WOW! What An Expo!

Rockol tractor

Rockol tractor shown at last summer's 'Ageless Iron Expo.'

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Stemgas Advertising Manager

Back in July, Successful Farming finally had their dream of an 'Ageless Iron Exposition' materialize. The expo was created to fund a non-profit foundation that will support the hobby with scholarships and donations as well as to introduce new people to this great family hobby. After being contacted by Dave Mowitz, machinery editor , GEM decided to participate in this world's fair of antique farm machinery.

Needless to say, I was excited about representing us in Ankeny, Iowa. I knew I had to convey this enthusiasm to my husband Ken. Somehow, driving 1000 miles to Iowa in a van packed full of magazines and books doesn't have too much appeal! Well, I must have presented a pretty good picture, because I even had our friends Andy Lutz and Meg Melat asking to travel with us. They are basic 'city dwellers' so I was having great difficulty wondering why they wanted to spend the 4th of July with tractors and engines in Iowa.

The reason I had these misgivings was that I, too, came from the same background. When I started at GEM, I knew virtually nothing about the hobby except that you could find a tractor on a farm. Any other 'farm information' my husband would enlighten me with, since he has a rural upbringing. My ignorance has definitely turned to appreciation for the love of the hobby. I thought maybe I could convert my friends. This expo had numerous activities for the whole family, so I figured they would, indeed, have an adventure.

The expo was held July 1-4 on a 200-acre site at the Aviation Expo grounds just off Interstate 80 and Interstate 35 interchange. There was definitely much to see and do. I gave Andy and Meg the camera, and sent them off to enter a new world of antique farm equipment. There was something for everyone. In the sea of tents you could find crafts, farm toys, a trade show area with everything from decals to spare tires, and a publications area, where we were located. If you were a serious collector, you definitely would want to attend the many restoration clinics. On Monday, there was an opportunity for tractor lovers to bid on some forty tractors put up for auction. It was my chance to see Nixon Auctioneers hard at work!

Children had no time to be bored! They could participate in kiddie tractor pulls, ride the Ding-a-Ling railroad, or play in the children's activity center. This area was a parent's delight strategically placed behind the grandstands where the antique tractor pulls and parade of power were held each day. There were tractors built out of wood for the children to climb and a sand pit under roof where some serious digging could be found.

I had the opportunity to see the expo grounds from a beautifully restored Stinson Tri-motor airplane. This plane made its debut in 1931 flying between Chicago and St. Louis.

Roger Welsch was available to entertain with stories of tractor collecting. Roger is a well-known writer, folklorist, teacher, tractor collector and a television commentator on CBS's 'Sunday Morning' show. Everyone enjoyed his antics and the fireworks that followed his stories.

Of course, I have to mention the food. I think we tried every food vendora feat in itself! Ken definitely enjoyed the Iowa pork. I think Andy fell in love with the smoked turkey legs. Judging by the long line at that stand, he was not the only one!

There were exhibits of gas engines, scale models, steam engines and any kind of tractor imaginable. I heard estimates of 1500 tractors exhibiting. Numerous equipment clubs had separate exhibit areas, where you could stop and pick up membership information.

One of my favorite areas was the one designated for the unusual and scarce tractors. Richard Bockwoldt of Dixon, Iowa, exhibited his 1919 14-28 Model G 'GO' tractor, serial number 1512. This tractor was manufactured by the General Ordnance Co., Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Richard purchased it from Burdell Huber of Bluffton, Ohio, who restored it in 1985. This tractor has aWaukesha motor, runs at 1000 RPM and the engine number is 42716 (Model N). It contains a Rockwell friction transmission. This friction drive is a unique feature. The 4300 pound tractor runs on gas, kerosene or distillate fuel. There is little information available regarding serial numbers, part numbers or actual quantities produced.

A pair of unusual tractors being exhibited was a Thieman and a Friday tractor. The Thieman tractor with a cultivator attached was built by the Thieman Harvester Co., Albert City, Iowa. This company was founded by the Thieman brothers in the late twenties. The owner of this tractor was Dale Eppert of Luther, Iowa. He thought his model was built in 1935, but was not certain, because the name plate had been destroyed. Dale told me that these tractors were basically a 'poor man's tractor.' His model had a Model A Ford differential, but some had been made with Chevys and Dodges. Notice in the picture it also has a Model A Ford grill. These tractors were made until 1941 when production ceased because of the shortage of steel with the war.

The Friday tractor, a post-war tractor, was built in Hartford, Michigan, by the Friday Tractor Company who produced orchard equipment. It was basically a crude tractorbuilt to your specifications. (Editor's Note: We hope to print an article on this company in a future issue.)

Also shown inĀ  this area was a 1948 Rockol Model B77 that was exhibited by Lee Black of Forreston, Illinois. His tractor was built by the Rock Oil Co. Ltd. Inc. of Edmonton, Alberta. It contained a Chrysler Industrial engine and was called the 'King of the Seventy-Sevens.' It was streamlined and built around a heavy duty truck design.

A real crowd-pleaser at the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club exhibit was the 1920 Holt 75 owned by Craig Maasdam of Sully, Iowa. I arrived at their display area just as a group picture was being taken in front of this massive beauty. Only 307 were produced of the 1932 Cat 15 owned by Hank Jaman of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This club has a special member. He is Bob Feller, former pitcher for the Cleveland Indians in the forties and fifties, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York, in 1962. Bob's love for Caterpillars goes back to his childhood when he drove his father's Cat 20 with a combine. The Cat disappeared from his family after WWII but Bob's love for Caterpillars survived. Today, Bob and his good friend Hal Manders, Iowa, have a collection of 16 Caterpillars that range up to size 40. I could tell after meeting these two at the Expo, they enjoyed every moment with their Cats!

I'm sure there is always something that happens unexpectedly at every show. This expo did have one event that was not scheduled. John Bruce Book, weighing in at 5 pounds 9 ounces, decided he wanted to be born during the expo. Parents Matthew Book and Staci Medlar of Leaf River, Illinois, were quite surprised to find that they were going to be parents. The three reasons the parents named their newborn son John: his father helps buy, sell and trade antique John Deere tractors; his father's boss whose name is John helped with the delivery and he was born in one. Wow, what a story!

I want to thank everyone for their hospitality. It was terrific meeting people that I've spoken to for several years and also making many new friends! Ken survived the 2,000 mile drive. If he had known about meeting Bob Feller before the trip, I would have had an easy time convincing him to go! Andy and Meg survived the adventure. I can see a shimmer in his eyes maybe a tractor or an engine can be seen in his future?

There has been no decision when this terrific expo will be held again. I can tell you that estimates for attendance were around 42,000 people in the four days, exceeding the projected totals. Seeing the quality of an expo that was organized in a very short time, makes you wonder what lies ahead!