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On the Road with Rachel: Michigan’s Largest Tractor Show

Over the weekend I visited the Mid-Michigan Old Gas Tractor Association’s show in Oakley, Michigan. This show is the largest tractor show in Michigan.

All colors of tractors are welcome. Hundreds of tractors were on display. Here are a few highlights:

Everyone can appreciate a nice row of John Deere tractors–Dubuque built tractors as well as new generation tractors.


I think I saw more pulling tractors at this show than any other tractor show I’ve been to! I wish I could have seen more of them pull but due to my schedule I could only see a handful actually pull.


I can’t think of a single tractor brand that I didn’t see. Here are a few pictures of the less common brands:
Silver King

Eagle and Huber (commonly recognized Case and JD tractors between)


John Blue

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Chamberlain (a first for me)

A few people were droolling over this perfectly restored Farmall 400:


I had to chuckle at the exhaust on this tractor


and the ingenuity of the cab on this tractor.



It’s always fun to see harvesters like this mounted New Idea corn picker


and this combine in great original condition.


Shows are a great opportunity to also see the really old tractors operating, like this Rumley:



Below are a few more tractor pictures to enjoy:

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If you’re looking for a new show to attend, be sure to add this show to your list next August!

Red Power Round Up Highlights

I spent this past week at the Red Power Round-up. Wow! What a great show – it is consistently one of my favorites. Here are some of the highlights from the show:


Farmall F-12 Restoration Blitz. A group of mechanics completely resorted a F-12 Farmall tractor in three days. They started with a non-running tractor, disassembled and rebuilt the engine and mechanical features and even painted it! The tractor started on Friday with a crowd gathered around. The completed tractor was presented to Case IH for the Innovation Gallery at Burr Ridge.


Farmall legs. This man had heart surgery and during the surgery lost circulation so both of his legs had to be amputated. He’s made the best of a tragic situation – check out the unique prosthesis! He now has Farmall legs!


My favorite Scout was this turquoise and white one with a meticulous restoration. It makes me want to run home and paint my old International truck this color!

IMG_6540 (1)


A guest from New Zealand showed me these IH New Zealand cuff links with the Kiwi bird on them.


Here’s a custom built 1066 tractor. Another spectator informed me that the builder used nine tractors to build this one, but I wasn’t able to confirm with the builder.


The Red Power people are extremely brand loyal…but one green and yellow tractor was on the grounds! Here’s a John Deere re-powered by an International engine.


The following pictures are some random tractors that caught my attention at the show.








Tractor shows are great but it was even better to see so many friends and meet fans!

The next show I will attend will be the Orange Spectacular in Hutchinson, Minnesota next month. I hope to see some of you there!

How to Get More HP from your Farmall H Tractor

Farmall-HWould you like to get more horsepower out of your Farmall H?

These classic Farmall tractors are rated for 19 horsepower at the drawbar, 24 at the belt. With a quality restoration job, you can get this same horsepower or better on your Farmall H. But for those of you who want to increase the horsepower of your Farmall H beyond factory standards, here are some tips.

If you can only make one change, start with replacing the intake manifold and carburetor. Replace these parts with ones from a Farmall 300. The Farmall H bore is big enough to handle the increased fuel from the larger manifold and carburetor – out of all the swaps you could do, this one will give you the most bang for your buck.

If you’re up for some bigger changes, consider replacing the head. The regular Farmall H head can be swapped for one from a Farmall 300. You could also put in different pistons and sleeves. You can get more horsepower out of a Farmall 300 or 350 piston and sleeve kit, but it won’t fit in the Farmall H block the same way. You’ll need to either replace the block with one from a 300/350 or you can put in an overbore piston and sleeve kit in your standard H block.

No matter what changes you make to your tractor’s engine, don’t forget to think about how you will transfer that power to the drawbar. If you are pulling, pay special attention to the hitch height and tire specifications. These small details are easy to overlook, but they make a big difference too. Read more of my best tips for setting up your pulling tractor here.

Tractor Quiz

Can you recognize these tractors (make and model) without their color or decal?


Give your answers in the comments below – and come back on Thursday for the results!
Tractor #1:

tractor 1


Tractor #2:

tractor 2


Tractor #3:

tractor 3


Tractor #4:

tractor 4


Tractor #5:

tractor 5


Tractor #6:

tractor 6


Tractor #7:

Tractor 7


Tractor #8:

Tractor 8


Tractor #9:

Tractor 9


Tractor #10:

Tractor 10

Do You Really Need a Manual?

It’s a common question: “Do I really need to own a manual for my tractor?” After all, manuals aren’t free (most cost around $20), and with all the information available online these days it seems a little old-school to buy one. Besides, who wants to read the directions! It seems like a lot more fun to dive in and figure things out along the way.

You’ve probably heard these arguments against manuals before – you might even say these things yourself! If so, I hope to convince you otherwise. You really do need a manual (or three) to go along with your tractor.


First, let me explain the three different types of manuals – then I’ll (hopefully!) convince you to buy one.

A shop manual (also known as a service manual) is made for mechanics. Each dealer’s service department would have a copy of the shop manual, which gave the mechanics the details they need to make repairs. If you are doing a major repair or restoration project, get one of these! It’s where you’ll find all the specifications you need to prevent a costly mistake and keep your tractor running perfectly. If you can only buy one manual, get this one.

An owner’s manual (also known as an operator’s manual) was given to each original buyer with their tractor. This is the basic manual, not unlike the manual you probably keep in the glovebox of your car. It’s where you’ll find information about how to make basic adjustments and regular maintenance on your tractor.

A parts manual is really fun to look at! It shows how all the parts in your tractor fit together, and gives the original part numbers for every piece in your tractor. Not only will using a parts manual make you a pro at ordering replacement parts for your tractor, it’s a real help if you disassemble something and can’t quite remember how to put it back together.

So, do you really need to buy one? Well, here are three reasons why:

  1. It’s hard to get this information somewhere else. I’m a huge fan of the internet, but not everything you read online is accurate and trustworthy – and some information just isn’t out there.
  2. It’s faster to own a manual. Consider the amount of time it can take to search for and find the answers you need (either online or by calling the Steiner tech department). Save yourself the time and frustration by putting the answers right at your fingertips.
  3. Mistakes can be costly. An incorrect guess on specs can be devastating to your tractor. Common mistake: over- or under-torquing a rod and having it pop through the side of your block.

My dad is an expert mechanic, and he has a whole wall of manuals. If our barn catches fire, that wall is what we’re running in to save (metaphorically speaking! Don’t run into a burning building, especially not one filled with gas and oil!) It’s the most important part of our shop.

If you are doing a repair on your tractor, lots of help is available for free on the internet (like my video tutorials). You can get even more help from the in-depth repair videos that my Dad makes. But nothing can replace the good old-fashioned manual

The Best Tractor Massey Ferguson Ever Made

The Massey Ferguson 135 is one of (if not THE) best tractor Massey ever made, with one important point: be sure you get the right engine.


Did you know that my dad was a Massey Ferguson dealer when I was younger? One year, his dealership sold more compact Massey tractors than any other dealer in the region! Needless to say, I grew up with a healthy appreciation for the brand. My family was proud to sell their newer equipment, but today I’m focusing on one of their old standards: the Massey Ferguson 135.

The 135 was made for 11 years, from 1964 to 1975. In the last year of production, the selling price was $4,385. Today, they are still affordable tractors – some of the best value you can get in the 30-40 horsepower range.

The MF 135 was offered with either a gas Continental engine or a Perkins engine that was offered in either gas or diesel. The engine choice makes all the difference in the world!

I’m not a fan of the Continental gas engine, to say the least. This particular model (either a Z-134 or a Z-145) was a wet sleeved engine. It has a weak valve train and is expensive to fix.

If you’re in the market for a MF 135, choose the Perkins option! The 3-cylinder Perkins engine is fabulous. It’s fuel efficient, highly reliable, and runs like a dream. It is easy and inexpensive to rebuild: everything you could want.

As long as you get a Perkins model, I highly recommend this tractor! The MF 135 came loaded with options, including live power, hi-lo transmission, multi-power, power steering, and spin out rims. Tractors with combinations of these options are even more desirable and fun to work with.
Out of all the Massey Ferguson tractors, the model 135 is my favorite. How about you? Does the MF 135 win first place on your list, or do you prefer a different model? Let me know in the comments below!

Sale Superlatives

These are the firsts, the best, the top sellers, and the most exciting tractors that crossed the auction block this past weekend at the Mecum Gone Farmin’ auction in Davenport, IA.

Top Seller:

Quite a few first or only tractors were sold, but this Little Giant tractor was one of the biggest show-stoppers. According to Mecum’s researchers, it’s the first Model B that was sold and the oldest Little Giant in existence. Want to take a guess at the sale price? It’s listed at the bottom of this article.

little giant

First in its Model:

I love this 1935 John Deere D Industrial. It’s the first of 91 Model D Industrial tractors built. The special pneumatic tires are really eye-catching. It was consigned from the Cass and Hyler John Deere Collection, and like others from this collection the restoration was really pristine. It sold for $80,000.

john deere d industrial

Boldest Paint Job

The unusual (and accurate) color combination of this Lamborghini 1R really stands out! It’s extremely rare and very cool! Sale price: $29,000.


The Oddest:

Okay, this is pretty subjective – but the tractor that seemed the oddest to me was this Graham-Bradley 103. I love the long, sleek design. I’ve only seen a handful in person, even though they were manufactured in Detroit (near my hometown). I’ve never seen one that was restored this well – it’s a really beautiful piece of machinery!


The Lowest Serial Number:

This Minneapolis-Moline G1000 LP has the lowest serial number, being the first of this model that was manufactured. It’s been well maintained and overhauled, but it’s still in its work clothes. I have a real soft spot in my heart for Molines, but you don’t even have to be a Moline lover like I am to appreciate this gem! The gavel fell at $10,000, which was less than the owner’s reserve.


The Best Pedal Tractor:

Okay, this one is subjective – but I LOVE this pedal tractor! I had a Moline pedal tractor as a kid, but it was a different model – this Z was custom built. I would have loved to have this as a kid in order to match my Grandpa’s MM Z. It sold for $900. That’s (almost) too much to let your kid play on. It wasn’t the highest selling pedal tractor (two others sold for $1,000 each), but this is the one I would have taken home if I could.


The Most Steiner Parts Catalogs Given Away:

So many friends stopped by the Steiner table at the Mecum auction that we ran out of catalogs! Wow! Thanks to everyone who came by. It was so fun to see old friends and meet new ones.

Oh, and that Little Giant? It sold for $90,000.

Thanks, Mecum Gone Farmin’ (Little Giant and JD D Industrial) and Harley Ann Schlichenmeyer (Z Pedal) for the pictures.

Experimental Farmall M Tractor

When I was at the Red Power Round Up in Sedalia, MO this past summer, I spotted this interesting experimental tractor. The M is owned by Wayne Hutton of Clarence, MO.


The tractor comes from Burr Ridge–the IH experimental farm in Hinsdale, IL. The tractor was tested extensively both at the IH farm and at other local farms.


Wayne has done a lot of research on the tractor – here are his own words (from the display card attached to the M) describing the differences and history of this really unique tractor.

Many features were different than the M.

  • At the Experimental Farm is was known as M-8. It has 8 forward speeds and two reverse speeds. Road gear was blocked out. This idea was later used in the 06 series.
  • The hydraulic system isn’t a belly pump. The pump is in the rear end and uses the oil in the rear end as the different, the hydraulic levers are different and also the platform.
  • The brake and clutch pedals were changed. Disc brakes were used then later on the Super M. The Brake lock was changed on the platform also. 
  • The tractor has a live PTO shaft. The brakes were made lower to allow for the PTO shaft to go to the rear of the tractor. It had an over center PTO gear box and lever that is gone. This is what the later model tractors had.IMG_1107
  • The tractor is all different behind the motor. The light bracket, amp box, choke lever, bell housing, starter, axles and housing. The axles were bigger and longer and the housing were made shorter, also the belt pulley is different.IMG_1109
  • The axles were changed to bigger as one fall a 2 row mounted corn picker was being used and an axle broke so they took it in and put in bigger axles.
  • The tractor has a M/W governor and behlem power steering pump.
  • The tractor has a 4 ⅛” piston. It must have been a power plant motor as it has a boss on side of motor for a fuel pump.

After testing, these tractors were supposed to be disassembled (to check wear patterns) and then destroyed. Somehow, this tractor escaped destruction and found its way into Wayne’s hands. I’m so glad it did! It’s really neat to see how early ideas were tested before mass production.



Why are Allis-Chalmers Tractors Orange?

DSC (8)Have you ever wondered how Allis-Chalmers tractors got their distinctive shade of orange? It’s not because orange was the only color left! (Although to be fair, a desire to be different might have had something to do with their color selection).

The very first AC tractors were a dull shade of green. Everything changed in 1929, when Harry Meritt took a trip to California. Merritt was the manager of Allis’s budding tractor department. He must have been thinking over the question of color one day when he traveled past a field of brilliant, blooming poppies. As they waved in the breeze, the color struck a chord with Merrit.

He went back to the factory and convinced his colleagues that orange was the right choice. The shade was named Persian Orange after the poppies (a native crop of ancient Persia, now modern-day Iran).

If you are painting an AC tractor, you should know that the company used two different shades of Persian Orange (Persian Orange #1 and Persian Orange #2). If getting the shade exactly right is important to you, then you’ll want to do careful research to determine which color to use. Later AC tractors used a different orange altogether, called Corporate Orange.

As a child, I painted my bedroom a similar shade of bright orange (much to my mother’s chagrin). While it might be a bit much for a little girl’s bedroom, the color sure makes a statement!

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The Story Behind the Decal: McCormick-Deering Farmall

DSC (33) In this regular feature, we’ll explore the early inventors and businessmen behind today’s most popular tractor brands. Today, we’ll look into Cyrus McCormick, one of the men whose name appears on early Farmall tractors.


Cyrus McCormick got his start with horse-drawn reapers. Together with his father and brothers (and possibly also with the help of a slave and someone else’s design – history is unclear), Cyrus invented the mechanical reaper. He patented his design in 1834 and moved to Chicago a couple of years later to begin manufacturing the machines. McCormick’s reaper was a good design, but his salesmanship and business savvy is what really set him apart from the competition. His business prospered, and the McCormick family quickly became one of the leading families of Chicago.


Behind every great man stands a woman, and Cyrus was no exception to this adage. He married Nancy Fowler, a woman 25 years his junior, in 1858. Nettie (the nickname she prefered) had a mind for business herself, and took part in Cyrus’s work. This was very unusual for a woman of her time, but Netty’s perseverance and business acumen played a pivotal role in what would become the International Harvester company.


When the Great Chicago Fire struck, the McCormick factory was a total loss. At this point, Cyrus was 62 years old and incredibly wealthy – he could have easily ended the business and retired. But Nettie insisted on rebuilding, both for the sake of the Chicago workmen who depended on p1000939_20120423_1805918339the factory for their livelihoods and for the sake of her sons, who she didn’t want to see grow up “in idleness.” Nettie convinced her husband – they sold their home in New York (where they had been living at the time of the fire) and returned to Chicago to rebuild. Until her husband’s death in 1884, Nettie was the effective (although unofficial) head of the company.


Nettie and Cyrus were great philanthropists during their marriage, but once Cyrus had passed and the reigns of the business were in the hands of his son (Cyrus Jr.), Nettie devoted even more of her attention to doing the most good possible with her substantial wealth. Nettie and Cyrus were devout Christians, and Nettie believed quite strongly that she was responsible to God to use her wealth to honor Him. She gave to hundreds of charitable organizations both in the United States and abroad. Many of the organizations she gave to, like the McCormick Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, and the Pacific Garden Mission, are still in operation today. A private giver, much of her generosity wasn’t known until years after her death.


Next time you see an older Farmall tractor, I hope you’ll take a moment to notice the name “McCormick” on the decal and think of Cyrus and Nettie. And if your tractor’s decals say “McCormick-Deering,” don’t worry! We’ll talk about William Deering and the merger that created International Harvester soon.



To read more about Cyrus and Nettie McCormick, visit the Philanthropy Roundtable or PBS.