John Deere at Kalamazoo Valley Antique Engine and Machinery Show

John Deere displays pack Kalamazoo Valley Antique Engine and Machinery club show.

| December 2013

For the John Deere enthusiast, the Kalamazoo Valley Antique Engine & Machinery Club show in June was about as good as it gets. With nearly 800 exhibits (including more than 600 tractors), the club’s John Deere feature hit the ball out of the park. Rare tractors, common tractors; restored, unrestored, original; combines, wagons, implements, pedal tractors, toys, models, memorabilia, gas engines, you name it, if it was green and yellow, it was there.

Actually, if it wasn’t green and yellow, it was probably there too. The show attracted a lively mix of categories, including tractors, gas engines and garden tractors. Held at the Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Mich., the show had an unusually interesting backdrop. Eight restored historic barns house one of the nation’s finest collections of automotive history, including 200 rare and immaculately restored vehicles. The complex also includes a 1930s-vintage service station, a small town train station and a 1941 diner. A recreated 1929 Ford dealership, collections of pedal cars, motorcycles and more are among the highlights of the beautifully landscaped facility.

More than three miles of paved roads wind through the complex. During the Kalamazoo Valley show, they flowed with a happy mix of classic automobiles, trucks and tractors. Among the standouts:

“If it runs good, leave it be”

There are restored tractors in Jack Beck’s collection, but their allure has faded a bit lately. “I’ve really gravitated to originals,” he says. “They only look this way once.” Jack, who lives in Omaha, showed two John Deere classics at Kalamazoo: a 1928 GP and a 1930 GP. The pair held their own in a flood of John Deere green paint. “They attract attention,” Jack says. “People either love original or hate it.”

Roaming through the field full of tractors, Joe Huey, Skaneateles, N.Y., gave Jack’s GPs a long appreciative look. “When you find a tractor like this,” he says, “if it runs good, leave it be.”

“Well it ain’t going to get painted on my watch,” Jack says with a broad smile. But neither will it be parked in a back corner of the shed. “I’m not afraid to use these tractors,” he says. “I’ve been a mechanic all my life. I don’t think I can break it so bad I can’t fix it. I’ve worked on a lot of things more complicated than John Deere tractors.”