Ron Drosselmeyer of Two Buttes, Colorado, has an obsession. While most collectors like to call their hobby a passion, Drosselmeyer can’t deny that his has gotten quite a bit past that point. His love for the long line of John Deere workhorses that have rolled from the factory floor and onto the farm fields of America over the past 100-plus years is unrivaled. It’s a love that has driven him to build a collection of these green machines that may very well be the most extensive collection of museum-quality John Deere tractors.
“The funny thing is, I can’t really recall how it all started,” said Drosselmeyer.
Drosselmeyer grew up on a farm. His parents moved to Colorado in search of affordable land after his father’s return from the service. They settled in Two Buttes, and Drosselmeyer has stayed there since, still working 9,000 acres of farm land while also operating an aerial spraying business for 40 years . He covered a lot of ground throughout the years as the primary crop duster for eastern Colorado, Kansas and Texas. He has some unbelievable stories to go along with it—just ask him.
“I was always helping my dad when I was a kid,” he recalled. “I was on those tractors before I was big enough to barely stay on. But when it comes to collecting them, I just don’t know. You look back and don’t know how it all started. I was driving them when I was young, just doing it all my life, I guess. I bought a BNH and a 420W John Deere in the late ‘80s, and I guess I got more interested in them and started buying them here or there. And then it just got worse.”
Drosselmeyer explained that in time, his interest grew and blossomed, and the next thing he knew he was going to shows and investing time and money in proper restorations.
“Then I found myself trying to fill in the spots that were missing. Finding those missing pieces is part of the fun.”
Featuring more than 175 John Deere tractors, Drosselmeyer’s assemblage hails primarily from the 1950s and early ‘60s, with a few outliers produced in the ‘30s and ‘40s. The commonalities end there though, as the range of tractor type he owns is immensely diverse. From Hi-Crops to Orchards and All-Fuels to Diesels, Drosselmeyer’s collection is well stocked with some of John Deere’s best.
“I got into the 2-cylinders for a while, and when I really got serious, one of my goals was to have one of every 2-cylinder John Deere Standard tractor that was made in all of the different fuel types,” Drosselmeyer described. “They were built in four types: gasoline, all-fuel, propane and diesel. Some got really rare and really hard to find; my 430 LP Standard is one of seven, and that was a very hard tractor to find and purchase; and my 40V All-Fuel is very hard to find—one of just three.”
Drosselmeyer has never been the sort of collector to tuck his prized possessions away from prying eyes. In fact, quite the opposite. He enjoys taking the tractors to events around the country and displaying them for enthusiasts to relish. He’s also happy to talk with interested onlookers who have questions on the history or details of the tractors. Drosselmeyer displayed tractors at the annual Two-Cylinder Expo on the National Cattle Congress Grounds in Waterloo, Iowa, every year for about a decade. While Drosselmeyer lives in Two Buttes, his collection is housed in various storage facilities in surrounding areas of Colorado.
“When you have this many tractors, you have to start getting creative about where you’re going to store them,” explains Drosselmeyer. “None of my tractors have ever been left outside since I’ve owned them.”
Longtime friend Jeff McManus helps Drosselmeyer keep up with the tractors in more ways than one. He has performed much of the restoration work on the tractors and also serves as the collection curator. The dynamic duo of Drosselmeyer and McManus—their larger-than-life personalities, combined with their genuine passion for the John Deere tractor line make the pair a magnetic force that seems to draw in other like-minded enthusiasts. It has been a sincere pleasure to work alongside both of these gentleman. McManus helps Drosselmeyer keep the group organized and maintained, and navigates the logistics of transporting them for things like the Two-Cylinder Expo. Getting a selection of tractors from Colorado to Waterloo is no small feat. July 2015 saw the final Two-Cylinder Expo with organizers ready to step down from their roles. Drosselmeyer made sure to bring some of what he considers to be his most unique tractors for the finale expo, his LP gas line—29 of which he chose to display. He says the LP tanks make them stand out with a unique visual impact.
“And seeing that many of any tractor all lined up in a row, in pristine condition, it’s really something,” he said.
McManus has been involved in collecting John Deere tractors since 1972. “I’ve worked with Ron since 1999,” he said. “He’s been my sole client since 2004. During that time, we put together quite a collection of rare John Deere tractors. And we enjoyed adding to them. We’d start into a restoration of a rare tractor and then load it up with as many options as we could find.”
Another interesting feature of Drosselmeyer’s collection could appear to many as almost an anomaly. He owns two pairs of tractors with consecutive serial numbers— two 1958 420T All-Fuels with Serial No. 126177 and 126178, as well as a pair of 1959 730 Standard Gasolines, one with Serial No. 7300161 and the other sporting Serial No. 7300162.
“When you can find two tractors with consecutive serial numbers, it’s like a bonus,” Drosselmeyer explained. “It just happened that way. You get to looking for things like that, and then sometimes it just happens.”
His tractors have come from all over the U.S. and even South Africa. He bought about 15 of them from a man in Topeka, Kansas, who Drosselmeyer met at the Kansas State Fair. He had an 8020 on display, which was the first articulated 4-wheel-drive tractor produced by John Deere, and it was powered by the 6-71 GM 2-cycle engine. Drosselmeyer said, “The sound of the engine caught my ear, and then I just had to have it.” After a few years of keeping in touch, the man finally sold the 8020 to Drosselmeyer, along with a handful of others. “They only made 101 of those 8020s, and this one is number 97,” said Drosselmeyer.
“When I started working with Ron, one thing I noticed right off the bat was that he really enjoys the social aspect of this hobby, meeting and getting to know other collectors,” said McManus. “He’s been known to bring a barbecue grill to shows and go to flipping hamburgers. More recently, we’ve put a lot of effort into making homemade ice cream at shows, using an old John Deere hit-and- miss engine—all because he enjoys spending time with other collectors.”
Drosselmeyer has had fun with his tractors over the years. He’s taken them out for county fairs and various parades, and even some tractor-pulling events, but the main goal was always to build the best, most extensive John Deere collection possible.
“I think we did it,” said Drosselmeyer. “We spent decades doing the whole tractor thing and putting together probably the largest collection of rare and restored John Deere tractors in the U.S. But it’s not just the size. We found the best-quality tractors we could put together, and then we made them even better and dressed them up with every little option we could. These tractors are as good as they can get.”
Story compliments of Mecum Gone Farmin’
Over 175 tractors from the Ron Drosselmeyer collection will be available at the Mecum Gone Farmin’ auction June 2, 2017 in Muscatine Iowa for details visit Mecum Gone Farmin’