When Allen Adams, Yoder, Ind., tagged along with a friend on a tractor mission, he got more than he bargained for. At a farm in rural Faribault, Minn., the two men - accompanied by a third man, a Lutheran minister - found an enormous collection of old iron. "There were tractors everywhere," Allen recalls. "Along both sides of the driveway all the way back to the farmstead. And beyond that, an entire field full of machinery." Allen was astonished. "This is how I visualize heaven," he told the clergyman. "As a minister, you'll understand that."
Allen and his wife, Coleen, are avid collectors of CO-OP, Cockshutt and Cockshutt Black Hawk tractors and machinery. A Cockshutt enthusiast, Allen served as a director of the International Cockshutt Club, Inc., for seven years.
Allen credits a 1942 CO-OP B-2 tractor with launching his collection. Several years ago, he and his brothers-in-law were helping salvage machinery from a collapsed barn when Allen saw the B-2. He asked the owner what he planned to do with the tractor and learned it was a family piece slated for restoration. Later, when the tractor became available at an estate sale, Allen bought it. He overhauled the engine and repainted the piece, and today it's at the center of his collection.
"It's fast and handy," he says. "When we shelled corn for the National Corn Huskers contest, I took my sheller out there with this tractor because it'll run down the road at 22 mph."
His collection includes several rare tractors, including a CO-OP D-3 dating to World War II, when new tractors were hard to come by. Just 200 of that model were built, he says, all in 1945 in Shelbyville, Ind. "This is an unusual piece," he explains. "It's kind of a hodgepodge mixture of an S-3 and the CO-OP No. 3. Farmers in Minnesota and the Dakotas wanted threshing machine tractors with Chrysler engines, so the war department allotted enough steel to National Farm Machinery Cooperative to enable them to manufacture 200 tractors. They were built so late in the war that they weren't scrapped like lots of other tractors were. There might be 25 of them still in existence."
The tractor's engine had been overhauled before Allen got it and it ran well. "I've got new tires on it, a new hood and grille, and had a new casting made for a piece that was missing," he says. "I've also replaced the air cleaner and it's ready to finish up."
Allen's stable also includes a rare trio of CO-OP tractors: a No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, built from 1936-39 in Battle Creek, Mich. "It's unusual to have any one of these," he says, "but to have all three is a real accomplishment. The No. 2 was the first built and there were quite a few. There were fewer No. 3s built, and far fewer No. 1s. It was just the little tractor at the end of the line."
Two of the tractors were in very good shape when he acquired them from collectors, but the No. 2 was rough. "It had been sitting in a barnyard for 14 years," he recalls. "The engine was junk: It had had too much water in it for too many years, and it was just completely gone."
Six months later he learned of a Massey 82 combine being scrapped. It had a Chrysler engine that was a perfect fit for his CO-OP No. 2. After discussing the engine with the farmer, Allen offered $150 for the engine. "You don't understand," the farmer said. "When that engine leaves here, it is going to be in that combine. Tell me when you're ready to come get it. I'll put in a battery and you bring 5 gallons of gas and you can drive it home." Allen didn't bat an eye. "It took me two and a half hours but I drove it home," he says. "That proves it was a good engine."
Today, the No. 2 is in good shape. "We call it 'Old Herman,'" he says. "It pulls a 2-bottom plow with no problem."
His No. 3 is original, including 8-inch pie-face headlights. "It's never had anything done to it except to replace a starter solenoid." The tractor has one unusual feature, a valve lubricator. "It works off the vacuum side of the engine," Allen says. "There is a little needle valve that you adjust and it allows oil to mix in the fuel going into the intake manifold."
Allen also has a 1937 Cockshutt 18-28 from western Canada, a remnant of the era when Cockshutt sold Oliver tractors (a 1929 merger with Hart-Parr means this was essentially an Oliver-Hart-Parr tractor wearing Cockshutt decals). He put a new hood and fenders on the tractor, which dates to the final year Cockshutts were painted green. "It's a fine looking tractor," he says.
His 18-28 sports decals in a shade called International Harvester Omaha Orange, a perfect match for the original paint. "I had orange paint mixed to match the decals and used that on the wheels," he says. "That's the color they used when the tractors were sent to western Canada as a Cockshutt Hart-Parr." Similar models shipped to the U.S. were painted green with red trim.
Colors can be deceiving, as Allen discovered six years ago when he spied what was billed as a Cockshutt 50 diesel on eBay. "It was the ugliest pink color I had ever seen," he recalls, "but the sheet metal looked straight and the guy claimed it ran good. And the price looked reasonable." Allen asked Andy, his son-in-law, to keep an eye on it and let him know what happened. The next day, when Allen asked about the auction, Andy said the tractor had been removed from the site with no explanation.
Several weeks later, Allen's wife, Coleen, told him to come straight home from work. "I opened the shop door to put my truck in, and there were my daughter and son in-law with a video recorder pointed at me," he says. "Inside the shop sat that pink Cockshutt. That was my Christmas present for 2002."
He set to work, cleaning the fuel system and putting in new filters. In the process, he discovered orange paint under the pink layer. "That tractor was a CO-OP E-5 when it was born," he says. "It turned out to be a very good tractor."
A unique piece of equipment in Allen's collection is a New Idea baler he bought from Elmer Schafer, a former Minneapolis-Moline dealer. "I saw it out in the field and ridiculed Elmer for leaving such a unique piece of equipment outside," Allen says. "It was a poor baler at best. It had a straight-through design that brought the hay up and then down into the chamber. Then, instead of having a plunger like the other balers, it pulled a wad board with two big bull gears to pack the bale. The bale came up at an angle, a very unusual and unsuccessful design. Elmer said he would give whoever wanted to put it inside, a heck of a deal: $10 and they could take it home. Elmer said the only guarantee ever on that baler was that it would not work well."
Allen has been around tractors all his life. When he was 8, his dad came home with a Ford 8N and a 2-bottom plow and said, "There: go plow." It's one tractor he's held on to. "I started farming on that seat," he says, "and that tractor will stay here as long as I do." Newly retired, Allen has no shortage of projects on tap. First up: Building a new barn on his farm to house all his tractors and machinery. FC
Don Voelker is a freelance photographer and writer in Fort Wayne, Ind., specializing in tractors, farm equipment, historic sites, museums, barns and covered bridges. View his work at www.voelkerphotography.com