During the 1980s, Doug Norman and his cousin Dale Norman, Montevideo, Minn., were working on a few gasoline engines, getting them running and restoring them. “We had joined the Minnesota Valley Antique Farm Power Assn.,” Doug recalls, “and after a while we thought we could probably come up with some tractors.”
Today, the cousins’ collection has grown to 65 restored tractors, most built in the 1950s. The tractors are housed in the Norman Museum in five buildings on the old Norman farm four miles east of Montevideo. “I guess I’m one of those guys who never got very far,” Doug quips.
Most of the tractors in the museum are Fords, including unusual and rare models like a Ford tandem tractor, a Fordson crawler, a Ford half-track and a Ford orchard tractor. Other rare pieces include Silver Kings and a Wards Twin-Row, which are joined by more common Massey-Harris, Oliver, Case and John Deere tractors. The tractors are displayed in a pair of 100-foot-long buildings, a 50-foot building, a grain bin and a pair of reefers (refrigerated trailers).
Not that the tractors need to be frozen: Minnesota winters take care of that. “We don’t charge for a tour of the buildings, and we’re open by appointment and by chance,” Doug says. “The buildings aren’t heated; tours during the winter tend to be quicker.”
Family Ford heritage
In 1940, Doug’s father, Ole Norman, was working with a 1937 John Deere A on a hillside. When he attempted to turn the tractor, it rolled over. “After that, he decided he wanted something short instead of something tall,” Doug says. That meant a 1940 9N Ford, the first of its kind in the area. That heritage is at the heart of Doug’s interest in Ford tractors.
Doug grew up driving the 1940 9N, a 1953 Ford NAA Jubilee and a Ford 960. Ford NAA Jubilee tractors were made in 1953-’54, but only 1953 models are called “Golden Jubilee” tractors, as that year marked the 50th anniversary of Ford tractors. “Serial numbers have to be checked to determine which year they were made,” Doug explains.
The 1947 8N orchard tractor is a rare model. “There have been 17 national Ford shows,” Doug says, “and there’s been an orchard tractor at only two of them.”
He bought the orchard fenders from a collector in Willmar, Minn., who would not divulge where they’d come from. The fenders were particularly beat up, as if they’d been used in dozer work, Doug says. “They were the next thing to being destroyed,” he recalls. “We worked on those a long time, hammering them out and welding in patches. After that, it was an easy restoration.”
Another unusual piece is the 1924 Fordson tractor with a crawler conversion. “The conversion kit was made by the Full-Crawler Co. of Milwaukee (a division of Trackson Co.) and the kit came from a salvage yard in Tyler, Texas,” Doug says. “I had to buy a tractor to complete the whole project. The kit was designed to fit any Fordson.”
The Ford tandem became a reality out of necessity. “We needed more power on the farm in 1962,” Doug says, “so I hooked two Ford 900s together, and we used that as our big tractor for three years.”
Doug removed the front wheels of a 1955 Ford 950 tractor and mounted the rest of the tractor on a bar running from the drawbar on the front tractor (a 1955 Ford 960) to the drawbar of the rear tractor. “I made hand controls for the throttle and clutch, so I could drive it from the front and control both tractors,” he says. “I installed instruments that I could read in the front to keep track of the back engine. It handled very nicely and was really fun to drive. It certainly stirred up the neighbors. Some of them said, ‘What is that Norman kid up to now?'” The family used it to pull a 21-foot tandem disk and 6-bottom plow.
A Ford for every need
Other Fords in the museum include a 1951 6-cylinder 8N with a 226-cubic-inch flathead engine (the type widely used in Ford cars and trucks from 1941 to 1951) with a Funk V-8 Conversion. Funk Aviation, Coffeyville, Kan., began making the conversion kits for 6-cylinder 2N, 8N, and 9N Fords in 1943. V-8 conversion kits for Fords followed in 1949-50. In 1952 the company made a valve-in-head straight six conversion.
The conversion kits boosted each model from a 2-plow to 3-plow tractor and the V-8 kit increased the engine to 100 hp. “That kit makes a big tractor out of these things,” Dale says.
The collection also includes a 1966 Model 4000 agriculture model with an 8-speed transmission. The tractor was among several experimental models Ford donated to U.S. high schools. “These models were complete from fan to rear hubs, and the kids could tear them apart and learn about tractors,” Doug says. “I bought the chassis and a tractor to complete it. This one had never been run, and now has only 19 total hours on it.”
It was originally shipped on a skid with the complete power train of a Ford 4000 tractor. “I’ve had several of them, so I suspect Ford must have given a pile of them out to schools,” Doug says. “Eventually I figure instructors changed or the technology got old, and tight budgets probably crowded shops out so they lost their usefulness.”
The Museum’s 1959 Ford 971 “gold” demonstrator, found in a grove of trees in rural Minnesota, is one of just 862 produced. The tractor was equipped with Select-O-Speed transmission. “It was like having three Model T transmissions in a row, three planetary plus a direct drive, which made 10 speeds with a hydraulically controlled power shift,” Doug says. “The advantage was being able to shift on the go, to start from the bottom and go to the top, and 10 gears was kind of unheard of in the 1950s.”
Select-O-Speed had some growing pains, but eventually the company cleared up the problems. By the time Ford tractors were painted blue (starting in 1962), the Select-O-Speed was a really dependable transmission.
The Normans’ half-track is a 1951 Ford 8N tractor with a half-track conversion kit built by Arps Co., New Holstein, Wis. “These tracks could be used on any tractor or combine,” Doug says. “I found the kit and put that one together.”
A 1961 961 Diesel came from a local man who was using it on a vegetable farm when the engine went bad. “I bought it from him and restored it,” Doug says. “It took a complete engine to get it done, then brakes, and then normal body work. It turned out to be a really neat tractor.” Doug, Dale and a friend, Curt Berg, do all the tractor restoration themselves.
Seven of the most unusual tractors in the collection share Ohio roots: two small 4-wheel 1936 and 1937 Silver King R44s, 3- and 4-wheel 1946 Silver King R42s (styled models) and a 1947 Silver King Model 47. “The Model 47 was manufactured especially for the state of Ohio, and is painted orange under a repaint of silver,” Doug says. “That’s one I haven’t restored yet. I’m considering making it orange again.”
Another tractor with an Ohio connection: The Normans’ 1939 Wards Twin-Row, manufactured by Cleveland Tractor Co., perhaps better-known as the manufacturer of Cletrac tractors. Serial no. 8, the twin-row came off the assembly line early. “Basically it’s a red General tractor, which Cleveland Tractor Co. made,” Doug says.
The collection also includes a pair of Steiger tractors. Doug’s is a 1964 Model 2200 with a V-8 71 Detroit engine, and Dale’s is a 1963 Model 1700 with 4-wheel-drive and a V-6 Detroit engine. “Originally they were built in a barn at Red Lake Falls, Minn., before they moved to a plant in Fargo, N.D.,” Dale says. “None of the 2200s were supposed to have been built in Fargo, but its serial no. plate is stamped ‘Fargo,’ so who knows?”
Rounding out a collection
Today the cousins are trying to fill the gaps in the collection. “I hope to have one of each Ford ever made,” Dale says. “That’s what we’re working towards.” Dale’s collection includes Oliver, IH, Case, Massey-Harris and Allis-Chalmers. He has all he needs, he says, because in addition to the 65 restored machines in the museum, the cousins have another 65 yet to be restored. “I guess I’ve got pretty much everything,” Dale says. “It’s just a matter of getting them done.”
The cousins keep a fairly low profile, allowing news of the museum to spread by little more than word-of-mouth. “There’s no admission,” Doug says. “We just want visitors to sign our guest book.” Visitors have come from all over the world, including Germany, Holland and Thailand. “I enjoy all the nice people we get to meet,” he adds. “This is just fun work. Tractors are a lot more fun to collect than CDs.” FC
For more information: Norman Museum, 4.5 miles east of Montevideo on Highway 7: 1035 Highway 7 SW, Montevideo, MN 56265-4043; Doug Norman, (320) 269-7015; Dale Norman, (320) 269-9061; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville, MN 56369; e-mail: email@example.com.