Standing out like a shrub in a tulip field, Nancy Sleichter was, nonetheless, among family. In the crowd of orange iron at this year's Allis Chalmers Days in Homestead, Iowa, Nancy's deep green tractor, an Allis 10-18, was not only a member of the family, it was the grandpappy of all the orange tractors in sight.
But the Allis-Chalmers family tree was not the only one in full bloom in Homestead. Two of the other Allises at the show were owned by Sleichters. Nancy's children were also there, showing their vintage Allis-Chalmers tractors.
The Sleichter family collection began in response to Nancy's somewhat finicky taste in gifts. Nancy's late husband, Richard, was a farmer and the couple lived on their farm outside of Riverside, Iowa. 'My husband had land in Texas,' Nancy explained. 'When he traveled there, I stayed home to take care of our farm and when he returned, he always brought me back items I objected to. Then one day, he brought me back an Allis G.'
The 'G' suited Nancy just fine. It was probably a safe bet, considering Nancy's family had owned an Allis dealership when she was a child. She loved it and was soon driving it. It was not long after the 'G' came to the Sleichter farm that a neighbor stopped by and asked if they knew that the early version of Allis tractors came in green rather than the well-known Persian Orange. Nancy hadn't known, but knew that she would have to have one.
After a little research, the Sleichters found a Allis-Chalmers 20-35 in Kansas. They bought it and had their first green Allis. Soon after buying the 20-35, a friend of the Sleichters said he had seen a Allis-Chalmers 10-18 — the first model the company made — at a nearby farm. At first, Nancy said, they doubted this rare tractor could be so close by. 'We thought we would never see one of these, but there it was.'
Negotiation commenced almost immediately and the Sleichters added the 10-18 to their growing collection.
Luckily enough, the 10-18 which had been hiding so nearby was in good shape. The neighbor they had bought it from was the original owner, who had ordered it from a catalog. 'The tractor runs and has all the original parts. Everything was there. We only had the valve and fenders and gas tanks replaced,' Nancy added.
The 10-18s were built from 1914 to 1918 in Milwaukee, Wis. Prior to building this seminal model, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co. had first manufactured milling burrs and other milling supplies. Expanding in the 1850's, they produced centrifugal pumps, steam engines, and electric power components.
Author C.H. Wendel described the 10-18 in his book, Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, as 'a three-wheeled tricycle type of tractor weighing 4,800 pounds. Rated 10 at draw bar and 18 brake horsepowers, it used a two-cylinder opposed engine. Two tanks were situated at the left side of the operator - a small one for gasoline used in starting, and a main tank for kerosene which was used after the engine warmed up.'
The two gas tanks were not the only unusual features the 10-18 had. 'It has a dual carburetor,' Nancy said. 'Also, not too many tractors had egg-shaped lugs on the wheels. They were made especially for this tractor.'
Nancy doesn't know which year her tractor was made and says she really doesn't care. She said she is not into serial numbers, but is just glad to have the tractor restored and in good condition.
Showing her tractor is one way she shares a little bit of agricultural history with those around her. It is hard to say which is more inspiring: seeing a tractor that is almost one hundred years old running well on original parts, or seeing Nancy show it off. While they're rare now, there were around 2,700 10-18s made. There's only one feisty, finicky Nancy Sleichter.
Richard Sleichter passed away two years ago. In his lifetime, he and Nancy worked hard to share their love of tractors with their three children. Showing off their own rare tractors beside their mother's at Allis Chalmers Days, it's clear that they succeeded. The couple's son, Randy, and daughter-in-law, Mary, have a French-made Allis-Chalmers FD5 that Richard bought in the Netherlands. Nancy said that this is the only FD5 she knows of in the U.S. Nancy's daughter, Cynthia, showed off another tractor bought in the Netherlands, a 1955 D-270.
The Sleichter/Allis connection is guaranteed to not stop there, though. Nancy and Richard's daughter Sandra Lien was at home with her husband Kelly and their son Trygue. It's not Sandra or Kelly who own orange, though, but 4-year-old Trygue, Nancy says. 'My husband bought an FD3 French Allis-Chalmers in the Netherlands and now it belongs to our grandson Trygue. He gave it to him before he died.'
Nancy has several other tractors, including a 20-35, a 6-12, a 15-25, an 18-30 and the 10-18. She keeps her tractors at the Mennonite Historical Society museum in Kalona, Iowa, where they can be viewed and shared with visitors. Cynthia's tractor is also stored at the museum.
The family enjoys getting out the tractors and showing them at the local shows. As many family members as possible gathered together at the Homestead show to have a little family/tractor reunion. Nancy knows that she's lucky to share a hobby with her family. 'In these days, family (activities are) few and far between. This is just good family fun. Our whole family enjoys the tractors, and we intend to keep them intact.' FC
Cindy Ladage is a freelancer who lives in Virden, Ill.