Iron Man Antique Tractor Collector

A would-be farmer settles for a collection of rare antique tractors, including a 1931 Allis-Chalmers Monarch 50.

| August 2018

  • This unrestored 1931 Allis-Chalmers Monarch 50 tractor is still in very good condition.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Robert Lefever’s Monarch 50 tractor.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala.
  • This 1931 Allis-Chalmers Monarch 50 tractor has an Allis-Chalmers engine, different from the original Stearns engine in the Monarchs produced by Monarch Tractor Co., Watertown, Wis., and Springfield, Ill.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Robert says his 1931 Allis-Chalmers Monarch 50 tractor gives a bumpy ride, as most tractors with crawler treads do.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Echoing a popular song of World War I, this 1919 Monarch Tractor Co. ad in Tractor & Gas Engine Review said the Monarch had been “Proved ‘over there’ and ‘over here.’”
    Image courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Robert Lefever.
    Photo courtesy Robert Lefever
  • ”Little brother to the big tanks.” Monarch Tractor Co., in a March 1919 ad in Tractor and Gas Engine Review.
    Image courtesy Bill Vossler
  • In this January 1920 ad in The New York State Farm Grower, the Hoke company noted that “Quality put the ‘OK’ in the Hoke tractor.”
    Image courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Robert’s unusual General tractor, which shares similarities with the Hoke.
    Photo courtesy Robert Lefever

For Robert Lefever, antique tractors are a sort of consolation prize. “When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a farmer, but that didn’t work out as a possibility,” Robert says. “It was a rough and tumble business, and pretty expensive and difficult to get into it.”

Instead, he settled for watching the engineers at one of the oldest tractor shows in the country, the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Located near Harrisburg, the show marks its 102nd year in 2018.

That sufficed when he was young, and in the long run, he says, it probably worked out for the best. After working in a family petroleum business for years, he bought a 33-acre farm where he can house his unique tractors and produce sheet metal fenders and hoods for antique tractors.

Robert bought his first tractor, a 1929 McCormick-Deering 10-20, in 1964. “At that time, it was socially unacceptable to buy old junk like tractors, but I was interested in it, so I bought it as a toy to play with, at a time when they were cheap,” he says. “After a few years, collecting tractors got bigger.” Noticing a shortage of sheet metal parts for tractors, he began producing them commercially.



As the popularity of antique tractors picked up speed, Robert began collecting crawlers. “Again, years ago, those crawlers were cheap,” he says. “They were the undesirable tractors of the hobby, so nobody much bothered with them.”

1931 Allis-Chalmers Monarch 50

About 15 years ago, he noticed a 1931 Allis-Chalmers Monarch 50 tractor for sale at a Missouri auction. Knowing he didn‘t have a Monarch in his collection, Robert asked a friend to take a look at it, and, if it looked decent, to buy it for Robert.