Emil Leimkuehler has spent almost a quarter-century showing off his vintage fleet of tractors at antique farm shows. The friendly new faces and familiar friends that he meets are the reasons he returns year after year. Ask Emil what he'd change about show-going, and he'll tell you there's one part of the show circuit he could do without: Hauling around a bunch of big, heavy tractors.
The Fulton, Mo., collector's answer to that age-old antique tractor problem is simple: Don't travel with full-sized tractors. That epiphany catapulted the lifelong farmer into a mission to craft miniature tractors from nothing more than a few tools, a blowtorch and a hacksaw.
'I used to show big tractors for years, but then I got tired of lugging them around to each and every show,' Emil explains. 'Now I just take my miniatures. They're easy to carry, and I get more attention now than I ever did with a regular-sized tractor. At this last Mt. Pleasant show, I must've got my picture taken 75 to 100 times.'
The paparazzi-like attention around Emil was the result of his Oliver 88 Standard miniature with a hand-made hay rake in tow. Emil turned heads all weekend as he drove along the rain-soaked roads of the Old Threshers Reunion show grounds. Never one to pass up a friendly question or remark, Emil made pit stops along his route each day to talk with curious collectors and puzzled spectators about his diminutive darling tractor. Most of them had the same questions: 'What scale is that tractor, and what's powering it?'
'The tractor wasn't made to a certain scale,' Emil explains. 'My reason for making it was only so I could fit it through the door of my mini-home camper, which I take to all the different shows.'
Although Emil doesn't like to lug around a bunch of big tractors, he says he's been there and done that before. He's a retired farmer and a lifelong Oliver loyalist with some outstanding restorations stored in the shed back home. Emil owns an Oliver 77, a 1925 12-24 Hart-Parr and a 1917 International Titan featured in the January 1980 Gas Engine Magazine, among others. Restorations are great, Emil says, but these days he's thinking big by going small.