13073 Apple Tree Lane, DeWitt, MI 48820
Archie Magsig is a Samson tractor collector. His story is told by his son Daniel in this issue beginning on page 20.
If the adage that 'you are what you restore' is true, then I guess my dad would be considered a Samson Model M. If anyone saw a before and after photograph of his latest endeavor, they just might view his efforts as being of mythological proportions.
To understand my dad's passion for the Samson I guess you would have to go back to the beginning of his interest in antique tractor restoration.
It began in 1969 when he saw a 1929 McCormick-Deering 10-20. I guess something from his childhood days on his father's farm in DeWitt kindled a fire in (or under) him to bring this gem from the past back to life. This being his first attempt at reconstruction it was, understandably, a hit-and-miss affair, but his background as a tool and die maker at a local factory helped him tremendously. After successfully breathing new life back into the old workhorse, Dad found himself caught up in tractor fever. The 10-20 was followed by many more new additions to his collection, including a 1923 Fordson, 1929 D John Deere, and an 1935 John Deere AR serial #250131, until his 'family' of tractors was up to eleven. But it wasn't until he came upon a 1920 Samson that he realized what it was he wanted to devote himself to.
Archie (strange calling my dad by his first name) found his first Samson here in Michigan near the little town of Perry. Needless to say, when he brought home his prize in several boxes, Mom, my sisters and I were a bit skeptical, but with Dad's previous track record we were confident that he could turn this Samson into another showpiece.
At this point I guess I have to toot Dad's horn a little. When he restores a tractor, the engine is completely torn apart right down to the block. All parts are meticulously sandblasted if they need it. Usually he grinds the valves, installs new rings in the pistons and gives the rod bearings whatever attention they need. Dad really goes to great lengths to keep the tractor as original as possible. When he gets done with it, it looks and runs better than it did when it came off the production line.
Several months went by and through Archie's research a unique picture started to unfold. It seems that the Samson was one of General Motor's darker moments. Trying to keep pace with Henry Ford and his Fordson, GM came out with its own line of farm equipment called the Samson. This line included a rein steered tractor that tried to ease the farmer's fear of 'these new-fangled machines' by being steered much the same as a horse-pulled wagon. There was also a Samson disk, a Samson plow, even a Samson car that could take the family to church on Sunday and, when you removed its seats, could carry a load like a truck during the week. Unfortunately, this car has the bleak reputation of being the only car ever advertised by GM that never went into production. The Samson was a multi-million dollar flop and only a few thousand Samson Model M tractors were ever driven off the line at the assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin.
When Dad learned all of this his prize became a treasure. He knew only a very few Samsons remained and Mom and I believed his intent was to procure all that were left.
His first Samson became somewhat of a celebrity when he came across a 1? inch tumbler used to smooth the rough edges off the cast iron in the foundry part of the production. The tumbler was found in the number four cylinder intake manifold which probably never allowed the tractor to perform at its peak, and gave its owner a bad taste in his mouth where tractors were concerned. This tumbler more than likely accounted for the fact that the Samson was probably found abandoned near an old fence-line up to its axles in mud. This production oversight caught the eye of Ray Decker, a General Supervisor for quality control at GM. Ray used Dad's Samson as an example of how quality was as important then as it is now. The story became the object of a travelling display and an article in a General Motors publication.
Well, all this attention just egged Dad on, so after finishing his first Samson he set out to find all the others. Archie found his second one in 1985. He had to travel to Duluth, Minnesota, to pick it up from the seller who drove from Fargo, North Dakota to meet him halfway. Dad doesn't mind driving all over the country to find his treasures because he usually takes Mom along for company. She has a deal with Dad; he can go tractor hunting if he takes her with him to all the flea markets to look for things for her little antique shop. Sort of a fringe benefit for her.
The second Samson was a 1919 with a serial number of 5806, which made it even older than his first. Dad set out with all the loving care of a doctor delivering a baby to bring his new treasure up to mint specs. He finished it this year.
His third, but probably not his last, Samson was found in Murdo, South Dakota. This, of course, will be his next project. Surprisingly this Samson ran even before it started renovation.
Dad's love for his tractors will never overhsadow his love for his family or his faith, but with so many hours of study and labor involved it's understandable that he has a special place in his heart set aside for his 'family' of tractors. To me, Dad not only restores Samsons, in my eyes he is a Samson!
If anyone would like to write to Dad, he would love to hear from you. His address is 8833 U.S. 27, DeWitt, MI 48820.