Red & Rare

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Fred Bocka

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Fred Bocka grew up on a grain and dairy farm in Richland County, Ohio, driving a John Deere tractor while most of his neighbors were sitting atop Co-ops and Cockshutts, bought from the local Farm Bureau's Cockshutt dealership. Back then, Fred says, Farm Bureau had many strong Cockshutt dealerships in area towns.

About 10 years ago, Fred finally joined the crowd. ' I had a 30, then a 20 and then I wanted a 40,' he recalls. ' I wanted all the round-nosed ones.' Today, he owns some 30 vintage Cockshutt tractors and holds down a seat on the board of directors of the International Cockshutt Club Inc. (ICCI), which has 1,500 members, mostly in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada.

Fred's also on the board of Ohio's Buckeye Iron Will Club, and in May, he coordinated an ICCI exhibit that drew some 75 Cockshutt and Co-op tractors to the Richland County Fairgrounds for the Ohio club's annual vintage tractor show.

Cockshutts have become his favorite tractors, Fred says, because they are so rare compared to the more familiar brands such as John Deere or International Harvester. He bought his first Cockshutt, a 30, simply because he wanted a 3-point tractor with which to mow.

'Then we started going to tractor shows,' Fred recalls, 'and it took off. But the biggest reason is there's just not that many of them.'

The Cockshutt Equipment Co. was formed in 1877 at Brantford, Ontario, Canada, to manufacture seeders, planters, discs and plows, according to information compiled by the International Cockshutt Club. By the 1920s, they were testing a tractor; by 1924, they were marketing the Hart-Parr; by 1928, they switched to Allis-Chalmers, and in 1934, they returned to selling Oliver (Hart-Parr), which continued until the late 1940s. Some of the tractors built and sold by Cockshutt also were marketed under the Co-op and Farmcrest brands in the United States.

The 30, introduced in 1946, was the first true Cockshutt tractor. It was built in Canada and tested at the University of Nebraska, and came with a live PTO, which Cockshutt notes was an industry first. 'The Cockshutts all had live PTOs, except the little 20s,' Fred says. 'That was a big selling point. They were one of the first to have it.' A Buda engine provided the power.

The next model introduced, in 1949, was the 40, followed by the 20 in 1952, the 50 in '53 and the 35 Deluxe in '56. Fred has more than one example of them all.

The Cockshutts with rounded noses, which sport vermilion red with cream-colored paint, were in production until 1958, when the square-hooded look, with the colors reversed, first came out. The square-nosed Cockshutts constituted the 500 series, which was produced until 1962, when White Motor Co. bought Cockshutt, and shut down the tractor line.

Fred, who lives with his wife, Penny, on the home place where he grew up, bought another 30 from one of those long-time neighbors who have an equally long association with Cockshutts. This tractor was purchased new by the neighbor in 1947. Today, Fred calls it 'a good, old original tractor.'

Fred bought his first 40 from an acquaintance who worked at the Ashland, Ohio, Farm Bureau dealership, doing repair work on other people's tractors. That man bought the tractor new in 1952; After his death, Fred bought it from the man disposing of the first owner's possessions. 'It was in pretty decent shape,' Fred recalls, 'but he'd (the original owner) worked it.' Fred did a restoration and notes in particular the tractor needed a new drawbar ' because the pin hole in it (the old one) was almost pulled out.'

Now Fred has four 40s and 'eight or nine' 30s. 'A lot of those are around,' he says, 'but they only made 1,800 of the 35s, and I've got two of them.'

His first 35 came from near Toledo; Fred bought it from a man at a show. 'It was in pretty decent shape,' he recalls. Restoration involved restoring the sheet metal, finding a new battery box, putting on new tires - ' little things like that.'

Beyond the tractors, Cockshutt implements are well represented in Fred's collection too. They range from a very early 1900s Cockshutt 21 walking plow, which is restored and which Fred says actually belongs to Penny. Fred also owns a Black Hawk model RM 135 corn planter, a Cockshutt 110 grain drill, a 622 farm wagon and five plows. Two of the plows are 3-point 1230s (one is a 2-bottom, one a 3); two are 3-point 280s, which are a little newer than the 1230s (again, one is a 2-bottom, one a 3); and the fifth is a 2-bottom trailer plow that Fred says 'is probably a lot older than the 1230s.'

An 8-foot 262 transport disk and a couple of semi-mounted mowers, model 315AS, round out the major implements he owns. And Fred's still fond enough of some other vintage tractor brands to keep a few on hand. He owns a 1940s Farmall BN and two Farmall Cubs, a 1948 and a '52, as well as 1946 and 1948 Leaders. He's also in the process of buying back the John Deere A his folks bought new in 1951. 'Dad had a sale, and I knew the guy who bought it,' Fred explains, noting he plans to spend this winter restoring the tractor, which remains in 'pretty good shape.' He adds that his 82-year-old father, Harry Bocka, always farmed with John Deere machinery and still is trying to figure out why his son has taken such a fancy to Cockshutts.

Fred tries to restore one or two tractors a year, doing most of his own work. 'I buy all the parts tractors I can,' he says, 'and I try to find all the new old stock parts I can from old dealers.' He and several other ICCI members who have the necessary skills also make a lot of parts from scratch. 'Every show we go to,' Fred says, 'people always are hunting for parts.'

Another ICCI member, Keith McClure, who is editor of the Cockshutt Quarterly magazine, supplies many of the decals.

Fred says last winter he bought a 1956 Cockshutt 20 Deluxe in good condition and he's always on the lookout for parts tractors, but he needs just two more models, a Golden Eagle and Golden Arrow, to have a complete Cockshutt tractor ' line.' The Golden Eagles were made only during 1956 and the first two months of 1957, he says, and all totaled, only 185 of the Golden Arrows were ever made, so they're the most difficult to find. FC

-For more information about Fred's collection, contact him at 1065 Grimes Road, Mansfield, OH 44903; (419) 522-6606. The Cockshutt Web address is www.cockshutt.com

-Jan Shellhouse is a freelance writer and vintage tractor enthusiast who lives in Shelby, Ohio.