Old tractor collection recalls steel-wheel era

John Schmitz/For the Capital Press Mike Brenneman of Scio, Ore., restored this 1923, steel-wheeled Fordson, which he will have at the Expo. With him are his wife, Joyce, and granddaughter Daisy.

Popular exhibit brings in variety of farm implements

By JOHN SCHMITZ

For the Capital Press

If you want to join the Willamette Valley Tractor Collectors, it helps to have rust in your veins.

But if all you want to do is see what the loosely knit organization is all about, visit the Cascade Building at the Willamette Valley Ag Expo.

This is the eighth year in the Expo's nine-year history that collectors and restorers of vintage tractors and other farm equipment from around the valley are meeting to show off their stuff.

Between 50 and 70 machines in all shapes, sizes, ages and stages of restoration will be on display, said George Kurtz, one of the event organizers.

This year, the display will focus on gas-operated, steel-wheeled tractors manufactured between 1913 and 1930, but owners of other old tractors and farm equipment are welcome to bring their equipment.

Two of the oldest tractors at the event will be a Waterloo Boy (made between 1912 and 1915), which was the predecessor to the John Deere line, and a John Deere Spoker-D, one of the first tractors to carry the Deere logo. Some old Fordson and Farmall steel-wheel tractors will also be among the antique tractors at the event.

For the second year in a row, on Wednesday, there will be several seminars on restoring old farm tractors. The talks will cover sheet metal and electrical system restorations, as well as a troubleshooting roundtable.

One of the more visible collectors at the Expo this year is Mike Brenneman of Scio, Ore.

The owner/operator of Albany Wheel and Exhaust, Brenneman does not bleed green, blue or red when you poke him.

He bleeds a blend of all three, having chosen to restore a variety of tractor makes and models rather than specialize in just one.

"I like old tractors. I don't care what brand they are," he said.

Brenneman, who wasn't raised on a farm, enjoys restoring tractors because "they're a lot simpler. To me, (they're) more relaxing."

On the other hand, he finds some vintage car clubs rather snooty.

Brenneman has 15 old tractors in various stages of restoration, four of which will be at the Expo: a 1923 steel-wheeled Fordson, a 1956 Case 300, a 1941 Case model SC and a 1929 Case model C.

Brenneman's "pride and joy," however, is a 1936 Fordson All-Around, which he acquired for $800 in La Pine, Ore. "It's a basket case right now."

Made in England, there are only 19 of the 1936 Fordson All-Arounds in the U.S., Brenneman said. He hopes to bring his to a future expo.

The reason Fordsons are so rare is that, like the infamous Ford Edsel, they were flops, Brenneman said.

Willamette Valley Tractor Collectors is an informal group of tractor collectors that meets only once a year.

"We're not a club," Brenneman said. "We're way more laid back than car collectors. We invite any enthusiasts who have any kind of a tractor."

At this year's annual meeting before the Expo, Brenneman said, there were more young people than usual attending.

Freelance writer John Schmitz is based in Salem, Ore. E-mail: johns6869@msn.com.

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