Pedal Tractor 401k
Retirement plans typically incorporate a conservative mix of pensions, savings and investments.
But Dean and June Dodd took a different tack: they opted for pedal tractors.
“We thought, at one time, that pedal tractors would be a good investment for retirement. But now,” June said, in a distinctly affectionate tone, “I don’t think we could ever sell a one.”
In the past 10 years, the couple has collected more than 100 pedal tractors, all makes and models.
“We have several that aren’t even set up,” Dean said. “They’re still in the box. We keep the boxes, especially those with the model number on them.”
A veritable fleet of some 75 pedal tractors – most all restored – is parked on shelves lining the basement walls of the couple’s Ottawa, Kan., home.
“That basement’s getting smaller all the time,” June said.
And so, the couple has discovered, is the pool of vintage pedal tractors.
“There’s not too many left for sale,” said Dean, a mechanic who works on farm equipment. “We’ve gone to Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas, just looking for pedal tractors.”
“That’s what we do on our vacations,” June said. “We go to flea markets and antique malls. We try to buy new pedal tractors, too … try to find something we don’t already have.”
The Dodds are not, as Dean said, “too particular about brand.” Among others, their collection includes Ford, Kubota, All American Farmer, John Deere, Case, Allis-Chalmers, White and Cub Cadet.
Pedal tractors were first produced in 1946-47, by John Deere and International Harvester. The oldest models are hard to find, the Dodds said. The Massey-Harris 44 and Case 400, for instance, are really rare.
“The VAC is the oldest one we have,” Dean said. “It was made in the late forties.”
Find an old model, and chances are, it’s been well used.
“Most of the old pedal tractors were not driven on sidewalks,” June said. “They were played with in the yards and driveways. Kids really played hard with them.”
The Dodds find evidence of that active use whenever they add a new acquisition to their collection.
“Some of them just come in pieces,” Dean said. “The front spindle is most generally bent.”
Dean runs a complete rehab program for new acquisitions (and June cuts out decals). He’s learned a few tricks along the way. When he replaces the tires on the wheels, for instance, he boils the new tires.
“Get the tires extremely hot. When they’re cool, they shrink on to the rims,” he said. “They fit real good.”
But be sure to wear insulated leather gloves, and be prepared for a strong aroma.
“It makes a terrible smell,” June said.
The Dodds stumbled on to the hobby by accident.
“We were on a vacation in Iowa, and we found an 806 that had been converted to a 1206,” Dean recalled.
“It had a wide front axle, fenders, dual wheels on the back … Well, I have a real 1206 tractor. When I saw that pedal tractor, I told my wife I just had to have it.”
“He really did,” she said. “His eyes just lit up.”
The Dodds say they were fortunate to start collecting when they did. Even then – just 10 years ago – prices at the top of the line were already shooting skyward.
“One of the first auctions we went to, we saw a couple of John Deere pedal tractors go for $20,000 and $25,000,” June said. “We were just starting out, and when we saw that, we thought, ‘This is not where we should be.'”
The reality is that literally every pedal tractor has value.
“Sometimes you’ll see one at a yard sale for $50 or $75,” June said. “That’s about as low as they go. Many will go for $175-$325. The really old ones go for $2,500 to $3,000.”
New collectors, Dean said, should start out with newer tractors, until they develop an experienced eye. “Watch close on the older tractors,” he said. “The older ones go a lot higher.
“They’re getting harder to find,” he added. “People don’t want to part with them. And I think the prices will still go higher.”
The couple’s grandchildren have grown up in the middle of the fleet. But they’ve learned to treat the classics with respect. “They’ve all been taught to look at them, but don’t touch,” Dean said. “One of our grandsons – Andrew – is really interested in this. He went to a show with us last summer, and he really kept the dust wiped off those tractors.”
“Andrew has one of his own to play with when he’s at our house,” June said. “We’ve always kept a couple for the kids (the couple has five grandchildren) to play with in the yard.”
And then there’s the scale models.
“We have a room full of Case and IHC scale tractors: two of each, because we have two sons,” June said. “Actually, I bought our first small toy at the International dealership where we both worked for 18 years. I bought it to get it off the shelf, because it was my job to dust that shelf.”
Now, of course, she’s dusting a roomful. But it’s easy to tell that, for the Dodds, anything connected with pedal tractors is pure fun.
“We didn’t have these when we were kids,” June said. “We were old enough when these came out that we wanted bikes, or cars.” They’ve come full circle now.
“We may be getting close to retirement age,” Dean said, “but we’re starting our second childhood.” FC
For more information: Dean and June Dodd, 412 West Ninth, Ottawa, KS 66067; (785) 242-5498.
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