A New Old Dealership

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A worker puts the finishing touches

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In 1959, the John Deere Company introduced its line of 'New Generation' tractors. The tractors provided the farmers who used them with a considerably more powerful six-cylinder engine, but marked the end of an era for John Deere. The two-cylinder type engines would fade from showroom floors over the next few years, finally disappearing from Deere dealerships in the early 1960s. Many fans of the old 'Johnny Poppers,' who had spent much of their youths in the seats of John Deere Ds and Bs, were sad to see them go. But, as we all know, you can't relive the past.

Or can you?

On August 10-11, the John Deere Foundation will celebrate the grand opening of the Moline Tractor & Plow Co., a multi-million dollar replica of a 1950s-era John Deere dealership. The showroom will feature the classic tractors and implements that helped make John Deere a household name in farm towns across America.

The idea for the facility, says LuAnn Haydon, manager of the John Deere Pavilion and John Deere Foundation facilities, came from collectors and visitors to the John Deere Pavilion, where there are displays of both new and old John Deere products. 'Since the Pavilion was built in 1997, we have been hosting about a quarter of a million people a year,' she says. 'The comments we kept hearing from visitors were, 'Where can we find more of these two-cylinder tractors?' These were the tractors they had grown up with and they wanted to see them again.'

The facility will feature a full showroom stocked with 'new' 1950s-era tractors; a working repair/restoration shop; a display area showcasing tractors and implements (some John Deere Collectors Center members' being sold on consignment); a specialty retail shop; and - perhaps the best news for collectors - an over-the-counter parts department.

The feel of the 1950s will extend beyond equipment (equipment, in fact, could date to the beginning of the John Deere company). Jeff McManus, manager of the Moline Tractor & Plow Co., says that a visit there will be like actually visiting the past. 'There'll be a pop machine, '50s music, ball games and news on the radio. Every person you see working there will be wearing a '50s-vintage uniform. Computers will be hidden. The phones, the furniture, the floors and ceilings, everything will be '50s.'

This is not going to be just any 1950s establishment, however. LuAnn Haydon says that planners and designers dug into the company's records to find out exactly what a 1950s John Deere dealership would have looked like, 'right down to the carpentry.'

The grand opening will also coincide with the John Deere Collectors Center's second annual 'All Green' antique tractor auction, held Saturday, Aug. 11, at 10:30 a.m at the dealership. A memorabilia auction will be held on Friday, Aug. 10 at 5 p.m. at Centre Station.

While the Moline Tractor & Plow Co. has been designed with the collector in mind, it should also be a shot in the arm for Moline, Ill., the town where the blacksmith John Deere built a company from plowshares after beginning his business in Grand Detour, Ill. In fact, the state of Illinois gave the John Deere Foundation a grant of almost $1 million to assist in the creation of exhibits. It has been money well spent for the state. Deere & Company estimates that more than 250,000 people flock to Moline every year to see the Pavilion and use the company's records for research. Those numbers should only go up with the opening of the company's 'newest' dealership. 'I'm being a little conservative here,' LuAnn says, 'but we hope to increase that quarter of a million by 100,000 to 150,000.'

No matter how many people do come through, Jeff says that he wants everyone to feel at home, to be treated like they would have been in the local dealerships they remember. 'We want people to know that the first new John Deere dealership of the millennium is actually an old dealership,' he says. 'This is a dealership of memories.'

LuAnn says that she's hoping people make new John Deere memories, too.

'Many hands and hearts helped put this together. A lot of passion went into this,' she says. 'Deere is a legend. When people leave here, we would like them to take a piece of that legend home, whether it be as a memory, a trinket or a friendship.'

The grand opening of the Moline Tractor & Plow Co. will be held Aug. 10-11 in Moline, Ill. Entertainment will be provided to visitors, and refreshments will be available throughout the day. The ribbon cutting at the dealership will be at 11a.m., Saturday, Aug. 11. A show of tractors will begin Thursday, Aug. 9.

The ribbon hasn't officially been cut yet, but the facility is already open seven days a week. Hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays; and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. January through March, the dealership will switch to winter hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays; no change in weekend hours. It will be open every day of the year except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. For more information or to schedule tours, call (800) 240-5265.