Second Act for a Fox

1974 Fox 6644 corn chopper undergoes a thorough restoration

Doug Malueg’s fully restored 1974 Fox 6644 corn chopper.

Doug Malueg’s fully restored 1974 Fox 6644 corn chopper.

Gloria Hafemeister

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When Doug Malueg decided to restore his father’s 1974 Fox 6644 4-wheel drive corn chopper, he had no idea what would cause him the most difficulty.

After all, he had previously restored a 1972 Chevy 3/4-ton pickup, a 1974 Pontiac Ventura Sprint, a 1970 Chevy SS Nova and a 1966 Corvette, as well as a 1976 John Deere 2440 and 1972 International Harvester 666 tractor.

You’d think the biggest headache would come from rebuilding the Fox, which he stripped down to some 500 individual parts. In fact, says the Marion, Wis., man, the real challenge came in re-creating the final look, which involved 47 different stickers. These included danger, caution, lubrication, starting and Fox 4WD stickers. “I took pictures of my machine and two other identical ones in the area to get the total collection of decals,” he says. “Some of mine were worn off, and some of the stickers on those other two machines were worn off too, but I got pictures of an entire set.” He turned to the Fox Sign Co. (no relation to the Fox Tractor Co.) for the decals, laying a tape measure beside each decal so the company would have an exact sense of size.

At first, Doug says, the people at Fox were reluctant to tackle the project because it was different from anything they’d done. Plus, all the decals were in different fonts and sizes. “Eventually they accepted it as a challenge,” he says, “and I couldn‘t be happier with the results.”

The other big challenge was construction of the yellow spout. “You can’t buy that part anymore, and nobody is making it,” he says. “So I took one off another machine, took it all apart, and cut everything to within a 16th of an inch. When I had a duplicate made, I put the original back on that chopper, and painted mine. It took me two weeks of nights and weekends to make it.”

Three generations work with corn harvest

Doug’s history with the corn chopper actually began with his grandfather Anton Malueg, who custom harvested for area farmers from the 1930s through the 1950s. After retiring, Doug’s father, Jim, drilled grain, and picked and chopped corn for local farmers. At first he used a Fox Super D self-propelled chopper. Later, when most farmers were buying their own equipment, he turned to the Fox 6644 to open up cornfields for local farmers. He’d cut one or two rounds (consisting of three rows per round) around the outside of the field and several through the middle so harvesting equipment wouldn‘t run down rows of good corn.

When Jim Malueg was laid low by cancer in 2005, Doug and his brother, Dennis, decided to follow in their father’s footsteps, just to fill in. “Farmers were calling and asking if anybody was going to do the service of opening up the fields,” Doug recalls. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ I did it to get through the year, because we thought Dad was going to get better.” But Jim Malueg died Oct. 26, 2005, a day before his 76th birthday.

Doug had grown up with the Fox, but had not run it for 20 years. “It was like riding a bike,” he says. “But I’ll tell you, it was tired iron. You had to go real slow and baby it and do in-field repairs to get through the day. Chains and belts and hoses broke regularly.”

Drawing a line in the sand

After that fall, he decided he wasn’t going to do that kind of work again with a poorly conditioned implement that had more than 4,000 hours on it. “It took forever to get anything done,” Doug says. So he first went after the corn head, with no idea that it would turn out to be so complicated.

When he and his sons, Nathan, now 24, and Logan, now 18, took off the sheet metal, they discovered all the parts were deeply worn and the frame was cracked. They stripped it completely, sandblasted the unit down to the frame, found new parts, and made a rotisserie jig to hang the frame on, making it easier to rebuild the corn head.

“It took me a whole winter into spring, but then it worked perfectly,” Doug says. “I put it back on the machine and it made an unbelievable amount of difference. So many bearings were shot that it took a lot of horsepower to run the head before, so now the machine had a lot more power. It chopped and gathered the corn better than I’d ever seen it do before.” He chopped 160 loads with it that year, with no repairs.

After the season, Doug decided to restore the rest of the machine. He removed the corn head, put the machine into his heated shop, and, working with his sons, completely disassembled it. “Using the corn head as an indicator of how bad everything was worn out,” he says, “we disassembled everything, removing the wire harness, sheet metal, wheels and transmission, right down to the frame.”

From that point, they went slowly. Doug repaired parts that could be repaired, adding new ones as needed, fabricating sheet metal to replace that which was too dented or rusty, and slowly built it all back up. “We went through the transmission, bevel gear case, final drive, brakes, gear boxes, had the hydrostatic drive motors rebuilt, updated radiator and shroud, along with new belts, hoses, chains, drive sprockets and idler sprockets,” he says. “We went through the entire machine, thanks to a great deal of help from Norris and Barry Works from Bennington, Ind., who own one of the largest Fox dealerships in the U.S. I leaned on them for so much information. He’s the last Fox activist, if you will, very active in buying and selling Fox farm equipment (which hasn’t been manufactured since 1986). They are the Fox sales and service headquarters.”

Perhaps the biggest assist from the Works family was donation of a Fox 6644 parts and instruction manual. “We had 500 parts laid out, hanging up in the attic,” Doug marvels. “I didn’t always know where pieces went, because three people had torn it apart. So we set some to the side and worked on the easy stuff, and kept narrowing it down, handling the little pieces, and then looking in the book to figure out with the pictures where a certain part went. It was like putting a giant puzzle together after dumping all the pieces out of the box. You start with the easy pieces first and then go to the harder ones.”

Unintended consequences

Besides making the Fox 6644 look and work as well as it had the day it came off the factory line at Appleton, Wis., there were other benefits to the work. “I’m close to all my kids, but I think this helped bring Nathan, Logan and me closer,” Doug says. “Nathan had helped me with the John Deere and IH tractors, and he did a lot of work on the chopper. Logan helped a lot too, but he had a lot of other things going on in his life at the time, with school and all.”

The project also gave Doug the chance to impress a personal philosophy on his sons: “I’m always reminding them that there are people in the world who make things happen, people who watch what happens and people who wonder what happened. I told them to take pride in what you’ve accomplished; take pride in your work. It doesn’t matter if you’re mowing lawns or washing a car.”

Another piece in the restoration project was tracking company history. “I made dozens of telephone calls trying to track down Fox information,” Doug says. “I called dealers looking for literature to put on display when Dave and Ken Raether asked me to display the chopper at John Deere Days in Marion recently.”

It was a time consuming and often frustrating process, but Doug found some good resources. He’s become good friends with surviving managers of Fox Tractor Co. and they’ve showered him with memorabilia and information. “I can’t describe it any other way,” Doug says. “They’ve given me patches, shirts, jackets, tie clips and more as they find it and realize how enthusiastic I am about Fox. One man gave me some of his personal Fox awards, because he said his children might just throw them away but he could see that they had meaning to me. They‘ve also given me personal photos that no one else would have.” Recently Doug came home to find an orange bundle: original factory authorized coveralls.

Wherever he takes it, the Fox chopper generates a lot of interest. “It draws a crowd whenever I fill up at a gas station,” Doug says, “probably because they hear it coming with the roar of its ‘conversion motor.’ That’s my nickname for the V6 Detroit diesel engine, which converts diesel fuel into noise. Old farmers come up and start telling me stories about the one they had or the one their neighbor had. Some regret scrapping out the ones they had. I just never realized this piece of farming history would touch so many people.” FC