Case Model S Left Lasting Impression

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The author plowing with the Case and a John Deere 4B plow in 1994 or ’95.
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The Case SO tractor and baler driven by its owner, Thornton Harn.
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The 1948 Case S shortly after being repainted by the author and before the headlights were installed.
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The Case is a sorry sight after the 2000 barn fire.
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The same tractor in 2007, resurrected to its former glory by Jim Deemer.

Probably it was the summer after my senior year in high school. A neighbor, Thornton Harn, decided to buy a combine and a pickup baler and do custom work. He got a new Case A-6 combine, which he took charge of and pulled with a Case DC tractor. The baler was also a new Case, the kind that required two people to ride and poke and tie wires. A well-used Farmall F-14 tractor was assigned to the baler.

Thornton hired me to drive the Farmall F-14, while one of his sons and another boy rode the thing to do wire tying duty. We were each paid only a couple or three cents per bale – I don’t remember exactly – but we were young and had a good time, although that old Farmall F-14 needed more power. I remember one farmer we baled for who had a steep hillside that the F-14 couldn’t quite manage, so he loaned me his brand new Brockway tractor and I was thrilled to get to operate one of the rare Brockway tractors when new.  

Too, the Farmall F-14, with its 3 mph top gear, was excruciatingly slow on the road between jobs and I coasted down every slight downgrade we came to. Eventually Thornton bought a nearly new Case SO, without the orchard sheet metal, to replace the Farmall F-14.

I loved that little Case. It was easy to drive, ran a decent 10 mph on the road, and had enough power to handle the baler on the steep Pennsylvania hills in our area. I’ve always remembered the SO fondly and, when I was bitten by the tractor collecting bug, kept my eye out for a similar machine.

Found along the road 

In the late 1980s, I saw a little 1948 Case Model S sitting along the road not far from home and wearing a “For Sale” sign. I wanted that tractor! But I was on my way to the airport for a business trip and had no time to stop. Figuring the thing would be gone by the time I returned, I called my lady friend (soon to become my wife) Nancy and asked her to hotfoot it out there and put some money down on the tractor.

Nancy did, and the Case Model S was mine. It was in pretty good shape, but I eventually fixed a few things, found some headlights for it and repainted the tractor. The Case Model S was taken to a number of shows during the 1990s, and was a joy to plow with at the occasional plowing match I was able to attend.

Collector’s nightmare   

Then, in April of 2000, disaster struck! We were awakened about 4 a.m. by a passerby beating on the door with the question: “Did you know your barn was on fire?!?”

Of course we didn’t – but it was. The fire department came but it was too late. All I could do was to stand and watch as my 32-by-60-foot pole barn burned. The building was crammed full with all of my tools, as well as nine tractors, many service manuals, lots of spare parts and some implements. Some of the tractors were completely restored, two were almost done and the rest were runners. It was pretty devastating to view the destruction as the sun came up.

The insurance man came and I learned that the barn and tools were covered, but not the tractors. So, I got a great new pole barn, much nicer than the one that burned, as well as new tools, but no new tractors. Luckily, about half my collection was in another pole barn, so I wasn’t completely wiped out. I considered re-restoring some of the burned-out hulks that used to be my beautiful tractors – but my heart just wasn’t in it and I decided to get rid of them.

Rising like a Phoenix 

Jim Deemer, a friend of mine from nearby Poland, Ohio, is an avid Case collector and knew about the fire. He came one day and loaded up the rusty remains of the S and told me he planned to return it to its former glory.

A couple of years later, he had done just that! Of course he had to find a good magneto and sheet metal, as well as tires and lots of other parts, but he had the Case Model S running again and looking pretty decent. In honor of the destruction and resurrection of the S, instead of putting the usual name “CASE” on the sides of the hood, Jim lettered it to read “RESURRECTION.”

Jim was still farming at the time he completed the tractor and used the little S in his operation for a year or two. Now retired, the resurrected machine has joined his other toys: a 1939 sunburst grille Case RC (that was owned by Jim’s father), and a Case DO that he recently finished. FC

Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail

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