Minneapolis-Moline-Avery Tractors Look and Run Like New

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Wayne Gunsolus' 1951 Minneapolis-Moline-Avery BFW, serial no. R3845.
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Buggy tops are the only nonoriginal equipment on either of Wayne Gunsolus’ 1951 Minneapolis-Moline-Avery BF tractors.
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The wide front end of the 1951 Minneapolis-Moline-Avery BFW moves in and out depending on application. The pinholes holding it were so worn that they had to be rebored.
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Wayne restored this Model RX 14-inch 2-bottom Avery Tru-Draft gang plow.
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Bonnie and Wayne Gunsolus in their Minneapolis-Moline memorabilia room.
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Operator’s manuals and sales brochures for varied pieces in the MM line.
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An array of assorted MM memorabilia items, from pocket knives to screw drivers to pocket watches and watch fobs.
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The Model RX 14-inch 2-bottom Avery Tru-Draft gang plow connects to the front of the tractor.
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The 1951 Minneapolis-Moline-Avery BFD with the MM 2-row 3-point hitch check-row and drill planter.
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In order to get this Minneapolis-Moline 2-row 3-point hitch PXDA check-row and drill planter into shape, Wayne spent two years tracking parts and options.

When Wayne Gunsolus went to an auction in 1999, he was looking for a car. But he came home with a tractor: a 1951 Minneapolis-Moline-Avery BFW (wide-front) tractor. Built in Louisville, Ky., during a four-year stretch when Minneapolis-Moline owned the Avery line, the BFW stands out from the crowd in Minnesota.

“I actually went to the
auction of a Minneapolis-Moline dealer near here to buy a car,” Wayne recalls. “I helped
him load 14 wagon loads of parts for four days before the auction. At the sale,
I did not buy the car and I didn’t know about the tractor until then.”

The tractor had been sold
new in 1951 by Hoffman Implement, the local Pemberton, Minn.,
dealer, and the owner used it for cultivating and to pull a baler for
commercial baling. “He blew a rod, so it sat in his shed for 20 years until he
finally traded it back in to the dealer for an implement,” Wayne says. “The dealer rebuilt the engine
completely and used the tractor for mowing and as a yard donkey, doing a little
of everything. He even used it to move a heavily loaded boxcar down by the
elevator when other tractors failed. He had the right gear ratio, and he knew
how to do it.”

Intrigued by a Minnie-Avery

Wayne, who lives in rural
Pemberton, decided to get back to tractors and machinery after he
“semi-retired.” “I was born and raised on a farm,” he says. “When my father
died, my brother took over our place. He was older, so I helped do chores and
cultivated with single-row horse equipment, and we all pitched manure.”

Eventually Wayne found work elsewhere and left the farm,
returning to help out on the occasional weekend. Meanwhile, his brother farmed
with a 1939 Minneapolis-Moline Z, a 1954 MM Standard U and a MM G1000, although
he had a few Deere and Ford tractors, too.

At the 1999 auction, Wayne bid against a Moline
collector who wanted the Minnie-Avery pretty badly. “He bid pretty hard on it,”
Wayne says,
“but I ended up with it. I paid something like $1,750 for the tractor, a plow
and a cultivator.”

After the auction, Wayne discovered he had
an additional expense. The tractor had come with a belt pulley, but when he
loaded the Avery on his trailer, the pulley was missing. “Somebody stole that
one,” he says, “so I had to buy another one.” At home, he realized the
tractor’s grille was wrong and the lifting roll used to attach the plow had
been replaced with a homemade modification. “Maybe without a 3-point hitch they
needed something to hold the plow up,” he says.

Restoring from the ground up

Finding replacement parts
for the Avery was no picnic up north, far from the southern cotton and tobacco
fields that were the Avery’s more typical home. In sourcing parts, Wayne had to cast a big
net. “I had a guy in Baldwin,
Miss., send up a 3-point hitch
system, a new grille, the lifting roll and numerous smaller things,” he says.
“It was a lot of heavy stuff, so my UPS bill was pretty high.”

Wayne spent all winter and the next spring getting the
Avery back in shape. He replaced the grille, changed the seeping head gasket,
fixed the lights and switched the ignition back (“these were born as 6-volt
systems”). He ground out rust and set the plow correctly. “That Model RX
14-inch 2-bottom Avery Tru-Draft gang plow was one of the most difficult parts
of the project,” he says.

The Avery RX is scarcer than
the BFW, Wayne
says. Mounted from the front, it prevented the front end from rising when the
tractor pulled hard. Built in the late 1940s, the Tru-Draft plow was like new
when Wayne got
it. He has yet to see one like it at shows. “I talked to a guy in Nebraska that had one in
the back of his shed,” he says, “but he said it wasn’t in the painted condition
that mine was. I’ve never seen another one that pulls clear from the front.”

The pinholes that hold the
wheels when they’re slid out for cultivating were badly worn, so Wayne drilled them bigger
and added larger pins. He cleaned the radiator and added new hydraulic lines to
prevent the repeat of an accident he experienced at a pulling contest, when a
fluid-filled front tire on a Farmall F-20 behind him at a pulling contest
exploded, blowing fluid all over him and the tractor. “I don’t believe in old
hydraulics,” he says. 

He added a new wire harness
and had a used belt pulley repapered. “Some pulleys are steel and some are
papered,” he says. “If the core is shot, you send it to a paper pulley outfit,
and they repaper it.” Wayne
put linseed oil on the paper so it would weather better. He also had the
steering wheel redone. “If your ring is good,” he says, “you just have it
recoated with the black finish.”

Wayne’s neighbor has a paint booth, so he sandblasted and
painted the Avery. “I did a Ford one time, so that wasn’t out of the question,”
Wayne says.
“But if you want a really nice job, you need a dust-free painting stall, so I
had my neighbor do it.” Otherwise, Wayne
did most of the work himself.

With the tractor back to
top-notch original condition, Wayne added
optional items: the 3-point hitch (one of Moline’s
first 3-points); cultivator brackets and others for anchoring different
implements. “You can see the brackets where this tractor had a cement mixer on
it at one time,” he says.

Minnie-Avery Two

When Wayne found his 1951 Minneapolis-Moline-Avery
BFD (dual front tires), it came with a couple of surprises. The tractor’s IXB3
SL Hercules engine was in pieces in a bushel basket, but some were missing — so
Wayne began
another parts search. He put new sleeves in the flathead 4-cylinder engine, which
produces about 26-27 hp, and redid the generator, starter and lights, to the
tune of $2,500.

The second big surprise came
when he started the tractor. “I discovered it had four reverse gears and only
one forward,” he says. “The ring gear had been put in backward. That was an
unpleasant surprise.” Wayne
tore out the axles and started over, switching the ring gear. He also changed
the electrical system back to the original 6-volt system.

The only features that
aren’t original to the two tractors are buggy tops he added. “But I didn’t
drill any holes, so you can remove them and the tractors will be back to
stock,” he says. “The tops fade in the hot sun and rain, so my wife, Bonnie,
dyes them to get that color back. She’s my partner in all of this.”

Planting memories

With the Avery BFD Wayne
runs a Minneapolis-Moline 2-row 3-point-hitch PXDA check-row and drill planter,
one of Minneapolis-Moline’s first 3-point hitch planters. “I found it in Owatonna, Minn.,”
he says. “It had been sitting in the woods for 40 years, so everything was
frozen up. I paid $100 for it, took it home, and spent all winter taking it
apart piece by piece and getting it limbered up. I worked for two years to find
the boxes and new fertilizer equipment for it.”

He sandblasted and painted
the piece and added new rope. Wayne
likes to pair his tractors with implements at shows. “I have parts from five
different planters in it,” he says, “so I could get the parts and options I
needed to have on it,” like corn and bean plates.

Unique show display

Wayne has a preference for show displays that are unusual
in the north country. About 10 years ago, he saw a half-dozen Averys at a show
in Waverly, Neb.
“But now there’s just these two or three,” he says. “You don’t see many of
these this far north. Over the years I’ve seen very few that have been redone,
so I’ve saved them from the iron pile, I guess. Maybe there are some around
that just don’t make it to shows.”

His collection started by
accident, he admits. “Originally my idea was to have one tractor of each of the
four makes manufactured in the early 1950s: the wide-front, dual front,
single-wheel front and high-crop.”

As he became more familiar
with the line, that goal became less important. He learned he could make a
single-wheel model by switching it with the dual wheel. Plus, only 150
Minneapolis-Moline-Avery high-crops were manufactured, making that model a
tough find. “I missed out buying one recently because I didn’t get the ad in
time,” he says. “It’s just flat hard to find. I haven’t seen or heard about one
since. I’ve kind of decided to stick with the two of them.”

At one point or another Wayne has had four 1951
Minneapolis-Moline-Avery tractors: the pair he has now, a Model BF dual front
wheel with good rubber (which he got running, painted and sold), and another
1951 BFD dual that he’s been parting out. “Parts are very expensive if you have
them shipped in,” he says, “so this works for me.”

Remembering
Minneapolis-Moline

In recent years, Wayne’s turned his focus
to MM memorabilia. “I’m 77 years old, and I can’t do this tractor stuff all my
life,” he says. “Plus the memorabilia is a lot easier to carry.” It’s hard to
find, though. “It’s like pulling teeth,” he says, “but you run out of teeth
after a while.” Watch fobs are among his favorite pieces; he also has a pocket
watch featuring a Minneapolis-Moline Model R with a single front wheel.

It’s funny, the way things
turn out. When Wayne
was a teenager one of his friends was Gerald Hoffman, brother of the owner of
Hoffman Implement. The two boys occasionally visited the dealership on their
school lunch break. “One day a Standard U, the one that my brother bought, was
sitting in the showroom, and right alongside it was that 1951 MM-Avery BFD.
Sitting side-by-side, I thought the MM-Avery was pretty ugly,” he recalls a
lifetime later. “But now I own a couple of them.” FC

For more information:
Wayne Gunsolus, 31660 West County Line Rd., Pemberton, MN 56078; (507)
317-4866.
 

Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of
several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville,
MN 56369;
email: bvossler@juno.com.
 

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