Gift-Worthy Old Iron Books

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Gift ideas: A selection of old iron releases timed for the holidays.

The holiday season has arrived early, in a sleigh full of fine new books on vintage iron.

We must have been extra good this year, as ol’ St. Nick has delivered a particularly fine selection. The images in each of these selections are world class, whether you’re looking at never-before-published century-old photos or work from a state-of-the-art digital camera. Terrific images, phenomenal research and illuminating historical context add up to a bumper crop. Read on:

Construction equipment and Farmalls
Here’s a fine pair for the International Harvester fan: PayLine: International Harvester’s Construction Equipment Division and Collector’s Originality Guide: Farmall Regular and F-Series. Oscar H. Will III is author of PayLine; he and Todd Markle share authorship of the Farmall book. Both men know their stuff.

PayLine, like the heavy equipment it details, is all business. More than a mere compendium of IH construction equipment, the book recounts the roles played by International and Frank G. Hough – initially independent but later merged – in the evolution of the construction equipment industry.

Readers will relish Will’s rock-solid research and ability to simplify the complex. Photos archival and contemporary are beautifully shot and presented, and serve the text well. PayLine delves into an interesting niche of one of America’s leading manufacturers.

Will joins forces with Todd Markle, an avid IH enthusiast and authority in his own right, on Farmall Regular and F-Series. The two drilled deep to compile an enormous amount of information on one of the most popular tractor lines of all time. You’ll find detailed material on design and development, serial numbers, codes, production numbers, specifications and data related to virtually every part on every tractor featured.

For the enthusiast, the book spells out the rationale behind design. For the restorer, the book leaves nothing to chance: Paint formulas, decal placement and factory options are clearly explained and, in many cases, clearly illustrated through high quality photos. The notion of “correct” has never been so authoritatively defined. Pound for pound, Farmall Regular and F Series delivers a nearly dizzying amount of fact and detail: a must for the serious collector and restorer.

PayLine: International Harvester’s Construction Equipment Division by Oscar H. Will III, 2006, paperback, 8-1/4-by-10-1/2 inches, 160 pages, black-and-white and color photos, MBI Publishing Co., $27.95;Farmall Regular and F-Series by Oscar H. Will III and Todd Markle, 2007, hardcover, 8-1/2-by-11 inches, 128 pages, black-and-white and color photos, Voyageur Press, $26.95. Both titles available through the Farm Collector Store.

Classic Farmalls
Author Kenneth Updike really had no choice: Surrounded by Farmall tractors since birth, it was inevitable he’d build a career around them. His newest book, Classic Farmall Tractors, follows his earlier works: Original Farmall Cub and Cub Cadet, Farmall Cub and Cub Cadet, and International Harvester Tractors 1955-85.

Updike makes no attempt to cover every Farmall model in detail. Instead, he hits the high notes, sketching a broad picture of Farmall’s evolution. Starting with the line’s founding days to announcement of the retirement of the Farmall name in 1973, he drops in on the classic letter, Super, Hundred, Fifty, 60, 06, 56-26, 66 and 68 series.

Complemented by very strong archival images and super photography, highlights include detail-rich text, a great look at the Super Series and Fast Hitch, and classic photos from the introduction of the New Line of Power in 1958. It’s solid material for the serious Farmall fan.

Classic Farmall Tractors by Kenneth Updike, 2008, hardcover, 8-1/2-by-11 inches, 128 pages, black-and-white and color photos, Voyageur Press, $25, available through the Farm Collector Store.

Tractor classics
Bigger than pocket-size but still compact, think of Farm Tractor Classics as a hybrid. Certainly it’s efficient at delivering a huge selection of terrific images – new and archival – of classic tractors on every other page. Look for everything from a Waterloo Boy at work in a Russian field in 1923 to the articulated 4-wheel-drive Allis-Chalmers of the early 1980s. Chapters split the offering by manufacturer (John Deere, International Harvester, Ford, Allis-Chalmers, Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline, Case and Massey) and an index makes it easy to find your favorites. Good things come in small packages!

Farm Tractor Classics by Lee Klancher, 2008, hardcover, 6-1/2-by-6-1/2 inches, 400 pages, color photos, MBI Publishing Co., $20, available through the Farm Collector Store.

Steam engines
You don’t have to be a steam enthusiast to crack the cover of The Steam Tractor Encyclopedia. If you have any interest at all in antique farm equipment, farm practices of the late 1800s and American history in general, this book is required reading. Showcasing John R. Spalding’s collection of historic photographs of steam engines and Dr. Robert T. Rhode’s, well, encyclopedic knowledge of steam tractor history, this new release gives a stunning look at the steam engine during its glory days of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The book is divided into four sections: portable steam engines, steam traction engines, gasoline and kerosene tractors, and gasoline engines. The bulk of it, however, deals with steam engines and manufacturers: tales of lawsuits, feuds, alliances, tragedies, disasters and corporate skullduggery. Lengthy passages on prominent manufacturers like A.B. Farquhar, A.D. Baker, William Heilman and Oliver S. Kelly give fascinating insights into the makeup of the early American industrialist, his values and motivations.

You’ll feel like a kid in a candy shop as you attempt to absorb the images, which spread over every page like a tablecloth. Plan on making two passes, one to examine the photos; a second to read the text. It’ll be time well spent.

The Steam Tractor Encyclopedia: Glory Days of the Invention that Changed Farming Forever by John F. Spalding and Dr. Robert T. Rhode, 2008, hardcover, 9-by-12 inches, 256 pages, black-and-white photos, Voyageur Press, $40, available through the Farm Collector Store.

Calendar and videos
Time flies: Keep a grip on it with the Classic Farm Tractors calendar. John Harvey’s calendars are always well done but his 2009 release – celebrating the 20th in the series – is a real gem. Spanning more than 80 years, the tractors showcased on each calendar page are immaculately restored, beautifully staged and supported by intriguing nuggets of information. The array of equipment tells a fascinating story of the evolution of tractor design and manufacture, and Mike Hood’s handsome photography is a joy to view.

There’s plenty of value in this 14-by-22-inch package: Front and back covers are put to work as well, showing off even more vintage classics and giving you more bang for the buck. And don’t miss these professionally produced Classic Farm Tractors videos: Wanted: More Horsepower, 70-minute companion piece to the 2009 calendar, and 20 Years of Classics, showcasing classic tractors and their owners from the Classic Farm Tractors calendars, 1990-2009, 75 minutes, both available in DVD or VHS.

2009 Classic Farm Tractors calendar, spiral-bound, 14-by-22 inches, $10; Wanted: More Horsepower, 70 minutes, $30; 20 Years of Classics, 75 minutes, $30. Calendar available from John Harvey or by phone, (800) 888-8979; videos available through the Farm Collector Store.FC

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment