Old iron collector Clem Anton knows what he likes: old, interesting and rare farm equipment. When he climbs aboard his 1916 Aultman & Taylor 30-60 tractor for circuits around the Pioneer Power Threshing Show and Old Timer's Reunion at Hanley Falls, Minn., each summer, he might as well be driving a 1957 Chevrolet automobile. "There are a few of the 30-60 Aultman & Taylor tractors around, but they're highly collectible," he says. "They're like a '57 Chevy because they're such a favorite. They're considered very desirable by tractor collectors if they're available, because of the way they run and their massive size, I suppose. Plus, Aultman & Taylor had a name, just like Rumely did."
Start 'em up
Clem, who lives in Marshall, Minn., has a home-grown interest in old iron: His dad ran a tractor repair shop. "That's where we got started as kids, washing parts," he says. "We broke our knuckles on the McCormick-Deering 10-20, Farmall F-12 and John Deere Model D, and once in a while we'd get involved with one of the old tractors. Naturally, as we got older, we would take them apart and rebuild them. One thing led to another and in the 1960s my wife, Alice, and I started collecting old tractors."
The first old tractor in their collection had dual use: It was part of the collection, but was also used to push snow out of the farmyard. "The 1935 Allis-Chalmers WC was just available at that time, and we bought it because it had a loader on it," Clem says. "After that, we just kind of started collecting tractors, or whatever we wanted."
"Whatever we wanted" includes old tractors, cars, gas engines, crawlers and trucks, many of them rare. Clem's truck collection, for instance, features a 1912 International Harvester high-wheeler, a rare 1920 Samson and a very rare 1920 Oldsmobile, as well as others from the teens and 1920s. Clem's car collection includes a 1909 Maxwell, a very rare model of a 1928 Buick Roadster and a 1929 Chevrolet Landau convertible. "Nobody ever sees one of those," he says.
Taking a different track
A rare experimental IH T-14 crawler is one of the gems in Clem's collection. "The TD-14 crawlers are a dime a dozen, but this is a T-14, which not too many people know about," he says. "It was an experimental tractor made for the U.S. Army. Only 135 of them were ever built." He says it looks just like an IH Model M, although components - like the carburetor, head and engine - are double the size of those in the M. With the exception of the tracks, Clem's T-14 required complete restoration.
His 1936 Allis-Chalmers LO crawler is really rare, too. "When everybody else was coming out with diesel engines, Allis-Chalmers tried to run diesel fuel in their gas tractor with spark plugs firing," Clem explains. "But it didn't work, and barely pulled its own weight. They were forced to stop selling them, and convert the ones already out in the field." It originally had a Delco fuel system, fired by spark plugs, but had very little power.
Clem found his crawler in McGregor, Minn., in 1997. "The guy I got it from said they were building a road up there in 1936, and he was there working on it. He said the Allis-Chalmers people came and switched the head out right there on the road. He said, 'After that, we could use it.' The crawlers were owned by the government, so after the road was finished, the equipment was sold so it wouldn't have to be moved. He ended up buying two of them. Of course, I ended up buying both of them to make one that runs."
Clem has about five dozen gasoline engines, all of them different. His collection includes a Jacobsen, a Detroit and an IH air-cooled 1-cylinder upright engine, along with some Listers and rare sideshaft models, like an IH Mogul.
And then there are the tractors, of course. "All of our models are different," he says. "I've never collected anything the same. If I had a duplicate, I sold it or traded it off for something we didn't have. I've always liked variety. It's more of a challenge that way."
Aultman & Taylor: one-of-a-kind sound
In 1989, Clem spotted the 1916 Aultman & Taylor 30-60 at Glenwood, Minn., and bought it. "It was available, and a large old tractor, and that's how I ended up with it," he says. "It stands 11 feet tall, and was the biggest tractor I would ever be able to buy. It required a lot of cleaning, with new bearings and work on the cooling tower and tanks." The fuel tanks were removed and cleaned. After that work was finished, it was painted by Clem's son, Curt, who does all of his painting.
Clem likes the Aultman-Taylor tractors because the firing order from the 4-cylinder side-by-side engine gives the machine a unique sound. Specifications on all Aultman & Taylor 30-60s are pretty much the same, he says. The only difference he's noted is the location of the exhaust pipes: Some come up through the cab, and some are forward.
The Aultman-Taylor tractors could be started with a battery as well as a crank. After priming and setting the engine to top dead center, a big lever in the operator's platform was used to pump air, tripping a lever that held the flywheel. "When it gets so much pressure on the piston and head at top dead center, it lets go and the tractor is supposed to start," he says. "I've started it a couple of times like that, but you've really got to be coordinated. It was an Aultman & Taylor option at the time. It could be installed at the factory, or you could buy it for the tractor."
For an option, it involved a lot of extra work. The farmer had to take a battery out to the tractor and make sure the machine's coil was switched from magneto to battery, accomplished by flipping a switch.
Once underway, Clem says, the Aultman & Taylor is easy to operate and steer. Move a lever forward and the machine goes forward. Move the lever back and the machine goes backward. A second lever put the belt pulley in gear. The Aultman & Taylor tractor also has extension rims, but they are rarely on as they make the machine too wide to get into Clem's shed.
Happy Farmer tractor found close to home
Other tractors in Clem's collection include a circa 1948-50 English Field Marshall with shotgun shell start, a 1919 Avery 12-25, and a very, very rare Happy Farmer Model F dating from 1918-20. "In pictures you can't tell the Model B and Model F apart," he explains. "The only difference I know of is the B has a 5-inch bore while the F was re-rated at a 5-1/2-inch bore. It's just like a John Deere engine, with the two cylinders side by side. The F uses a lot of the parts from the B."
This particular Happy Farmer tractor has been practically within hailing distance, only 15 miles away, since the day it was new. "It was sitting in a grove of trees and the owners didn't want to sell it," Clem says.
As time passed, thieves purloined parts. When Clem finally got the tractor, the Happy Farmer was stripped down. "All we got was the frame, wheels and part of an engine," he says. "It was constant phone calls to get the rest of the parts, from New York to Canada. The front wheel and bolster were the most difficult parts to find, and it took a long time to find them."
In the process, Clem learned a sobering thing about the search for old iron parts. "A couple of guys I called said, 'You'd better find those parts fast, because not too many people recognize them anymore.' The generation that's out there today, if they've seen the parts, they didn't know what they were for. Unless they were involved with them years ago, they really don't know. There are lots of parts out there because all of these tractors were junked at one time or another, but people don't know where they fit."
That theory was confirmed for Clem during restoration of a rare Ford of Minneapolis tractor. He needed parts for the project. He knew of a man near the Canadian border who had a junked Ford of Minneapolis, but that man didn't want to sell. After his death an auction was held, but Clem didn't know about it until six months later. Clem heard later the Ford of Minneapolis parts went straight to a junk dealer: No one at the auction knew what the parts were, so there were no bids. "That's what's happening with a lot of this early stuff," he says.
After finding parts and getting the Happy Farmer F reassembled, the big problem was getting it started. "There are no timing marks or anything like today where you can pick up a manual and find out where to line up," Clem says. "And I don't know of any manual for the Happy Farmer tractor. Because the engine was bought in pieces, we had to move the camshaft timing gear three times to get it to run decently."
One of the Happy Farmer's oddities, Clem says, is the site of the exhaust. "There's a long pipe as part of the main frame, a big tube that travels from the engine in back out behind the front wheel, and because of that," he says, "it has a weird, almost echo-sound when it runs."
Unraveling the mysteries
For Clem, old iron contains a multitude of surprises. He particularly enjoys discovering early engineers' thought processes. "They all had these different ideas in their own minds on the way things should be made, and each thought he had the better idea," he says. "At the same time, compared to today's engines, the things they designed were very inefficient."
Another kind of inefficiency may have helped preserve old iron, he muses. "I think one of the reasons the engines lasted so long in those early days was that cars and tractors never reused the oil," he says. "The first cars and trucks and tractors had oilers that ran oil once through the engine, and some was funneled through the gears but then went out onto the ground. There was no reservoir or oil pan on them." Thus oil was only used once, had to be added regularly, and it was always new, clean and unused oil, much easier on the engine than oil that had been used for a while and collected dirt and debris.
Clem tackles his collection in a rotation. One year he works on old tractors, the next winter he takes trucks, then cars, then engines and so on. "Sometimes it takes two winters to finish the projects in one area," he says. His gas engine shed is heated, and the other buildings are well-insulated and ventilated to prevent problems with rust. "When the humidity gets above 70 percent," he says, "the fans run and bring the humidity back down."
He credits his son and daughter-in-law, Curt and Janet, and daughter and son-in-law, Audrey and Bradley, with giving him a great deal of help. "It's a family project," he says, "and that's how things really escalate."
And it doesn't hurt if the project is old and complicated. "If it's a basket case - just a frame so you have to start out from scratch - that's the most fun," he says. "Even looking for parts is satisfying, because you meet a lot of different people all over the country." FC
For more information: Clem Anton, Marshall, Minn.; (507) 532-4722.
Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372, 400 Caroline Lane, Rockville, MN 56569; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org