Antique Tractors Fuel Nostalgia

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

| May 2017

  • Carl on his Bronco.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Carl Johnson’s 1948 Waterloo Bronco 110 was built in Canada.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The operator’s area on the Bronco.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Carl Johnson’s 1948 Model 42 Series Silver King.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Though the 1948 Model 42 Series Silver King doesn't show up in research, it is clearly identified as such on the engine.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • The operator’s platform on Carl’s Silver King tractor.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Carl on his Empire tractor, which was built after World War II using a Willys Jeep engine.
    Photo courtesy Daniel and David Johnson
  • This 1957 Porsche 111 Diesel is unusual because it is a 1-cylinder diesel.
    Photo courtesy Daniel and David Johnson
  • Carl at the wheel of his John Deere 420.
    Photo courtesy Daniel and David Johnson
  • Carl’s CO-OP Model 2 was built in 1938.
    Photo courtesy Daniel and David Johnson
  • Carl’s father bought this 1950 Minneapolis-Moline R tractor new. Carl was overjoyed because it was a tractor he, as a boy, could drive, mainly because of the hand clutch.
    Photo courtesy Daniel and David Johnson

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.


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