The experimental International Harvester gas
Rarest of the Rare
One-of-a-kind tractors featured at Historic Farm Days
Darius Harms remembers well the first time he set eyes on International Harvester's experimental gasoline turbine tractor in 1961 at the Illinois State Fair. 'It fascinated me to no end,' the Flatville, Ill., old-iron lover recalls.
Forty-two years later, others can share his excitement and see that famed tractor at Historic Farm Days, held July 10-13, 2003, in Penfield, Ill. In fact, organizers say, the event offers not one, but two of the most rare tractors in existence: the International Harvester gasoline turbine-powered HT-341 and the Hart-Parr #3 gasoline tractor.
Both are on loan from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History to the show's sponsor, the I & I Antique Tractor & Gas Engine Club, based in Penfield. 'It's something we never dreamed could happen,' Richard Fourez, club president, says. 'As the club grew, we always wanted to add something extra special every year.'
The HT-341 will certainly draw crowds who crave International Harvester equipment, as in 2002 when the 500-member club hosted the annual IH Collectors Association's national show. Yet, with the presence of that unique Hart-Parr tractor, it's no wonder that this year's show is paired with the 13th annual national gathering of the Hart-Parr Oliver Collector's Association.
Although many people helped with the effort to display both tractors, Fourez credits Harms' persistence to coordinate the equipment loan from the Smithsonian. Harms worked with Larry Jones, museum specialist for the Smithsonian's agriculture collections, to arrange the tractor loans.
Such loans are routine, Jones says, but museums and historical societies must comply with specific stipulations to ensure the equipment is properly cared for. The tractors must be stored in a climate-controlled environment with constant 55-percent humidity, the facility must be locked tight with daily inspections, barriers must be erected to prevent visitors from touching the machines and knowledgeable people must handle the tractors.
Both tractors are on a three-year, renewable loan to the club, which helps the Smithsonian share its collections outside Washington, D.C. 'There are many people who never make it to D.C,' Jones says. Even if they do, he adds, they aren't likely to see the tractors because less than 5 percent of the museum's 3 million objects are on display at any given time.