Collectors Crazy about Cockshutt Tractors
Three New York men round up collection of more than 50 restored Cockshutt tractors
Skip Chamberlain (left), Lee Northrup and Jim Northrup with the 1956 Cockshutt Black Hawk tractor that they restored. Their restoration was so good that a member of the family they purchased it from didn't even recognize it.
A lot can be said about Cockshutt tractor collector Lee Northrup. It might be said that the New Yorker loves Cockshutt tractors. After all, he and his partners own around 50 of the farm machines. It might also be said that Lee likes working on Cockshutts.
He bought his first one in 1989, and has collected and restored them ever since. It might even be said that Lee has Cockshutt in his blood. His dad's tractor of choice was always Cockshutt, and Lee is just as fond of the line as his father once was.
Lee grew up on a small dairy farm near Lowville, N.Y., one of 11 children. When his dad, Leon, decided it was time to replace the family's Case SC, he chose a 1958 Cockshutt Model 550 for several reasons. "It was easy to drive, easy to work on," Lee explains. "It's also safer for kids. It had a platform with fenders. Very kid-friendly."
Lee's dad paid cash for the new tractor in 1958. Lee still owns the original invoice, and a copy of the document is included in the book Cockshutt - The Complete Story by Dennis McGrew. It soon became Leon's favorite tractor, Lee adds, and he used it for the rest of his farming days. The Northrup brothers - Lee and Jim - still own their dad's Model 550. It's a sentimental reminder of their father and life on the farm. "We had lots to do and not many tractors." Lee jokes about their days milking cows, and raising oats and potatoes. "Now we have many tractors and not much to do with them."
Lee and his brother, Jim, echo their dad's opinion about how easy Cockshutt tractors are to repair and restore. The brothers make a good restoration team: Jim is the painter, and Lee is the welder and metal fabricator.
In addition, Lee makes just about any part they can't find. He's so proficient at fabricating parts that he sells his handcrafted fabrications to other Cockshutt collectors. Jim's long-time companion, Pat Sterling, also helps. She provides the artwork and finial details for each restored tractor.
The fun of tractors is "10 percent restoring, and 90 percent the friends and people you get to meet," Jim says. "We've met hundreds of nice people."
One of the nice folks the Northrups have met is now one of their restoration partners. C.S. "Skip" Chamberlain is the restoration team's engine block expert. Jim, Lee and Skip are all members of the International Cockshutt Club. Skip is the current director, and Jim is a former director of the organization that boasts more than 1,600 members internationally. Luckily for Lee and Jim, Skip worked for years as a technical supervisor for Cockshutt. Skip originally met the Northrups quite by accident. The way Skip explains it, he was in a local store in 1991 waiting for his wife, who was Christmas shopping nearby, when he saw Jim, who was waiting for Pat to return.
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