Hobbyist Seeks Tractor Parts

Gordon Rice Jr.

Bradley B. Ware

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Reprinted with permission from the December 1, 1987 issue of Clarion News. Submitted by Gordon Rice, 20 N. Sheridan Rd., Clarion, Pennsylvania 16214. Photo courtesy of Clarion News.

A hobby is defined as something pursued for amusement.

Gordon Rice Jr. has a unique hobby-collecting and distributing antique tractor parts, searching out parts for tractors manufactured before 1939.

Rice, 55, of 20 N. Sheridan Road, Clarion, said, 'It's my hobby. I've been doing this for about 10 years. I've gone to dealers as far as Mississippi to buy parts. If I can't find a part, sometimes I can find someone to make one.

'About five percent of the people who own these tractors use them to farm. The rest just fix them up, paint them and show them at fairs. In the farm states such as Illinois and Wisconsin, every county and town has a fair. These tractors are taken there and displayed.

'Farm states also have tractor clubs. Wisconsin has between 40 to 45 of these clubs.'

Rice's father, Gordon Rice, started selling farm equipment at Rice Equipment in 1937.

Rice said, 'I was five years old when Dad started the business. Lawrence Bauer of Lucinda still owns the first tractor my dad sold.

'About two years ago, Rice Equipment went out of the agriculture business.

'Since I've been retired, I'm busier now than I was when I had the business. I'm having a good time doing this because I do as I please with no deadlines.'

Rice also works with antique tractor owners and farm equipment dealers as a consultant.

He said, 'Because we had the business for 48 years, and I've been around farm equipment all my life, I get hundreds and hundreds of calls from dealers with questions about farm parts and equipment.

'People call from all over the country and some from as far away as England and Australia. They want to find out specific things about old tractors and for this reason, no one is allowed to answer my business phone but me.

'I like tractors. The old ones had to be cranked to start, but around 1940, they came out with starters.'

Rice and his wife, Dorothy, went on a vacation recently for 19 days.

Rice said, 'When we returned, I had three bushel baskets of letters waiting for me.' Rice's office is full of catalogs from farm equipment businesses that stock tractor parts.

Rice said, 'Some businesses have tractor parts more than 50 years old stockpiled in warehouses.

'I only deal with new parts because recovering old parts requires using a wrench and getting dirty. I don't like either of these. I have about 4,000 parts on hand.'

Rice is interested in other types of antiques and has owned 12 Model T's in his lifetime, but he prefers antique tractors.

Rice said, 'When you buy a car, it is old six or seven years later. It's the other way around with a tractor. A 20-year old tractor is still new.'

The average life of a tractor is between 20 to 30 years. This is because there is no body on a tractor to wear out.

Rice said, 'About 80 percent of the automobile parts are sold in a shop and only 20 percent are sold over the counter. It's the other way around with a tractor. We don't have to even stock parts to be used until a tractor is 20 years old.'

Rice was recently re-elected director of Pennsylvania-district four of the Penn-Jersey Farm and Power Equipment Dealers Association.

The fourth district includes Clarion, Jefferson, Clear-field, Elk, Potter, Centre, Clinton and Tioga counties. Pennsylvania is divided into 10 districts.

Rice said, 'As a director, I work for the dealers in my area as a go-between my district and the state office in Harrisburg.

'We also lobby. Currently, we have been working toward a franchise law-Senate Bill 429. This gives dealers better contact with the big companies.

'The way things are now, a company can send you a letter telling you after three months you are no longer a dealer. We're against this. There must be some sort of negotiations.

'The biggest problem we have with the present situation is a company can throw dealers out and put dealers in without giving a reason.'

Senate Bill 429 passed the Pennsylvania Senate in April and is presently in the state House of Representatives awaiting a third consideration.

Rice said, 'The board of directors for Penn-Jersey is also responsible for making the arrangements for the organizations's annual state convention. This convention is held in the east one year and in the south the next year.'