Fast-Hitch implements draw crowds at farm shows even though the system was short lived
Looking for a show display that’s a guaranteed draw?
Take an insider’s tip from two Wisconsin collectors: implements.
When Mark Peters, Menasha, and Rick Wisnefske, Larsen, set up their display of about two dozen International Harvester Fast-Hitch implements last summer, they practically had to hand out numbers to the crowd. “I got hoarse from talking so much,” Mark says. “I’ve been told I’m very long-winded, but I ran out of wind. People were lined up to ask questions; they were very interested, very curious. Some of them had never seen stuff like this before.”
The irony of the situation is that implements don’t generate much interest – until people see them. “We went to a Red Power Round Up in Pennsylvania about five years ago,” Rick recalls, “and Fast-Hitch was the feature – and they didn’t have a quarter of our display.”
In the old iron category, a vintage implement is an easy keeper. “Implements don’t take up a lot of space, you never have to change the oil and you never have to winterize them,” Mark says. “They’re very low maintenance.”
The 2-point system
International Harvester’s Fast-Hitch, a late challenge to Ford’s 3-point hitch launched in 1926, provided an easy means of attaching and detaching rear-mounted implements. Coupling, uncoupling, depth control and leveling of implements could all be done from the tractor seat.
In 1953, the Farmall Super C was the first International tractor outfitted with the 2-point Fast-Hitch. In 1955, Fast-Hitch was added to the 300 and 400 tractors. The small prong (about 2-1/2 inches) Fast-Hitch was used on the Super C, 200 and 230. Hi-Clear versions of Farmall’s 100, 130 and 140 tractors also used the small 2-point prong. Large prongs (3 inches, measured at the stop welded under the prong) were used on the 240, 300 and above. In 1958, production of the small-prong hitch was discontinued, though some small-prong implements remained in production.
Both Mark and Rick grew up with International equipment. “Dad always bragged up Fast-Hitch,” Mark recalls. “‘The Fast-Hitch is so nice,’ he’d say. ‘You just back in.’ He hated 3-point. When he bought a new 424 International, he had to get the 3-point hitch and he never liked that.”
Set-up of the display demonstrated the system’s efficiency. “Once we got the implements off the trailers, we got this all laid out in 20 minutes, with no pinched fingers,” Mark says. “With 3-point, it would have taken over an hour. That’s the beauty of the system. I don’t know why it didn’t catch on. Maybe it just started too late.”
Used and abused
While some pieces are fairly common and very affordable, others are scarce. “We’ve driven up to 500 miles one way to get some of these,” Mark says. “Discs and spring-tooth harrows are really popular. I saw a NOS peg-tooth harrow still on the pallet sell at an auction for $2,000.”
Implements are more often found used and abused. “It’s not easy to find replacement parts,” Mark notes. “Sometimes trailing implements had the same parts, but not always. If you have a good parts book, a lot of times you can figure out the part and fabricate it.”
Paint color and decal placement are made easy by widely available sales literature. “Paint committee decisions are available through the McCormick archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society website (www.WisconsinHistory.org/collections.asp),” Mark says. “Most of these implements date to the mid-1950s, and by then, some of the literature had color photos.”
Rick remembers seeing Fast-Hitch tractors as a kid. “But I have no memory of seeing the implements,” he says. “They just had the drawbar plugged in. I thought the 2-point system was the neatest thing I’d ever seen.” Years later, after he bought and restored a 1953 Super C, he got interested in finding implements to go with it. “But they’re not lying around like cordwood,” he says.
Mark, who’s collected implements since 1993, says would-be collectors need to get in the game fast. “In the past five years, the way steel prices have gone, we’ve lost a lot of these implements,” Mark says. “People clean them out of fencerows and sell them for scrap.”
Building a display
Rick restored the bulk of his collection in time for the 2005 IH Winter Convention. After that, he housed the implements on a second story shelf in his barn. Then he and Mark (members of the National International Harvester Collectors Club, Wisconsin Chapter No. 4) began planning for their display at the 2009 Red Power Round Up in Madison. “We took five or six loads,” he says.
“I had to dig mine up from the back of the shed,” Mark says. “You can back some of them onto trailers and unhook, but at some point you just have to drop them on with a loader.” Countless tie-down straps and 200-mile round-trip loads later, the implements were on the ground at the show site. “It was a lot of hauling,” Mark admits. “It was a lot more work than you’d think.”
At the Round Up, the implements made a colorful and unusual exhibit. Each was tagged with model name and number, and a pair of Super C’s anchored the display.
Like Rick’s, Mark’s collection is built around a Super C. “Dad had International tractors and that was part of it,” he says. “But I always liked tinkering with tractors. I restored my dad’s 1954 Super C, and I use it with my dad’s sickle mower and blade all the time.” His collection numbers 14 tractors (mostly C lineage) and an International truck.
Rick is an avid IH enthusiast with a collection of nearly 20 tractors. He’s restored a couple manure spreaders, an International cream separator is displayed in his house and a working International refrigerator keeps drinks cold in his shop. Forget the Maytag man: “The last year International made refrigerators was 1954,” he muses.
Rick’s collection also includes unique Fast-Hitch memorabilia. “When Fast-Hitch first came out in 1953, International promoted it with square-dancing tractors and implements at county fairs,” he says. “They’d use four tractors and eight implements. They’d pick up the implements and move them around, show how easy they were to move. I have an actual tape showing one square dance, and dealer instructions on how to put on a square dance.”
The Fast-Hitch system ended in 1975 but old habits die hard. “I still like it over 3-point,” Rick says. “Three-point is just hard to hook up. When I bought a new tractor in 2008, I bought the 2-point adapter.” Collecting the vintage implements, Mark adds, is pure enjoyment. “It’s kind of like I’m a bigger kid with a bigger sandbox,” he says. “It’s just a lot of fun.” FC
For more information:
– Mark Peters, N8729 Peters Rd., Menasha, WI 54952; (920) 989-2008; e-mail: mspeters@TDS.net .
– Rick Wisnefske, 8195 Anunson Ln., Larsen, WI 54947; (920) 836-3876.