Restored 1945 Massey-Harris self-propelled Clipper combine turns heads
Almost completely restored, this 1945 Massey-Harris Self-Porpelled Clipper combine made its debut at the White River Valley show in Elnora early this fall.
Vaughn Hislip of Freelandville, Ind., is enough of a Massey-Harris collector to know that Massey didn't make a self-propelled Clipper combine ... until his son presented evidence to the contrary.
"Well, I was wrong again," Vaughn says with a chuckle.
The owner of a nice line-up of vintage Massey tractors, Vaughn decided to have a look at the 1945 combine. He and his grandson, Garth Hislip, set off to Effingham, Ill., to inspect the Clipper. Then 8 years old, Garth made a quick study of the 55-year-old combine in extreme disrepair.
"Pop," he said, "we don't want anything like this."
By the end of the visit, however, both generations of Hislips were warning to the challenge of restoring the '45 Clipper. On the day when he hauled the Clipper home, Vaughn was grateful for the enthusiastic support of Garth, his not-so-silent partner.
"I've drug home lots of things," he says, "but when she saw this, my wife thought I was crazy."
A big part of the Clipper's attraction is its rarity.
"It's unique," Vaughn says. "There are not very many of those around. As far I as I know there's only one other Clipper in Indiana. Massey made a self-propelled Clipper combine from 1944-51. But there were not very many made; you don't see them around at shows. I'd never seen one until this. And Massey did make a true self-propelled combine before they made the self-propelled Clipper."
Vaughn gravitated to the Massey line because it was different from what he'd grown up with. Now a fleet manager for Pepsi, Vaughn grew up on a farm with Farmalls; his wife's family used IH and Farmall. "Massey is a little bit rare in our part of the country," he says.
The seller told Vaughn that the Clipper would run, and it did.
"I did have to rebuild the magneto and the carburetor, and tune up the engine," Vaughn says. "I learned one thing right away: I don't know how to time a mag."
The unit was basically complete, though several parts had deteriorated beyond salvage.
"The reel was in bad, bad shape. Other parts were rusted so bad you couldn't hardly carry them. The grain tank was rusted underneath, and none of the cross auger was there," he says. "Well, I'm the kind of guy, if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right. So we took that off. That was really the biggest thing, getting that tank off and getting it redone. There were days and nights in the shop that I looked at that thing and thought I should have left it all in Illinois."
The Clipper made its post-restoration debut at the White River Valley show at Elnora, Ind., in early September.
"It drew quite a bit of attention," Vaughn says. "People were familiar with a pull-type Clipper, but few had ever seen a self-propelled Clipper. In our part of the country, it's Case, IH and John Deere, that's the majority of the equipment. You usually see tractors at the shows, but not too much machinery. It's enough to restore an old tractor: it's so much more work to do a combine. I didn't think I'd ever get done painting that thing. We went through five gallons of paint on that."
Vaughn's Massey collection includes an M-H 20, 30, 44 Special and 55. He also uses an M-H 55 in pulling contests. The 55 and the 20 came from a farmer in Nebraska; the 20 is now used to mow the yard. ("I have a belly mower on it: It's the only tractor I have that actually does anything for me.") And the 44 Special is like a member of the family: "It was my wife's grandfather's," Vaughn says. "He bought it new." The Hislips also collect toy tractors to match each of the full-size models in their collection.
Vaughn has a wish list (which includes a 44 Standard, and tillage tools), but he's in no particular hurry.
"Next summer we're going to go to ... some shows," he says. "We're going to have some fun."
And in the meantime, Garth has big plans for the Clipper.
"Next spring," Vaughn says, "he's convinced that we're going to cut wheat with it." FC