Old Iron in the Wild, Wild West

Apache Junction spring show serves up classic old iron.

| June 2015

Set in Apache Junction, Arizona, the Arizona Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. (EDGE&TA) spring show has a built-in audience. “This is the retired farmer capital of the world,” says Show Chairman Leon Lawson with a friendly grin. “They get down here and find out they need something to keep them busy, so they start coming to the tractor shows – and then they start bringing displays.”

Held in March, the show generally offers limitless sunshine and warm temperatures, and for a snowbird that’s incentive enough. But the show also delivers a fine selection of antique farm equipment. Now in its 23rd year, the Apache Junction show is well established as the biggest old iron show in Arizona; tractor displays have been known to top the 300 mark.

Classic Arizona tractors

At the 2015 show, Case tractors were featured, and a 1929 Model L Case “restored” by Jeff Suter, Tucson, was the granddaddy of them all. Rescued just as the scrap man was about to close in on it, the Model L is a classic Arizona tractor – but one that keeps its own counsel.

“We honestly don’t know how it was used,” Jeff says. “An old-timer remembers it being used on a ranch near Sonoita, about 30 miles from the Mexican border. But that’s not farm ground – it’s rangeland.”

As found, the tractor’s cylinders were completely worn and the engine had no compression. Fenders and sheet metal were long gone; welded extensions on the rear wheels were not going anywhere. Cylinder sleeves and piston rings were replaced, but the real job came in cleaning the tractor. “Black walnut hulls were packed in every void in the engine,” Jeff says. “It took a considerable amount of time to fish those out.”

After eight months of near constant work, Jeff – a machinist – had the Case running. “Once I get started on a project, I am obsessed,” he says. Today the tractor starts on one crank.