Nursery machine

| June 2002

Lester Landrum of Ft. Myers, Fla., first set eyes on his vintage, 2-cylinder 1950s Holder garden tractor eight years ago, abandoned in the woods. Years earlier, a bearing had gone bad in it, and when the owners couldn't find a replacement, they junked the whole tractor. Lester made his own new bearing and got the Holder running again. 'It's German,' he says, 'and it's almost identical to the VW.'

Although this Holder came from a small Florida farm, Lester said the little tractors found great favor among commercial garden and nursery operators, in part because of their center pivot (or articulated) steering, which offers the tightest possible turning radius. Also, they have four-wheel drive, which is especially useful in Florida's sandy soil.

Lester's tractor is missing its tag, which showed the model number, but by comparing it to a photo in operating instructions a friend helped him acquire from Germany, the tractor appears to be an A12. It has a Sachs 2-cycle, air-cooled diesel engine, also made in Germany.

Lester got the tractor running again about four years ago. 'I bet it sat at my place three or four years until I figured out how to fix the clutch.' The previous owners had pulled it apart just enough to get the bearing out, and when they couldn't find a new one, left the machine disassembled.

After studying it for some time, Lester figured out that the Holder's bearing looked just like those on Volkswagen cars - except it was smaller. After that, he was able to easily repair the tractor.

Finding tires proved a bit of a challenge, too. The tractor uses 5.50-16 Michelin tires, which are hard to find in the United States, so Lester substituted some slightly larger 7.00s. Recently, he turned up some 6.00s, which he expects to eventually put on the tractor.