Lawn and Garden Tractor Giant
(Page 2 of 4)
Before long, Len was actively seeking obscure brands and models. The word was out that Len Howe would buy old worthless garden tractors or take them in trade. The yard behind the shop filled with tractors and related equipment. In his spare time, Len fixed up a few old Gibsons and put them on display at the shop.
In the last 30 years, that display evolved into a collection of every model Gibson built, as well as rare tractors and pieces of equipment produced by other manufacturers. Eventually Len had a collection of about 30 tractors and a warehouse full of equipment. An early member of the Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Assn., Len has worked on just about every brand of engine ever made. The walls of his warehouse are lined with shelves holding dozens of restored engines, parts engines and candidates for restoration.
The little-known Harvey
Since the sale of the mower service and his retirement in the 1980s, Len has concentrated on finding tractors to restore and restoring them. He prefers to do all of the work – mechanical and cosmetic – himself. Two Harvey tractors (one from Colorado and one from close to home in Moses Lake, Wash.) are the heart of his collection.
The successor to the Gibson tractor, the Harvey was built in Colorado by the same man who earlier developed the Gibson. As far as is known, 50 or fewer tractors were built before the company folded. Built with 1940s Ford car components mated to a Wisconsin single-cylinder engine, the Harvey is one of the few tractors of this type built with a column shift and individual rear wheel hydraulic brakes.
Almost no literature exists for these tractors and there is no parts source other than the wrecking yard, so missing parts had to be found or fabricated. Fortunately, the tractor from Colorado was mostly complete and had good sheet metal so the restoration was pretty straightforward. As with many of Len’s restorations, no decals exist so new ones were custom-made. Harvey Power Flex Model 10 decals were made by a friend based on what little was left of the original decal and paint scheme and an original sales brochure provided by another Harvey collector. With the restoration of the second Harvey, Len has a matched pair that he enjoys showing at garden tractor and engine shows along with other tractors from his collection.
Among the tractors in Len’s collection is a Panzer found at a Helena, Mont., auction. Manufactured in Pennsylvania, the turquoise-blue Panzer features a unique belt transmission. A high quality line, Panzer was one of the first to feature electric starting on a small tractor.