Being Neighborly: Building an Antique Tractor Collection

An Iowa man built his collection around antique tractors he grew up seeing at neighbors' farms.

| August 2016

Many collectors have a focus for their collection, ranging from “any at all” to “green only” or “red only” to “the ones we had on the farm,” and everything in-between. Dave Nelson’s rationale is a bit different. He started collecting tractors that his neighbors had when he was growing up. “Most of the tractors in my collection are those that were used around the Belmond area,” he says.

Dave, who lives in Belmond, Iowa, said his interest in old iron began at birth. “My mom said the first word I said, 63 years ago, was tractor.” He bought his first antique tractor — a Farmall F20 in 1972.

“We had farmed with Farmalls,” he says, “and since I was in college at Iowa State at the time, that was all I could afford.” Dave used the F-20 to rake hay; he had started farming in 1973, while still attending college. “My father-in-law owned an F-20, and he was also instrumental in my entry into this hobby.”

1957 5-Star Minneapolis-Moline

Dave added a Minneapolis-Moline 5-Star to his collection in the 1980s. He was glad to get the gasoline version of the Minneapolis-Moline 5-Star, as the diesels had a lot of trouble, he says. “When I bought this one, it needed quite a bit of work,” he says. “It had been under a corn picker, so it needed repairs.” He put new heads on it, sandblasted and painted the tractor. During the process, he had a revelation. “Eventually I found out I wasn’t that good at painting,” he says, “so I have someone else do that now.”            

Removing the tractor’s sheet metal was about the worst part of the project. “In 1956 and 1957, tractor companies were going through a phase, trying to copy the styling of cars,” he says, “but that made it so difficult to service the engines, and that made it hard to keep the sheet metal on. Fords had the same problem. Later, everything got kind of square and in one piece, so mechanics could take the sheet metal off and put it back on easier.”     

When Dave was growing up, a neighbor had a 5-Star. “We had Farmalls on our farm, but this neighbor had Allis-Chalmers and Moline,” he recalls. “When I saw that 5-Star years ago, I thought it was a pretty neat tractor.”