Vintage Garden Tractor Club Off and Running
Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America a hit on summer show circuit
A 1933 Handiman Model C33, owned and restored by the Cunzenheims, McFarland, Wis.
Vintage garden tractors barely registered on the farm collectible screen a decade ago. But today the hobby — and a collectors' club — is booming.
"There was not a lot of interest in garden tractors when my son and I began collecting them 11 years ago," says Jim Cunzenheim, McFarland, Wis. "It was unusual to see more than a half dozen at any of the steam and gas engine shows."
If collections were few and far between, documentation was almost non-existent. "The only information available was in books by Alan King and David Bass," Jim says. "They were invaluable in identifying different kinds of tractors, but gave virtually no other information about them."
Jim's assortment of vintage garden tractors sat untouched for years. But late in 1994, he learned of the formation of VGTCOA: the Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America. "The club got off to a shaky start," he says. The first newsletter went out to 68 paid members. The first spring meeting, to be held in Speedway, Ind., was canceled because only six people could attend.
In June 1995, a few members of the club attended the Southern Indiana Antique Machinery Club show in Evansville, showing 20 garden tractors. They tried again at the Tri-County Thresherman's Club, Plainfield, Wis., later that month. Ten members attended that show, exhibiting 35 tractors. During the summer, a smattering of club members attended shows in Beaver Dam, Wis., and Winamac, Ind.
"By now, my son and I were having second thoughts," Jim says. "We debated about staying in the club, and whether we should continue to collect garden tractors. But we had never exhibited at any of the shows, and decided that before giving up, we should put a little effort into both the club and the hobby."
The next area show was the Badger Steam & Gas Show in Baraboo, Wis. Jim and his son hauled over everything they had.
"We even borrowed a couple from a friend," he says. "Our exhibit included an old lawn mower, a rototiller and 10 garden tractors. Only two were in running condition, and none had been restored. Some were in bad shape: one didn't even have a motor. Another was a solid mass of rust. The rest were in a state of very poor repair."
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