Tractor Talk: Cracking the Books

I’ve been asked where all the info comes from for Tractor Talk. Much comes from the owners of the tractors you see, many of whom have a vast array of material on their tractors… practically shrines. Other times, I have to crack my own library for information or go to a public library to get the information. When you live in farm country as I do, the public library has more tractor stuff than a big city library might.

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Today’s world is very Internet-savvy and, yes, there’s a lot of good tractor material there. Some of it’s unsupported and unsubstantiated… opinion rather than fact, so it’s best to verify certain information before passing it along. One great resource is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Tractor Test Lab site. The UNL is a very agriculturally centered university and their website reflects that. They have a tremendous amount of material online, both on the main site (http://tractortest-lab.unl.edu) and on the digital commons (http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tractormuseumlit). Many of their older tractor tests, going all the way back to 1920, are on the digital commons site and the newer ones, from about 2009 and up, are on the main site. You’ll also find a great deal of information on tractors, tractor testing and the world-renowned Tractor Test Lab on these two sites. They’re highly recommended reading.

Another great Internet site is Tractor Data (www.tractor-data.com). It’s done by a guy named Peter Easterlund, who took it upon himself to list information on just about every tractor in existence, past and present. I’ve been following this site for years and it just keeps getting better. There are, and have been, errors but unlike some, Peter works very hard to correct them… quickly. This is a website that gets updates just about every day and can generally be relied upon for accuracy.

This time around, we’ll show you a few of the books and authors I use as sources. These are books that have proven to be reliable and accurate, as well as entertaining. That’s mostly a testament to the authors in these cases, and any book by these authors can generally be counted on to do a good book. So, without further ado, here are a few books that have helped produce Tractor Talk for the past six years. Rest assured these are not the only arrows in the quiver, but they may be the books I grab the most often when dealing with the brands represented.

International Harvester Tractors 1955-1985
Kenneth Updike
MBI, 2000
Availability: Used, out of print, try eBay or Amazon

Ken Updike’s books are always a treat. Not only are his connections to IH long and deep, giving him access to good materials, he has a gift for presenting it. The 1955-1985 book is particularly good because it covers an era that, when it was written, was not well documented. The book is divided by decades and contains a lot of early factory color. Of particular interest is some of the inside info on the development of certain well-known IH models and technical innovations.

Red Tractors 1958-2013
Lee Klancher
Octane Press, 2013
Availability: www.octanepress.com/home

Lee Klancher has a long and storied history in the book world, both as an commissioning editor, author and now a publisher. His tractor books of years past are all well known but in Red Tractors he put together a team of co-authors to make a book that will be one of those forever-in-print references that stands the test of time. The team includes Kenneth Updike, Oskar H. Will III, Sarah Galloway, Jean Cointe, Matthias Buschmann, Johann Dittmer and Martin Rickatson. Researcher and author Guy Fay also added some heft and photographer Mark Jensen provided much of the artwork. These people are all published authors and/or acknowledged experts on their topics. Some are current or former Case IH executives or dealers. Each contributed to the book in the sections where their expertise is strongest. This makes for a book that is strong on detail, whether it be a North American model or one of the many built or used overseas. That it covers the recently made tractors is a plus because today’s tractors are tomorrow’s collectibles. Red Tractors is a visually stunning, deeply comprehensive guide to International Harvester and Case IH tractors from 1958 to 2013. When you’re through with this book, you’ll have no excuse to plead ignorance when asked a question on red tractors from this era.

Original Farmall Hundred Series 1954-1958
Guy Fay
MBI, 2003
Availability: Used, out of print, try eBay or Amazon

Guy Fay knows what tractor collectors and restorers need and gives it to them in exquisite detail. All of his books are benchmarks of accuracy and high levels of detail. He routinely works with photographer Andy Kraushaar for the photos and in this book the color images of the correctly restored tractors are stunning. This book would probably be best called a restorer’s guide but it works just as well if you need intense detail on the Farmalls from the Hundred Series, which includes the Cub and Cub Lo-Boy models. There’s enough detail to help you make a 100-percent correct restoration and even goes to the level of the type and positioning of the decals.

The Proud Heritage Of AGCO Tractors
Norm Swinford
ASAE 1999
Availability: http://www.asabe.org/publications/publications/book-catalog.aspx

Norm Swinford was a 30-year Allis-Chalmers man who started in ’57 and retired in ’87 as a Product Manager. He saw Allis-Chalmers through the best and worst of times and remained connected as the company evolved into AGCO, the worldwide agricultural powerhouse it is today. Swinford’s attention to detail and vast resources make this a pivotal book. Don’t think this is “just” a book about Allis-Chalmers, Deutz-Allis and AGCO–Allis. It also covers the major players that were assembled to form AGCO. These include Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline, Cockshutt, Massy-Harris and Massy-Ferguson, White and even the overseas arms, to include Deutz, Fendt, Landini and SAME. This book covers a whole lot of ground on a whole lot of legendary names in the tractor biz.

A Guide To Ford, Fordson And New Holland Tractors 1907-1999
Larry Gay
ASAE, 1999
Availability: http://www.asabe.org/publications/publications/book-catalog.aspx

Another book from the ASAE (American Society of Agricultural Engineers) that comes from an acknowledged expert on the subject of tractors. Larry Gay is an agricultural engineer, late of John Deere, and has written several books on tractors. This one covers all the Fords and their descendants. It’s a remarkably detailed book that covers about every model of Ford, Fordson or New Holland tractor to the date of its publication in remarkable detail. It’s primarily a model-by-model directory.

JI Case Volume Two Agricultural &
Construction Equipment 1956-1994
Tom Stonehouse and Eldon Brumbaugh
ASAE, 1996
Availability: http://www.asabe.org/publications/publications/book-catalog.aspx

The early years of Case are well documented but if you wanted something from the latter years, it was more difficult to find. Both Stonehouse and Brumbaugh were important cogs in the Case machine and by the looks of the book, they collected a lot of material in their days there. Of particular interest is the section on Consolidated Diesel, the joint venture between Case and Cummins. From this collaboration came the legendary B-Series engines that eventually found their way into Dodges. There’s just a ton of good stuff on Case in this book.

Tractor Data Books
Various Authors
MBI, various publication dates
Availability: Used, out of print, try eBay or Amazon

These books came out in the 1990s from MBI and were a great pocket guide to tractors. Shown in the pic are the John Deere 2-Cylinder Through 1960 (by Lorry Dunning), Ford Tractor Fordson to the Hundred Series (by Jeff Creighton), Oliver (by Brian Rukes) and Allis-Chalmers (by Terry Dean). Others in the series included IH and Massy Ferguson. They are now out of print and only available used. These books are very concise, listing serial numbers, specs, prices, accessories and a brief overview of history in each section. They’re great to grab when you just need to look up the production of a particular model or how much fuel it held or any other small detail.

Field Guide Series
Various Authors
MBI, various publication dates
Availability: Used, out of print, try eBay or Amazon

This series started in the early 2000 by Voyageur Press and inexplicably stopped after just three. Shown are Farmall (by Pripps & Moreland), John Deere (by Don Macmillan) and Ford (Pripps & Moreland again). It was a great format: a hardbound, full-color book with a “just the facts, ma’am” kind of style. Great for looking up tractors quickly and easily and giving yourself a great overview of the brand. DW