Did you know that Clymer loves tractors too? We have a whole collection under the I & T manual imprint for agricultural brands like John Deere, Case International Harvester, Massey-Ferguson, Minneapolis-Moline, and more.
That’s right! We even have manuals for brands that, through the passage of time, have been consumed by others, if not discontinued altogether. Implement and Tractor service and repair manuals for agricultural tractors had first been published in 1948 by I & T Publications, which began publishing magazines on the subject back in 1885. Delving into the ag side of the business allows many of us here to re-experience the wondrous machines we first connected with as kids. These simple, hard-working machines have kept America’s farmers going for decades.
One of our writers, Cameron, flew all the way from the New River Valley of Virginia to the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, just to bring us (and you) more tractor content. Here is her report on the sights and experiences of the Mecum Gone Farmin’ Fall Premier at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa.
The history of the Mecum Gone Farmin’ brand goes back to 2010, when Dana and Dan Mecum launched a separate brand just for classic tractors. With Dan, now president of the auction company, leading the charge over the decade, the Gone Farmin’ auctions have blown up in popularity among those who collect these iron workhorses.
Though held throughout several states since that first auction in Walworth, Wisconsin, the anchor for Gone Farmin’ is in Davenport, where Mecum holds both the Spring Classic auction in March, and the Fall Premier in November. Both auctions are also televised on RFD TV, continuously fueling the interest in classic tractors from no matter what or where you farm, and even among non-farmers.
One of the biggest draws of this year’s Fall Premier was the auctioning of the Jim Mills Collection.
Mills’ collection began with a replica of a John Deere 720, only to grow to more than 100 John Deere and International Harvester tractors over the years. Each one of his tractors were obsessively restored to better-than-new condition, and all were kept inside, and in one place. Mills never once travelling to a show, lest they be damaged, so for many people this was the first chance to see them.
The other draw to the Mecum Gone Farmin’ Fall Premier was the division’s first-ever vintage truck auction.
Trucks have gone up for sale on the green carpet in the past, but this would be the first time the four-day tractor extravaganza would have a dedicated block to all sorts of classic trucks from Ford, Chevrolet, even a few International Harvester trucks.
After all, trucks are as vital to farming as tractors, moving goods from the field to the market, as well as transporting tractors, parts, and implements to and from the farm. And while Clymer doesn’t have manuals for trucks, our friends over at Haynes and Chilton do (though, alas, none for IH trucks like this lovely red 1958 A160).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mecum Auction without related art and collectibles.
Metal signs, neon signs, pedal tractors, brochures, and more were all up for bidding at the end of the first three days of the Fall Premier.
With over 2,000 pieces available, it was quite possible for a registered bidder to come away with not only a tractor, but a tractor-load of pieces to dress up the barn.
And speaking of new homes, here’s a few of our favorite tractors from the Gone Farmin’ Fall Premier to leave the green carpet for greener pastures.
This one had our hearts the moment we laid eyes upon it. From the Jim Mills Collection, this replica of the International Harvester HT-340 turbine. It was built upon the bones of a standard IH 340 tractor by General Motors master repairman Brian Harris from the original blueprints.
The original HT-340/HT-341 was a one of a kind turbine-powered concept meant to showcase the company’s hydrostatic drive system. The original HT-340 was introduced in July of ’61, only for an accident to claim parts of the concept shortly after. It returned to the show circuit as the 341 in 1962, then was donated to the Smithsonian in 1967. Jim’s replica is one of the only known working replicas.
From jet-age tractor concepts, we go all the way back to 1908 for this goliath of a tractor. The cover model of the Fall Premier 2019 catalog, this Gas Traction Co. Big Four “30” loomed over all on the block.
The behemoth’s rear steel wheels are eight-feet tall top to bottom, with total height more than 10 feet to the cabin’s wide roof. With it, farmers were able to plow 33 acres of land in a day, and remember, an ox team could plow just one acre a day. With the help of the 30-horsepower, gasoline-powered four-pot (or would that be “cauldron”?) motor enclosed in the massive red mailbox up front, one farmer could increase productivity more than 30 times!
Alas, as motor and tractor technology advanced after WWI, giants like this no longer made sense. Thankfully, such tractors are the right size for inspiring all who gaze upon them.
The patriotic feeling was in full swing during the American Bicentennial of 1976, and tractor manufacturers were not immune.
As an example, Case built a special “Spirit of ’76” edition of the Agri-King 1570, of which around 200 to 300 were built, according to Curbside Classics. And while it’s clear this one’s rough at first glance, the extensive patina is only proof this tractor was used to keep America fed for years.
While enclosed cabs are typical on modern tractors, it was a novelty back when Minneapolis-Moline introduced its UDLX Comfortractor (based on their series U tractor) in 1938. The idea then was to give farmers a machine that would harvest crops during the day, then drive into town with their families on the weekends.
Despite its car-like looks and 45-mph top speed, though, farmers back then thought the enclosed cab was too soft for hard work. If only they could have seen the GPS guided, air-conditioned tractors of farming in the decades to follow.
International Harvester was understandably proud of its hydrostatic drive system shown on the aforementioned HT-340/HT-341. Here’s a later marketing example from the company, a 1970 Farmall 826 Gold Demonstrator.
According to Octane Press, IH’s Gold Demonstrator program gave a handful of select tractor models flashy gold engine covers and cabs, then sent off to plug the company’s hydrostatic drive at shows. However, all of the Gold Demonstrators were also available with the traditional gear-drive system as well. Either way, it’s a stunning machine.
The passage of time has claimed a few names from the world of agriculture, one of them is Allis-Chalmers of West Allis, Wisconsin.
This 1983 A-C 6080 was among the last Allis-Chalmers tractors to head off to the field before 1985, when the company sold its tractor line to Deutz AG. Deutz-Allis carried the torch through 1990, when Allis-Gleaner Corporation (AGCO) bought the line, and later the Massey-Ferguson North American distribution rights in 1993.
From 1907 to 1993, Ford built tons of tractors to go with its Model T, Model A, and F-Series trucks; the line continues on today as New Holland.
But how often would you find the Blue Oval’s own flathead V8 in a tractor? Behold the Funk V8, a conversion introduced to the Funk Aircraft Company in Coffeyville, Kansas by South Dakota farmer Delbert Heusinkveld in 1948.
Heusinkveld had been converting a few Ford 8N tractors to use the flathead, but had tired of making the kits, per Farm Show Magazine. Thus, the Funks stepped up, and through the early Fifties, converted anywhere from 100 to 200 8Ns — including this 1951 example — to V8 power.
Here’s an Art Deco classic tractor for y’all, a Graham-Bradley Model 503 from the late Thirties.
The company was created in 1937 to help its parent company, Graham-Paige automobiles, weather the Great Depression. Just 237 503s were built between 1937 and 1940 when the company closed its doors, according to The Fence Post. The parent company would go on to be acquired by Joseph Frazer in 1944, and renamed Kaiser-Frazer automobiles. It eventually merged with Willis, then Rambler to become half of American Motors.
Why not give this 1966 Oliver 1650 LP Hi-Crop a go when the crops get tall! The liquid propane-fueled machine was just one example of the company’s latest and greatest following its acquisition by the White Motor Corporation in 1960.
The last Oliver tractors were made in 1974, after which the White name took its place on its first non-Oliver-branded tractor, the 4-150 Field Boss. Today, the White/Oliver connection lives on through AGCO.
As the saying goes, nothing runs like a Deere, and this 1971 John Deere 4020 looks ready to run through the fields.
Converted by Kinze, the tractor packs a Detroit Diesel 6V-71 under the long green hood. The 238 horses and 600 lb-ft of torque from the 7.0-liter V6 guaranteed a wild time while plowing the fields, for sure. Jon Kinzenbaw started Kinze in 1968, and was once known for re-powering tons of John Deere tractors like this one.
The Mecum Gone Farmin’ Fall Premier 2019 provided plenty of excitement for tractor fans of all ages. The sounds of idling engines, the smell of diesel, gas, and oil in the air, the action along the green carpet, just all part of the magic of being around hundreds of magnificent machines like these. We’d certainly love to head back up to Davenport again, whether for another fall extravaganza, or to enjoy the return of spring in the heartland of America.
Here’s a huge gallery of other tractors and equipment we saw at the auction. If you’ve got a tractor you want to keep working for years to come, or one that needs a bit of work to return to the filed, check out the entire line of I & T manuals. Chances are we have one that will make rebuilding or servicing your tractor easier.