Antique Tractors Fuel Nostalgia

Minnesota man builds a collection of antique tractors he grew up with.

| May 2017

Carl Johnson’s attraction to old iron began when he was allowed to drive his father’s Farmall F-20 from the farm to his family’s home. “It had a crank start, but I couldn’t start it,” he recalls. “But then my dad would say, ‘Can you take this back to the house from the field?’ I was small at the time, 8 or 9, but I was excited that I could do that. It’s not a tractor for little kids, though.”

When his father bought a 1950 Minneapolis-Moline Model R, that changed everything. “I grew up on a small dairy farm in central Minnesota, and in 1950 my father bought that tractor new,” Carl says. “It had a cultivator and a plow, and it was the first tractor I could really drive because it had a hand clutch. It was easier to steer and get in and out of gear.”

After Carl’s mother was killed in a car accident, his family invited Carl’s father, Henry, to live with them in their home near Scandia, Minnesota. “It was enjoyable and useful experience to have my father as part of our family,” Carl says.

“As we had a small farm, my father brought his Moline and John Deere A,” he says. “In the winter he used the A to plow our driveway, and in the summer he used the Moline to maintain a large garden, until his death 11 years later.”

Of his 70 antique tractors, Carl says that Moline remains his favorite. “I grew up on it and still have it,” he says. “My father kept it in very good shape, and it still has the original rubber. He kept it shedded, so it wasn’t a hard restoration. It carries a lot of emotional meaning for me. I take it up to the Almelund (Minnesota) Threshing Show each year and run it in the caravan before the show.”

Remembering the Fordson

After Henry’s death in 1985, the Moline sat for a while. In 2002, Carl restored it so he could drive it in parades. “That’s when I got the bug to get some tractors my father and grandfather had,” he says.