Finding the Family Farmall M

Collector learns a valuable lesson in the process of finding the Farmall M from his childhood

| September 2011

I have fond memories of growing up on a dairy farm in northern New York. I was crazy about tractors as a young boy, and whenever my dad used the Farmall M when I was around, I always rode with him. I remember plowing with him as a very young boy. I stood on the deck between his legs and hung on to the bottom of the steering wheel. 

Dad bought the Farmall M new in 1945. It was wartime and tractors were rationed. To get a new tractor, your name had to be on a list. One day the International Harvester dealer called Dad and said that a neighbor had backed out on the purchase of a new M. Dad was next on the list but if he wanted the tractor the neighbor had passed on, it would cost him an additional $300 because the tractor had a wide font end.

Dad really needed the tractor so he took it, and paid $1,100 (about $13,800 today) for it. He used it on our farm for 17 years and it never broke down. It was always my favorite tractor. After Dad quit farming and took a job out of state, my uncle bought the Farmall M. He used it for seven or eight years and then traded it for a new John Deere. At that point, I lost track of the Model M.

The search begins

As an adult I served in the U.S. Air Force and then worked as a heavy equipment operator and truck driver. In 1997 I became interested in old farm tractors and bought my first restoration project. I began to think about the possibility of tracking down Dad’s old Farmall M and restoring it.

Over the years, I searched the area in New York where I grew up, even visiting the dealership where my uncle traded the tractor. My cousin, a dairy farmer in upstate New York, told me that in the early 1980s a group of Canadians bought a lot of used farm equipment in upstate New York and took it back to Canada. My cousin wondered whether Dad’s tractor had crossed the border. I began thinking of buying a Farmall M to restore in honor of my dad but held on to hopes of finding his.

A critical clue

Several years after my dad’s death, my sister was going through his papers. She found the original 1945 bank note recording a loan to underwrite the purchase of the Farmall M and two heifers. On the bank note was the tractor’s serial number: FBK92932.