Pedal Tractor Pride

Pedal tractor collection born when dumpster yields rare relic

| January 2013

Ron Fratzke owes his pedal tractor collection to a dumpster. “People cleaning out a house were throwing a lot of stuff into a dumpster,” he recalls. “As we were going by, we saw this old pedal tractor in there.”

After talking to the people who’d pitched the pedal tractor, Ron (who lives in Mora, Minn.) offered $10 for his dumpster dive, figuring the old pedal tractor might prove interesting. “When I pulled it out, I thought it was an old Allis-Chalmers,” he says, “but when I took it to a guy who knows pedal tractors, he said, ‘No, that’s a Case.’”

And not just any old Case, either. Ron had stumbled onto a rare and valuable Case VAC pedal tractor. Once he realized what he had, he decided to have the piece restored. It is the only piece in his collection of more than four dozen pedal tractors to get that treatment. “I don’t usually do that because often they lose value if they’ve been restored or repainted,” he explains. “But I had a guy who really knew what he was doing and I wanted the Case to look really nice.”

Carving out a category

That lucky discovery set Ron on the hunt for more pedal tractors. Despite the fact that he hit the jackpot with his first pedal tractor, he’s since veered away from those made by big manufacturers like John Deere, International Harvester and Ford. Most of those are built of cast aluminum; Ron’s taken a different direction. “I like the tin or steel pedal tractors because they are different from what everybody else is collecting,” he says. “And nowadays it seems like it’s harder to find the tin ones than the cast aluminum ones” — although the pedal tractor hardest for him to find was what’s called a John Deere small 60.

Many of the pedal tractors Ron unearths at auctions, flea markets and garage sales are produced by now-obscure manufacturers he’s never heard of. “When I find a new and different one, I do research on it so I know something about it,” he says.

His Power Trac Model 502 pedal tractor is a classic example of that. Made by Universal Mfg. Co. Inc., Olney, Ill., the tractor sold for $37.95 ($293 today) when it was produced in 1961. It was promoted as the companion to the Deluxe Go Trac and a Buggy Buddy with trailer. According to an old catalog Ron found, the company also made scooters, trailers and a palomino horse model. Universal also manufactured Ron’s AMF Power Trac pedal tractor, which is identical to the Go Trac.

6/11/2018 5:10:21 PM

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