrollton. The show has become a popular attraction for area residents and tourists.

Trimble County Klunkers

In Trimble County, Ky., the Trimble County Klunkers, which formed about three years ago, has 23 families in it. The club, led by president Joyce Pyles, meets the second Tuesday of every month at the Norville Barnes’ Farmhouse Restaurant in Bedford.

Sonny Carraco

Photo provided by Gene Crady

Sonny Carraco of Oldham County rides
his John Deere Model 720 into the
Westport Daze Festival tractor show.

Klunkers Secretary Richard Ginn said last summer the club showed their tractors at the Carrollton Relay for Life Cancer fundraiser. They also held three “tractor trails” events in which the members meet at a specific point and then drive single-file down various roads in the country. “It is so much fun,” he said. “People love to watch us go by.” Afterward, the members meet back at the farm they started at to have a big pitch-in dinner.
Ginn said those tractor trails have really helped boost members. “We added four to six new families this summer alone because they saw the tractor trails.” About 20 tractors have participated in each event.

Private collectors

The late Alton Tingle of Versailles, Ind., was an avid tractor collector with more than 44 in his fold. Tingle, a farmer, died last year after a lengthy illness. His brother-in-law, Delzey Thornton, said Tingle got an old tractor about 15 years ago and became “absolutely hooked” on collecting them.
“He would search through the countryside looking for the old machines,” said Thornton, 61.
Tingle loved to tinker with them to get them to run but then would store them away. “He had two barns full of them but never showed or sold any of them,” said Thornton. “He never did say why he did that.”
People from all around the area would show up at Tingle’s barns to simply look at his machines. Many of them were International Harvester F12, F14, and F30s.
When Tingle died, most of his tractors were sold at auction, but he gave Thornton a few of them before he died. “I would go with him to find them, and I helped him work on them,” said Thornton. “I enjoyed it, too.”
Charlie Hetisimer of Vevay, Ind., says he enjoys the hobby because of the colorful array of people he meets when he travels to shows or auctions. “I have met all sorts, including business owners, and people from cities,” he said. “Not all of them have a relationship to farming; they just like the old tractors.”

1941 John Deere LI

Photo provided by Randal Miles

This rare 1941 John Deere LI is part of
Randal Miles’ collection in Sanders, Ky.
Only 2,500 were ever made.

Hetisimer owns four tractors that he takes to shows, including a 1930 McCormick Deering 1020 and a 1935 McCormick Deering International W30. His rarest tractor is a 1928 Chevrolet Shop Mule. He said only four are known to exist in the United States. He has five more machines that he is currently restoring.
Hetisimer is vice president of two tractor clubs, the Southeastern Indiana F.A.R.M. Club and the Switzerland County Antique Tractor and Engine Club. The latter club has more than 150 members. He is also a member of the Chapter Seven International Collectors of Indiana, which boasts close to 300 members.
He said as more people join in the hobby, the tractors and parts for them are much harder to find. “Most of the time, you hear talk at a show or around town about a tractor, and that’s how you find them. But if I was seriously looking for a particular tractor, I’d search the Internet.”
Jim Abbott of Jefferson County, Ind., is one of the only collectors who actually sells what he buys. The other collectors said they have a tough time parting with their treasures. While he likes all types, his favorite models are the Unstyled As and Bs. They were made before they began putting brands on them. Those types of tractors have their radiators out in the open; later model tractors had their radiators enclosed in sheet metal.
Abbott, 63, loves to restore his antique tractors to show precision and then put them in parades. This past summer, Abbott took eight of his restored tractors to parades in Sellersburg, Ind., and Charlestown, Ind., and won “Best of Show” trophies. “People from everywhere come up to us and tell us how much they enjoy the tractors,” said Abbott.

Roy Hunt and Buford Parrish

Photo provided

Antique tractor collectors (from left)
Roy Hunt of Louisville and Buford
Parrish of Brownsboro, Ky., pose
at a recent tractor show. They
used to buy, restore and sell
the machines in earlier days.

He recently restored a 1944 Model B that originally belonged to his father-in-law and then gave it to his sister-in-law as a gift. “It took a year and a half to restore it,” he said.
Currently, he is working on a 1952 Ford 8N. He is putting a V-8 Ford Flathead engine in it and will parade it when he is finished.
He said it used to be easy to find the antiques setting along fence rows or out behind someone’s barn. But it is now getting harder as the hobby grows. “Now, I travel to swap meets, shows and auctions to find them,” he said.
At this past summer’s Jefferson County 4H Fair, Abbott was asked to bring six of his show tractors to display. People loved them so much, he ended up parading them around the fairgrounds for three nights. He hopes next year’s county fair will have an even bigger display.
A search on the Internet will turn up hundreds of sites for antique tractor and machinery collecting. Many online publications, including Yesterday’s Tractor Co., AntiqueTractors.com, Gas Engine Magazine, and Red Power are dedicated to serving thousands of collectors worldwide in their search for tractors and parts.

Back to November 2007 Articles.



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