Completing a Massey-Harris Set

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

| August 2014

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.”

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