The Beauprez family has always lived in Colorado and farmed with horsepower provided by Oliver tractors. Although the Beauprezs quit farming in recent years, Oliver tractors still fill an irreplaceable niche. The former farm family is simply obsessed with those famed green machines.
It all started when Joe and Marie Beauprez founded the family's farm in Boulder County in 1948. Situated in Northeast Colorado, the western edge of Boulder County begins in the Rocky Mountains and sweeps eastward across Boulder Valley - including the City of Boulder - and extends onto the high prairie lands to the east.
Joe and Marie raised three sons and one daughter. Together, Joe and his sons farmed the fertile prairie in eastern Boulder County, and in the process developed a world-renowned herd of registered Holstein cattle on land the family dubbed the Boulder Valley Holstein Farm. They also planted crops, using Oliver tractors.
The first was a Model 70 Row-Crop bought in 1941 before Joe and Marie moved to the family farm. A few years later, at the peak of their farming operation, they used four Oliver tractors: a Model 77 Row-Crop gasoline tractor, a Model 88 Row-Crop gasoline tractor as well as a Model 1800 gasoline tractor and a Model 1850 diesel tractor.
Urban sprawl eventually came knocking, and the City of Lafayette, Colo., ultimately engulfed the farm. As a result, the Beauprezs sold their dairy herd in 1990. Today, a beautiful city-owned golf course and a 500-home subdivision blanket the former farm. Even without a place to plant crops and tend cattle, the Beauprezs never lost their love for the land or those Oliver tractors that served them so well for more than 40 years.
Tractors turned hobby
The family can't work the old farm anymore, but the Beauprezs manage to maintain their love for Oliver tractors by collecting everything from full-sized versions to 1/16-scale Oliver model tractors. Joe and Marie's son, Mike Beauprez, cultivates his collecting hobby by restoring antique Oliver tractors and their smaller cousins, Oliver pedal tractors.
Mike restored his first tractor in 1993, an Oliver Model 70 Standard. His current collection has 12 tractors, including six Olivers: a Model 99 Standard, a Model 80 Row-Crop, a Model 80 Standard, a Model 70 Row-Crop, a Model 70 Standard and a Model 60 Standard. Three more Oliver tractors await final restoration. Would he ever sell a restored Oliver? 'I'll price any of my other tractors, but never an Oliver,' Mike says with a grin. 'That's my tractor of choice.'
Their old farm was urbanized, but the original house and barn stand amidst the new development. Joe and Marie still live in the farmhouse and use a portion of the barn for antique tractor restoration. 'I grew up with Olivers, and we farmed with as many as four,' Mike explains about his own Oliver obsession. 'Restoring antique tractors lets me have contact with something I enjoy, and it fills a void. It's a hobby that I like.'
Tractor restoration is truly a Beauprez family affair. Joe helps remove the initial mud and grease from each machine. Mike finds parts and lends a hand throughout the complex restoration process, while his son, Shawn, dismantles the tractors. Mike's brother, Mel Beauprez, tackles engine chores, bodywork and detailed painting.
The Beauprezs bought all their antique Oliver tractors elsewhere in the state or country with the exception of one. 'We sold all of our tractors through our equipment sale,' Mike says. 'We had the chance to buy back the Oliver 77 Row-Crop a few years later. That tractor is one of those waiting final restoration.'
When it comes to displaying the family's tractors, the Beauprezs keep it local. 'There are a lot of fairs and shows where we could display our tractors,' Mike says. 'We only take them to our local county fair. It is expensive to haul them around, so we just stay close to home.'
Partial to pedals
A couple years ago, Mike realized that antique tractors are expensive to collect, especially with the minute detail the Beauprezs put into their restoration work. Besides the hefty price tag, Mike's storage areas were nearly full, and there was barely room for another full-sized tractor. That's when Mike started to think smaller is better, and pedal tractors caught his eye.
'With pedal tractors, there seems to be fewer Olivers than any other brand, so the good ones are harder to find,' Mike explains. 'They're generally more affordable and easier to store than the real tractors. We can custom (make) the new ones so that makes opportunities to create additional models. It's another way to keep my hobby going.'
A few years later, Mike owns 21 pedal tractors - 12 of which bear the distinctive Oliver green. He's restored a total of five Oliver pedal tractors and customized one other. While some spouses may cringe at the thought of so much time, money and effort put into collecting and restoration, Mike's wife, Donna, delights in her husband's tractor hobby. 'It lets Mike stay involved in his passion of collecting and restoring,' Donna says. 'It also gives him a chance to work with other family members.'
Farm toys enthrall and educate youngsters
Shawn Beauprez shares his passion for farm toy collecting with young people as a way to teach future generations the value of rural life. Since some parents of children just getting into the hobby may not know how to start, Shawn suggests that children should have a voice in the process.
'Collect the brand you like best,' Shawn advises. 'Start with basic and affordable pieces.' In fact, Shawn adds, parents should let their kids pick out the toy tractors they want themselves. 'I've seen kids who want one particular toy, but then get another because their parents said it would be worth more down the road. Kids will get discouraged because it is not what they really want. We need to remember that this is a hobby and we are, after all, dealing with toys.'
To learn more about the hobby, Shawn suggests that new collectors, young and old, ask those with farm toy knowledge plenty of questions. 'Most importantly,' Shawn adds, 'take care of your collection by keeping the units clean and free of dust.'
Customized toy tractors
Mike's son, Shawn, began to collect toy tractors at 13 years old. Shawn's original collection included nearly all equipment brands, but since he was surrounded by Olivers and Oliver lovers, his emphasis shifted to 1/16-scale Oliver toy tractors. Now, at age 34, his unique collection numbers more than 100 Olivers. Shawn not only collects toy tractors, he also customizes and restores them. His collection includes 40 custom models or toys that he's restored.
'My creative juices start flowing when I see an Oliver tractor that hasn't been made as a toy,' Shawn says excitedly. 'I enjoy the challenge of customizing a toy tractor to create a one-of-a-kind for my collection.' Shawn says the Ertl Model 1850 Oliver miniature that he received as a youngster is his favorite toy. 'I still consider that very special as I received it as a gift from my parents when I was very young,' he adds.
Shawn's work includes great attention to detail, and each model and toy is obviously a high-quality piece. His work is so creative that many of Shawn's customized pieces were featured in Toy Farmer magazine and displayed at tractor shows across the country. His Oliver Super 88 model was featured at the 2002 Hart-Parr/Oliver National Summer Show in Iowa, while the custom-made 1/16-scale Oliver Super 88 High-Crop he made for a friend was featured at the same Oliver Summer Show Auction.
Shawn not only creates special pieces for his own collection, he also restores and customizes models for friends. Shawn enjoys working with his grandfather, dad and uncle, but his real kick comes from the challenge of creating a unique toy tractor.
'In a round-about way, it keeps my ties with farming. My community of Longmont was always very strong in farming,' Shawn says. 'I've become concerned that the public is losing touch with farming. Maybe we can help keep the public in touch by displaying and sharing our excitement for tractors.'
With four generations of Oliver lovers, it's no surprise that the Beauprez family belongs to the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors Association. If the family's enthusiasm about those tractors is any indication about the future of farm collecting itself in the 21st century, then Olivers will truly be forever. FC
- Fred Hendricks owns SunShower Acres, Ltd., in Longmont, Colo., a firm that provides breeding products for dairy farmers, and is an avid farm toy collector. Contact Fred at SunShower Acres, Ltd., P.O. Box 658, Longmont, CO 80502-0658; or by phone at (303) 702-1234.