Best of the West: California Antique Farm Equipment Show

Priceless classics in the spotlight at the California Antique Farm Equipment Show


| July 2006



Home to seemingly infinite acres of vineyards, orchards and row crops, California holds a proud reputation as a leader in early agricultural technology. One of the best places to see relics of that era is the California Antique Farm Equipment Show, held annually in Tulare, Calif.

This year's show, held April 22-23 at the International Agri-Center, set a record on opening day with a total of 988 exhibitors, and more than 400 parade entries. Exhibits included tractors and track equipment, gas engines, garden tractors, dairy and hay collectibles, windmills, International Scouts, antique commercial trucks and more. A bustling swap meet and auction rounded out the schedule.

Different spin for a classic cycle

Shannon Lile's one-of-a-kind 1937 Unitrac brought show traffic to a standstill. The Unitrac is powered by a 1937 Indian Scout 45 cubic-inch motorcycle engine installed by the manufacturer, Universal Engine & Propeller Co., Alameda, Calif.

"It's the only one I know of," says Shannon, who lives at Portola Valley, Calif. Indian apparently produced a line of uniquely numbered engines for use in non-motorcycle applications. In addition to the Unitrac, Indian engines have turned up in generators and snowmobiles.

Using patent numbers from the Unitrac's original brass serial number tag, Shannon found a link to a well-known California manufacturer: The piece was patented by J.J. McCollough, a designer for the famed Bean Spray Pump Co., San Jose, Calif., producer of early orchard equipment and tractors.

Shannon's patent research also yielded drawings, a help when he set out to rebuild the piece. Found during a walk with his wife in an orchard near their home, the Unitrac had suffered from years of abandonment. "The engine, transmission, steering and track were all froze up," he recalls. "Otherwise, it was in good shape!"