International Harvester Shows Its True Colors

FC_V6_I3_Oct_2003_06-1.jpg

Patrol grader

Content Tools

Folks might've thought they were entering monsoon season in central Pennsylvania as they flocked to the small town of Bloomsburg June 26-28 for the 14th Annual Red Power Roundup, sponsored by Chapter 17 of the International Harvester Collectors Club. With record amounts of spring rain and even some flooding, Red Power Roundup organizers were concerned that the event would be washed out. Yet, only days before exhibitors were scheduled to arrive, the sun emerged and the cold, wet spring abruptly gave way to a sensation at summer.

The roundup attracted more than 900 full-sized tractors, 350 Cub Cadets and a good turnout of trucks, stationary engines, dairy equipment and even some appliances, all made by International Harvester Co. Red is synonymous with International Harvester for most collectors - and a sea of red certainly blanketed the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds that week-end. However, the stellar event proved that IH colors were almost as varied as the products the company produced.

Among the rare and unusual tractors at Bloomsburg were several high-clearance variants of commonly-made farm machines. According to a Red Power Magazine article by Guy Fay, author and noted IH expert, several kinds of IH high-clearance variants exist. Most were designed for sugar cane fields, although others were used on truck farms and nursery growing operations. Thus, the terms 'hi-crop' and 'cane' are generally interchange-able with 'high clearance' when applied to IH tractors.

One rare-tractor owner, Bill Byrd of Harrisburg, Pa., brought his 1937 F-20 Cane tractor, which was beautifully restored in 1999 by Kermit Howdyshell. The unusual F-20 Cane tractors were originally built for use in Australia, but Bills machine was used to cultivate corn and other tall-growing row crops in the U.S. Another collector, Charlie Grim, of Athens, Ohio, brought his 1947 Farmall HV (in letter series tractors, the 'V' in the model name always denotes that the tractor was a high-clearance model) and Scott Bordner of Enola, Pa., had his Farmall Super MV on hand as well. Scotts Super MV cultivated truck-farm crops near Sacramento, Calif., for most of its working life.

Buddy and Hope Banks joined the seldom-seen brigade, and brought their 1959 Farmall MV from Bogalusa, La., while Steve McCoy of Honey Brook, Pa., displayed his 1968 Farmall 756 high clearance. Steve's 756 was originally used on a tomato farm in New York, where it rode high above the tender tomato plants it cultivated and sprayed. There were a number of additional tall tractors on display, including several HV models and a newer Model 140 high clearance.

Several pieces of construction equipment, painted the familiar IH-yellow, stood out among the large number of red tractors on the fairgrounds, including a beautifully restored IH T-340 crawler with Drott '4-in-l' bucket and rear-mounted ripper. A flash of orange in the sea of red was a 1939 Gallion Jr. Patrol grader. International Harvester provided power and drive trains for a number of equipment manufacturers, and this grader, restored and owned by Ron Hershman of Franklin, Pa., is an excellent example. The 1939 Junior Patrol uses the International 1-14 engine and chassis, minus the front axle. The extended grader frame was bolted to the front of the I-14's frame rails, and the rear axle was fitted with narrow, dual wheels and tires. This grader was also fitted with a hydraulic pump to power the blade.

Prototype thrills collectors

This Cub Cadet engineering prototype number 409 is owned by Paul Bell. It's one of 10 prototypes made, shown by the fact that all pre-production and production serial numbers started with Serial No. 501. That raises questions about why this prototype sports an earlier number. The little garden tractor was originally painted yellow and white, although Paul found some IH red on the steering box that suggests that it was replaced by another color from the prototype group, which may have been the red-and-white paint scheme that is considered early in the Cub Cadet development process.

Noel Peet of Nicholson, Pa., displayed an original-condition pavement roller, powered by a vintage McCormick-Deering engine and trans-mission. While the roller looked like a Gallion, he says that no markings can be found to confirm his suspicion. A number of other yellow, gray and red crawlers turned out for the Roundup, including many IH Shop Mules and even one yellow Farmall Cub originally used by some long-forgotten highway department to mow ditches.

The IH-made trucks at the Roundup included a very distinctive 1928 6-Speed Special owned by Felix Pokorny of East Aurora, N.Y. The truck has an impressive 1-ton load capacity on wooden-spoke wheels and comes complete with a hand crank hoist under the bed. Perhaps the most interesting truck belonged to George Mitchell of Derrysville, Ohio, who displayed his 1941 International DS-300 road tractor with only 17 original miles on the engine. According to George, the DS-300 was originally purchased as one of a fleet of five by a Toledo, Ohio, trucking firm. While the other four trucks were immediately pressed into road ser-vice, George's road tractor was parked in the corner of the shop. When World War II broke out, George's DS-300 was parted out - including tires - to keep the rest of the trucks running. After the war, the trucking company purchased a fleet of IH KB-9 trucks, but it didn't sell the DS-300 until 1991 when George bought the road tractor. As a result, only 17 miles were ever put on the 62-year-old truck.

Other oddities included Scott Bane's 1961 IH Emoryville DCO405 cab-over road tractor that he brought to the Roundup from his home in Frederick, Md. The nicely refurbished Class 8 tractor was ready to work and really turned heads when its big diesel engine was fired. Many other K-series and B-series trucks graced the show grounds, in addition to a number of restored Scouts and Travel-alls.

Yellow, white and red are the traditional colors of IH Cub Cadets, and those bright paint schemes were visible among the hundreds of Cub Cadets in attendance. Two very rare and historically important tractors stood out from the crowd. IH engineering division's Cub Cadet prototype number 409, one of a reported 10 prototypes ever built, sat in splendor next to its owner, Paul Bell of Louisville, Ky. That northern Kentucky town was also home of IH's Louisville Works, where Cub Cadets were built from the early 1960s until 1981. Paul's prototype machine provided a unique historic and engineering perspective into the styling as well mechanics the first line of Cub Cadet tractors introduced in 1961. Paul's tractor even bore what appeared to be an experimental specification number on its 7-hp Kohler engine, but he can't be certain.

Cub Cadet collector Jim Chabot brought his pre-production field-tester Cub Cadet with Serial No. 518. This tractor was part of a limited production of 25 Cub Cadets that were sent to the field for rigorous end-user testing in late 1960. According to IH Tractor Committee Report 49 of Sept. 29, 1960, a Cub Cadet bearing Serial No. 518 was delivered to Pineland Plantation in Albany, Ga., for testing. The tractor eventually made its way back to Illinois, where Jim found it in relatively good condition. The 14th Annual Roundup was particularly special because it was the first event where both of these Cub Cadets were available for public view. Both Paul and Jim plan full restorations for these very special machines.

Visitors clearly experienced the full-color spectrum of the company most often associated with red at the 2003 Roundup. Next summer, the 15th annual IH gathering will be sponsored by Iowa's Chapter 5 of the IH Collector Club, and will be held in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, June 24-26 2004. FC

- For more information about the 15th Annual Red Power Roundup, contact Midwest Old Threshers at (319) 385-8937;  point your browser to www.oldthreshers.org

Oscar 'Hank' Will III is an old-iron collector and restorer who retied from farming in 1999 and from academia in 1996. He splits his time between his home in Whittier, Calif. Write him at 13952 Summit Drive, Whittier, CA 90602; or call (562) 696-4024;  e-mail: owill@mail.whittier.ed