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A Showcase of Rare Classic Tractors

These tractors rate very high on the desirability lists of most every serious tractor person.

| December 2015

  • The 1918 Waterloo Boy R. The most visible difference between the Waterloo Boy Model R and N is the R has a much smaller diameter ring drive gear in each rear wheel.
    Photo by Andrew Morland
  • The 1925 John Deere D (Spoker). The 26-inch spoked flywheel was rolled over by hand for engine starting.
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • A characteristic of the 1924 D was a left-hand steering wheel.
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • The D was built on the unit-frame concept and featured a roller-chain final drive system.
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • The 1930 Massey-Harris GP 15/22. The M-H GP sales were disappointing, and so was its performance. Its main competition, the Fordson, pulled 3,300 pounds against the GP’s maximum pull of 3,200 pounds, but the slippage for the Fordson was almost 20 percent, versus 8 percent for the GP.
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • The 1936 John Deere BW-40. Only a few of these tractors were made in 1935 and 1936 for farmers that needed 40-inch wheel spacing (minimum).
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • Serial number tags are found on the transmission housing just ahead of the flywheel.
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • The 1938 Minneapolis-Moline UDLX Comfortractor. This tractor featured a very stylish front end for the times, but the front axle did not have springs, which made for a bone-shaking ride on a dirt farm roads.
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • The fold-up seat allowed occupants to enter the cab. Access was still restricted by the transmission housing.
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • The stylish lines compared favorably to the finest 1938 automobiles. Note the radio antenna on the left windshield frame and the spotlight on the roof.
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • The 1938 Graham-Bradley 503-103. The Graham-Bradley tractors featured some unlikely attributes for their time, besides the striking styling. Standard items included a comfortable seat with a back, an under-hood muffler, a Delco-Remy 6-volt electrical system with distributor ignition, and a transmission that gave governered speeds of 2 mph to 20 mph.
    Photo by Ralph W. Sanders
  • The 1950 Funk-Ford 8N V-8. When viewed from a distance, this appears to be an ordinary 8N, but up close, the higher hood can be seen, which allows clearance for the air cleaner and carburetor. Also, the radiator is much larger and taller. Finally, most of these have the largest back tires that will fit.
    Photo by Andrew Morland
  • The 1960 Massey-Ferguson 98. This is what you needed in 1960 if you had a lot of acreage to plow. These monsters (or the equivalent Oliver Super 99 GM) could haul six 16-inch plows fast enough to plow a “forty” in a day. Hopefully you had ear protection!
    Photo by Andrew Morland
  • “The Tractor Factor” by Robert N. Pripps includes tractors from the United States and abroad. Some of the tractors featured in the book are one-of-a-kind and are being shown in print for the first time.
    Cover courtesy Voyageur Press

The Tractor Factor (Voyageur Press, 2015) is a richly illustrated book that reveals what makes a tractor collectible, showcases the rarest models, gives a history of the marque, and details specific finds. Robert N. Pripps, a leading tractor historian, covers models from the United States, the UK, Germany, Holland, France, and other countries. Pripps' expertise, paired with the stunning photography of Ralph W. Sanders and Andrew Morland, makes The Tractor Factor a book no fan of these paradigm-changing machines will want to miss. The following excerpt is from Chapter 6, “Cream of the Crops.”

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Tractor Factor.

The following are tractors that would rate very high on the desirability lists of most every serious tractor person. In some cases, there were a lot of these manufactured, but time has taken a toll on their availability. For other models, fewer than 100 are out there, and very few ever become available for purchase. The hope of acquiring any one of these usually goes beyond the luck of the hunt. You might find a collector with two who is willing to sell one, or you might have to take the least desirable option: wait for an estate sale.

1918 Waterloo Boy R

The tractor that got John Deere into the tractor business took shape back in 1915 under the auspices of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company of Waterloo, Iowa. The name “Waterloo Boy” is thought to be both a reference to the name of the town and to the welcome “water boy,” whose job it was to carry cool, refreshing water to the thirsty members of threshing crews.

The Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company had made tractors in several styles prior to 1915 when the R was settled upon. It was produced through 1919, overlapping its successor, the N, which came out in 1917. Deere and Company bought the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company in 1918. Production of the N continued through 1924, overlapping its successor, the John Deere D.

There were more than 10,000 Waterloo Boy Rs made, of which some 4,000 were sent to Britain during World War I. Imported to alleviate the food shortage resulting from the German submarine threat, these were renamed “Overtime” by their importer.

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