Shopping Spree

| September 2002

Vintage garden tractors are his game and 'One-Wheel Bill' is his name.

One-Wheel Bill, aka Bill Huff of Sun City West, Ariz., is a retired Los Angeles city firefighter and now a collector of engine-in-wheel garden tractors and hand-powered garden equipment 'with at least one wheel.' This summer, he embarked on a cross-country shopping spree in a modest RV with a tag-a-long trailer, and he netted a heavy load.

'It was a fun trip,' he said during a brief stopover at Farm Collector offices in Topeka, Kan. (Bill's also a FC sales agent in the field). 'I've been planning this for two years.'

He says he started collecting Antique garden tractors and other garden equipment about three years ago. 'All the truck gardens had these garden plows: the strawberry and flower growers, and orchards too,' he says. 'Now that the price of big tractors is so far out of sight, the old garden tractors are really coming into being.'

In most cases, when they were first introduced, these machines individually replaced many hours of hand labor, and often one horse, he says, adding that beginning in the late 1940s, manufacturers began to make garden equipment more cheaply, so it didn't last as long. As a consequence, the older equipment, like Bill's, often has endured while the '50s-era models have not.

On the lookout for the earliest offerings of such brands as Unitractors, Suburbanites and Kinkades, Bill left home and hearth, and his wife, Lynda, on April 18, and headed west. First stop was the Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America's Southwest Spring Show, held in conjunction with the 10th annual California Antique Farm Equipment Show on April 20 and 21 in Tulare.