Completing a Massey-Harris Set

Wisconsin collector zeroes in on Massey-Harris Challengers and Pacemakers.

| August 2014

  • Bryan Ellevold’s 1938 Massey-Harris Twin Power Challenger is a fine-looking machine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Early Massey-Harris Challengers like this one still used a worm gear up front on top of this rod to turn the front wheels.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • MH Challengers like this 1938 Twin Power model were among the few tractors of this era equipped with PTO.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The 4-cylinder Massey-Harris engine on this 1936 Massey-Harris Challenger has a 3-7/8-by-5-1/4-inch bore and stroke and was capable of 20 drawbar hp.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Bryan’s 1936 Twin Power Pacemaker, after restoration.
    Photo courtesy Bryan Ellevold
  • Bryan’s restored 1936 Massey-Harris Row-Crop Challenger.
    Photo courtesy Bryan Ellevold
  • When he got the tractor, Bryan’s 1936 MH Twin Power Pacemaker was in rough condition. The tractor needed new sheet metal, tires and rims, and more.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Bryan at the wheel of his 1936 Massey-Harris Challenger before restoration.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • This restored 1938 WK-40 McCormick-Deering tractor belonged to Bryan’s dad, Cliff Ellevold.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The tires on Bryan’s 1936 MH Twin Power Pacemaker had seen better days.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Bryan’s 1936 MH Row-Crop Challenger was in bad shape when he got it.
    Photo courtesy Bryan Ellevold

Bryan Ellevold can trace his love of old iron to a story about an old-time threshing crew in the 1930s. His father, Cliff, then a young member of the crew, was deliberately trying to plug the thresher. “He was shoveling straw from the bundles with a fork into the thresher,” Bryan recalls. “He said he tried to feed it so fast that he would plug it. But the governor was set and wouldn’t allow him to get it plugged.”

Cliff talked about working with a “WK-40” — a kerosene model — in those days and that stuck in Bryan’s mind. Later, father and son connected with a seller in southern Minnesota who had a 1938 McCormick-Deering WK-40 for sale. “I didn’t even know that model existed,” Bryan says. “But that’s what got me interested in the old tractors.” 

Bryan, who lives in Osceola, Wisconsin, isn’t partial to any particular brand. “In the 1980s, I bought a 1954 Farmall MTA for $900 and fixed it up to use on my hobby farm,” he says. “My dad had a Massey-Harris 44 on the farm. We have an old picture of my mom and older sister on it. So there was some background on Massey-Harris. I followed the Massey-Harris line because I wanted something different and more of a challenge.”

1936 Row-Crop Challenger

He found his first one — a green 1936 Massey-Harris Row-Crop Challenger — at Biewer’s Tractor Salvage in Barnesville, Minnesota, in 2007. When the salvage operator found it, a tree was growing through the tractor’s back rim and housing. It was in such rough condition that people seeing it on the flatbed asked what it was: not what kind of tractor, but what kind of machine. “That’s how bad it was,” Bryan says.



All of the tractor’s sheet metal was missing. The Challenger needed new rims, manifold, radiator, gas tank, belt pulley and steering wheel — almost everything. “I tore it down to just the rear housing,” Bryan says, “but I didn’t pull the engine, which was stuck.”

He rolled up his sleeves, pulled the spark plugs and began spurting penetrants down into the cylinders. “In the portholes in the bottom you could see which cylinders were loose,” he says. “If something ran down after you’d squirted it in, you knew.”

Merv
4/26/2016 11:08:51 PM

Hi folk, I am calling from New Zealand. I have just finished restoring my 1936 Green Massey Harris Challenger which has been in the family since new. Tractor Serial No: 130988. I am seriously thinking of advertising it on E-bay as I think it could be sought after back in it's original homeland. my contact is