1918 Wisconsin Tractor Gets Second Wind
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A workhorse for more than 30 years, the Wisconsin was last used in 1953. Time took its toll.
"When Art parked it, he had taken the radiator, carb and mag to the barn, and that was good," Frank says. "But he'd left it open, so mice had gotten into it, and it was full of mattress stuffing and walnut hulls. The hood had fallen over the motor, and that saved the motor, but cattle had about rubbed the sheet metal off."
"We spent a summer restoring it," he adds. "The motor wasn't stuck. The biggest challenge, really, was cleaning the mouse nest out, that and getting the cooling system cleaned out and running. But it runs good now. Basically, that motor hasn't been taken apart since it was three years old."
Most Wisconsins were used close to home, although Frank says he's heard that some were shipped to Argentina in the '20s. Tractor production ended sometime around 1923, but the company supplied Wisconsin replacement parts and reconditioned tractors until World War II (The McFarland company remains in business today, as a dealer of large farm equipment). After the war, Frank says, all remaining parts were loaded up to sell for scrap. After being tipped off, Art was on the scene almost immediately, salvaging two truck-loads of parts.
Parts are critical in restoration: Frank's been fortunate to obtain a parts tractor from Art's estate. His Wisconsin collection includes the restored 1918 Wisconsin rated 22-40 ("It's a little bit heavier and a little bit longer than a 22-36 McCormick, and it has as much or more power," Frank says); a 1917 Wisconsin (unrestored but running); and a 1923 Wisconsin in rough shape.
A tractor collector for 30 years, Frank counts the Wisconsin and a 20-40 Rumely OilPull among his favorites.
"When you get the early stuff, there's no parts around," he says. "You've got to make whatever you need. But I like stuff that was made before 1920. That first generation of tractors was just real colorful. They're real hard to find anymore."
Frank's collection includes a friction drive Heider, a 15-30 cross motor Huber, a 20-35 Eagle, a 25-50 Baker, two Rumelys (a 20-40, and a 30-60 model S), and an Emerson Brantingham 12-20. More than a few are candidates for restoration.
"I look for the really early and unusual tractors," he says. "I have an 18-36 Hart Parr I brought home in a box from North Dakota. The guy that sold it to me told me it was rough, and he didn't lie." FC
For more information: Frank Wurth, 5365 Kraft Road, Freeburg, IL 62243; (618) 539-5789.
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