Farm Collector

Ed Spiess: Champion of Antique Tractors

I met Ed Spiess five years ago at a tractor show. We shared an intense, common interest: antique tractors, and fine restorations.

Since I’m always in quest of calendar-quality vintage tractors for the Classic Farm Tractors Calendar that I author and produce for Calendar Promotions, I drooled over Ed’s stunningly beautiful tractors.

I’d never seen an Intercontinental tractor before, so I asked Ed to tell me everything there was to know about this particular machine.

Ed took off like an Olympic sprinter. He told me where he’d found it, how long it took him to convince the owner to sell it, and how the tractor had been painstakingly restored to its original condition.

He explained how he dug up all the information he could about the company that built the tractor, how many were made, where they were shipped, and everything that had been printed in local newspapers about the company, owners and product.

He went to the hometown library near Dallas, Texas, where the factory was located to gather facts and figures. Ed was the Sherlock Holmes of this hobby – a determined detective intent on knowing all there was to know about the subject.

This particular tractor, a 1948 Intercontinental C-26, was one of two dozen tractors he’d restored that would have qualified for my calendar. His tractors sparkled like diamonds when he got through with them.

His were not household names. On the contrary, most of the brands were oddballs or orphans – tractors that came and went during the tractor-building frenzy following World War II when every farmer wanted a new tractor. Many of the firms went belly up after producing a few hundred tractors.

These were the rare tractors Ed sought, restored and shared with anyone interested. “It’s all a part of our agricultural heritage,” he pointed out.

To him, they became “Lesser Known Classics,” a term befitting his tractors.

A year ago, he and I attended the “Antique Tractor Sale of the Century” in Montana, when the huge collection of tractors and implements amassed by Oscar Cooke was auctioned off. We drunk in every second of it.

I saw Ed at the Westminster, Md., show last September where we admired the fine “Lesser Known Classics” on display there. Thus, I was stunned in early October to hear of his incurable illness.

He died the first week of December.

But the impact Ed Spiess had on the tractor collecting hobby everywhere will live far into the next century. And those of us lucky enough to have known Ed personally will remember him forever. FC

  • Published on Jan 27, 2011
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