Allis-Chalmers for a Frick

Collectors swap a rare pair

| October 2009

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.