Starting Young with Old Iron

International Harvester collector sets lifetime goals for his old iron collection.

| August 2016

Andy Kappers started small when he went International. But oh, how his old iron has grown.

“Back in the early 1990s, my dad and I restored a Farmall 350, which we then sold,” he says. “After that, I kind of went away from it for a while — my dad did, too — but in high school, I started going to auctions.” Today, the rural Spring Valley, Minnesota, man has a full collection of tractors, plows and pickers he’s accumulated since his first “old iron” tractor and implement auction.  

A lineman for Tri-County Electric, Andy says his after-work passion got one bolt bigger than he ever anticipated. It’s taken over a stand of pine trees and the perimeter of his 3-acre property, and worked its way into his garage, if not into his house as well. “I ended up buying stuff at, say, 34 local auctions,” he says. The collection is limited to International Harvester, Farmall and McCormick-Deering. “It’s all IH because my grandparents and parents farmed with IH,” he says. “That’s just the way I am. I bleed red.”

Collection Reflects Community

Andy’s collection showcases the equipment local farmers have used to produce crops for the past century. He believes in sharing that history with the next generation. “The stuff I have got here is typical of what you’d see around the area,” he says. “The closest I’ve bought something was from a neighbor about 2 miles straight over. 

He prefers the older tractors, because they’re easier to work on. “Like this one from 1936,” he says. “Anybody who could have farmed with that F-12 over there is probably gone, though. What they farmed with didn’t have air conditioning and lights. A lot of stuff that people knew about the different models has been lost, like if one model did better with a certain kind of oil than another.” Manuals, he says, contain useful information, but firsthand experience can’t be replaced. “And even though the farmers are gone,” he says, “the tractors are still around.”  

Andy’s collection currently numbers 25 to 30 tractors. “I’m thinking that when I’m done with my collection, it will probably be up to about 50 tractors,” he says. “His collection ranges from the 350 he restored with his father, Jeff, to a long lineup of Farmalls and McCormicks. “One of my favorites would have to be the 350 Diesel, but it’s really expensive to buy the parts,” he says. “Probably the rarest tractor I own is an IH 186 Hydro.”