Tractors weren't the only workhorses manufactured for farm use in the early years of this century: Industrial weight trucks, for use on the farm and in industrial settings, also rumbled across the landscape. Two classic examples have been restored by Lawrence Herrs, Washington, Kan.
Lawrence's projects include two Internationals: a 3-ton model 63 flat bed, and a 2-ton model 61 wrecker. The 63 was produced from 1924-27 (his is a '25); the 61 from 1915-23 (his is a '21). Despite their age, and years of deterioration, the trucks were built to last, he said.
"They were made so heavy that they are just about indestructible," he said. "Most of them were sold to the logging and mining industry, and they're really heavy. The top speed on the 63 is 15 miles an hour, so they could gear down for heavy loads, and climp steep hills."
Lawrence grew up on International equipment.
"I was raised on a farm, and we always had Internationals," he said. "After I got back from the Army, I was a mechanic and shop foreman for an International dealer for 17 years."
Since 1978, he's been in business for himself at Herrs Machine, rebuilding hydrostat transmissions, large diesel engines and pumps, and turbochargers for all brands of farm equipment.
"The type of work we do, we're talking millionths of an inch tolerance," he said.
That emphasis on precision and perfection is apparent in the high quality of Lawrence's restoration projects. Extensive research, he said, also makes a difference.
"I do a lot of research before I start a project," he said. "I have a lot of old books and advertisements, and when I'm done with a project, I'm completely satisfied that it's as it should be."
Purchased from a Grand Island, Neb., farmer (who provided the original title), the model 63 was an uphill battle from the start.
"It was in pretty bad shape," Lawrence said. "But I had two of them, so I cut the frame off behind the cab. It had been cut and welded, but it was in pretty bad shape. I put a whole new rear section on."
A full three-quarters of the cab was oak, and it was completely rotted away.
"There was just enough there to get measurements," he said.
What remained of the truck was completely taken apart and restored. The transmission and rear end were reworked, and the engine (the same as that on a 10-20 farm tractor) needed a valve job.
The truck was designed for work, not creature comforts.
"The interior is just bare steel," Lawrence said. "There's no upholstery except on the seat. There's no frills."
But as a historically accurate restoration, it's at the top of its class.
"It's a real impressive looking truck," he said.
The 61 also needed a lot of tender loving care.
"I redid the engine, transmission and rear end," he said. "And I made every body part on it: both fenders, the hood, the whole cab and the bed. It took five months."
The completely restored Manley wrecker is powered by a 1908 International engine. The wrecker itself was a prize: "I must have looked for one for seven or eight years," Lawrence said.
Like the 63, the 61 is ready for big jobs.
"It's real heavy, too," he said, "and it has hard rubber tires with wood wheels."
Not everyone has something to show for the passage of time. Lawrence is the exception.
"For the past 35 years," he said, "I've restored something every winter."
His fleet includes all five body styles of the 1926 model T and Fordson tractor, two replicas of IH tractors (a 1907 model in half scale, and a 1917 in one-third scale), a 1918 Buick Racer, and a 1926 Model T Ford with a factory-attached tractor.
"The ads said you could drive the car to church on Sunday, and then take it home and plow with it," he said. "It's pretty rare."
This winter's project? He's not sure yet. But he has plenty to pick from.
"I've got 14 cars, trucks and tractors just waiting," he said.
When spring arrives, another project will be completed, and Lawrence will hit the show circuit.
"The year that I restore something, I'll take it to all the shows I go to," he said. "After that, it goes into a building, and once I've made the whole circuit, I'll take some of the older ones to parades around here." FC
For more information: Lawrence Herrs, 1745 Prospect Blvd. F & College, Washington, KS 66968; (785) 325-3294.