Allis-Chalmers for a Frick

Collectors swap a rare pair

| October 2009

  • Lyle Osten’s Frick 15-28 at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion show in Rollag
    Lyle Osten’s Frick 15-28 at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion show in Rollag. The tractor’s gas and kerosene tank caps are original.
  • A view of the front wheels of Lyle’s Frick
    A view of the front wheels of Lyle’s Frick.
  • A view of the Frick’s operator’s platform
    A view of the Frick’s operator’s platform.
    Nikki Rajala
  • The rear drive wheel gears on this Frick 15-28 are so worn that Lyle figures the tractor was used extensively in road construction
    The rear drive wheel gears on this Frick 15-28 are so worn that Lyle figures the tractor was used extensively in road construction.
    Nikki Rajala
  • Lyle Osten (left) with Steve Rosenbloom, previous owner of the Frick 15-28, and Lyle’s newly-refurbished tractor in 2003
    Lyle Osten (left) with Steve Rosenbloom, previous owner of the Frick 15-28, and Lyle’s newly-refurbished tractor in 2003.
  • The Osten clan with the Frick 15-28. Back row, left to right: Andrew, Ilene and Shelly; at front, parents Bonnie and Lyle
    The Osten clan with the Frick 15-28. Back row, left to right: Andrew, Ilene and Shelly; at front, parents Bonnie and Lyle.
  • A view looking forward from the driver’s platform of the Frick 15-28
    A view looking forward from the driver’s platform of the Frick 15-28.
    Bill Vossler
  • Lyle Osten notices a very strong resemblance between his Frick 15-28 and the Huber Super Four 15-30 tractor
    Lyle Osten notices a very strong resemblance between his Frick 15-28 and the Huber Super Four 15-30 tractor. “I’ve heard Ohio Iron Works made the tractor for Frick, and I don’t know if the Huber was made there too,” he says. “But if you put those two tractors side by side, it seems like they were made by the same company. The framework underneath is the same, and they look alike, except that the engines are facing opposite directions, and the transmissions are on opposite sides. Frick, as I understand, figured they had to have a tractor, so they had someone else make it for them.” The 12-25 Frick tractor sold for $1,350 in 1918 (about $19,100 in today’s terms), quite expensive when compared to a Fordson for about a third that price.
  • Photographed at this angle, the rear wheels of the Frick 15-28 look much larger than those on the front – but they're not
    Photographed at this angle, the rear wheels of the Frick 15-28 look much larger than those on the front – but they’re not.
    Bill Vossler
  • The fan used on the Frick was similar to that used on the Huber Four series
    The fan used on the Frick was similar to that used on the Huber Four series.

  • Lyle Osten’s Frick 15-28 at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion show in Rollag
  • A view of the front wheels of Lyle’s Frick
  • A view of the Frick’s operator’s platform
  • The rear drive wheel gears on this Frick 15-28 are so worn that Lyle figures the tractor was used extensively in road construction
  • Lyle Osten (left) with Steve Rosenbloom, previous owner of the Frick 15-28, and Lyle’s newly-refurbished tractor in 2003
  • The Osten clan with the Frick 15-28. Back row, left to right: Andrew, Ilene and Shelly; at front, parents Bonnie and Lyle
  • A view looking forward from the driver’s platform of the Frick 15-28
  • Lyle Osten notices a very strong resemblance between his Frick 15-28 and the Huber Super Four 15-30 tractor
  • Photographed at this angle, the rear wheels of the Frick 15-28 look much larger than those on the front – but they're not
  • The fan used on the Frick was similar to that used on the Huber Four series

The saga of Lyle Osten’s Frick tractor began when the Callaway, Minn., man bought out an antique collector in Escanaba, Mich., in 1978.

It was pretty mundane stuff — except for a Frick 15-28. And as one of only two known running, the Frick wasn’t part of the package.

“He had six tractors, including an Allis-Chalmers 15-25 and a lot of small stuff,” Lyle recalls. The AC 15-25 was actually an AC 12-20 (an older version of the 15-25 before the model was re-rated after its Nebraska Tractor Test). “My dad has an Allis-Chalmers 15-25 all fixed up, so when we got mine home, I didn’t fix it up. It just sat there, until Steve Rosenbloom [Pawnee, Iowa] found out we each had one. He was collecting one of every Allis, and he didn’t have a 15-25, so he was bound and determined to get one from us, whether it was a 12-20 or 15-25. Actually, he wanted both.”

Victor, Lyle’s dad, had no plans to sell his. Instead Lyle and Victor made a list of rare tractors they’d be willing to trade for the 15-25/12-20 AC. The list included a 10-20 Townsend, a Mogul and a couple of others. After searching, though, Steve called to report. “I looked for all those other tractors you wanted,” he said, “and I can’t find any. But I found a tractor you might be interested in: a Frick.”

Lyle didn’t know anything about the Frick tractor, so he asked for a few days to do some research. “I found out it was a rare tractor too, so we made the deal,” Lyle recalls. “I told him what my Allis-Chalmers 15-25 looked like: It needed fenders and the hood required quite a bit of work. He said the Frick had a rusted-through gas tank, fenders were shot, the deck was gone, top and bottom of radiator tanks were gone, so I said it sounded like we both had tractors that needed a lot of work. Both engines were stuck, too, so we made the deal.”

They met halfway in Hector, Minn. “After looking at it, he was a lot more excited about the Allis than I was about the Frick,” Lyle says. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know how long this one is going to take me.’” He took it home to his Callaway farm where it sat for five years.



Getting down to business

In 1984, Lyle decided to work on the Frick. “We had two other tractors in the shop at the same time, an Allis-Chalmers WC on full steel and a WC wide-front. We finished those off pretty quickly, and went on to the Frick. I thought we would get it finished in a couple of months, but no way.”

First the tractor had to be wiped clean. “The original owner of the Frick had several hundred tractors,” Lyle explains. “He sprayed every one of them with oil to slow down deterioration. So when we got mine, it was quite dusty, but the oil had helped slow the rust.”

The tractor was disassembled, measurements were taken for a new gas tank (which was rolled at a radiator/blacksmith shop), fenders were made at an iron works, maple planks were sized for the deck, and the myriad other time-consuming bits and pieces of restoring a tractor got underway.



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