One Collector's Experiences Tracking Down A Centaur

Centaur tractor

Centaur as it arrived from Cleveland.

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R.R.# 1 ,Box 356 Sparta, IL 62286

I have two brothers-in-law who got me interested in old engines. Their names are Jim and Dave Baue. My father-in-law, Bill Baue, got them started several years ago by taking them to the Pinckneyville, Illinois Power Progress Shows.

Mr. Baue (Bill) worked most of his life for the Illinois Power Company as a groundman and truck driver. In his early years, he spent some of his spare time installing and maintaining Delco light plants. We did our best to buy one which he had installed, but it had been lying idle in a shed for many years. The present owner would not sell. We wanted to give it to him for a Christmas gift, but that didn't work out.

Bill and his son Dave drove to Tennessee and bought a 2 1/2 horse Fuller and Johnson. It was in very poor condition, so they got kind of discouraged and didn't do too much with it for several years. By that time, Bill was getting older (he was about 80 by then), and before we got a Delco or the Fuller and Johnson running, Bill passed away.

My father-in-law and I got along very well. He and I spent a lot of time fishing and taking weekend. He influenced my life as much as my dad did.

Several years after Bill died, I started going to more gas engine shows, and because of his interest in old machines and his sons' interest, I got hooked too.

By this time, Dave and Jim had several engines, one of them being a Cushman 'binder' engine. From the looks of it, I didn't think it would ever run, but we did eventually get it going.

Four years ago, my wife Margret and I decided to go to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. My wife's whole family are mechanically inclined. She even overhauled her 1952 Ford engine, with some guidance from her brothers.

At Mt. Pleasant, I saw a Cushman 'binder' engine in the flea market area. It was in so much better shape than Dave's, that I decided to buy it. The price was reasonable, but after checking my finances I didn't have enough money to buy it.

Margret had gone one way and I another, and we were supposed to meet at the Lutheran lunch tent at 12:00 o'clock. After buying our lunch we finally found a place to sit at a table, next to an older couple from Iowa. We had a nice visit with them and found we had a lot in common, including, of course, old tractors and engines, as well as square dancing. After finishing a fine meal, we gave our seats to some more friendly folks and walked outside the tent to discuss our next move. I suggested she follow me to the flea market and look at the Cushman. After looking it over, she said she would pay for it, but from now on the Cushman would be hers. I said 'That's fine, just so I get to do the most of the restoration work.' That was the first real antique engine we could call our own.

We get so interested in getting engines restored, we have no 'before' pictures. I made the cart and tanks, because all we got was the engine.

This is one heck of a long way around to get to what I wanted to tell you about, but if it hadn't been for all of this 'lead up to,' I wouldn't have this story to tell.

As a young country boy of about ten or twelve, I helped my uncle with his farm chores. My uncle, Orlin Wiley, did a lot of tinkering around with machinery. I can remember shocking oats behind the binder, pulled by a Fordson he had converted to rubber tires. (Do you remember the oat bugs driving you crazy, crawling around by the thousands on your sweating body? What happened to those oat bugs? I haven't seen one in probably 40 years.)

My uncle had a fruit farm besides some small row crop farming. My twin brother and I used to spray the fruit trees, pulling a sprayer with an International crawler. Orlin took the old four cylinder engine out and put a V-8 engine with two transmissions behind it so it would run real slow.

Now to the heart of the subject. Along the west fence of his barn lot, he had several pieces of old equipment. I can close my eyes and still see the rusting binder, a corn planter with the row marker standing up in its proper place, but bent at a 45 degree angle from some mishap, a Gundloch drill with one wheel missing and the lids gone from the hopper, but as a kid I remember best the next two machines in the row.

There were two Centaurs-one I think might have been usable, and the other one must have been for parts, because it wasn't all there. I can remember sitting in the seat, trying to turn the steering wheel and pretending it was running, and I could see the dirt turning over from the plow under me.

After getting a gas engine, I thought it would be nice to try to locate a Centaur. In 1988, I started to keep my eyes open to locate one. What should I see in the January 1990 issue of GEM but a special story about the Centaur tractor. That's not all GEM did for me. As I was going through the classified section, there was an advertisement for a G12 Centaur (just like my uncle's), which Roger Haff of Cleveland, Ohio had for sale. After several phone calls and a couple of letters with pictures, I called Roger and told him I wanted it and to hold it for me.

We started discussing this deal in December, soon after I got my January issue. With holidays, and the weather in both Cleveland and Sparta, it took us until February to get a weekend which would work out for us to complete the deal.

Margret and I borrowed my brother Ron's pickup truck and headed for Cleveland on Saturday, February 9. We pulled into Roger's driveway about 12:00 noon on Sunday the 10th. We turned off the interstate where Roger suggested, and crossed the street he was supposed to live on. My wife said turn left there. I said no, we were supposed to turn at a signal light, and there wasn't one there. As it turned out, that was the right street. Oh, well, that just took an extra thirty minutes.

With the aid of some oak timbers I had taken along, and Roger's come along and mine, we managed to get the 'Ole Centaur' in the back of the truck.

We were invited in for coffee and dough nuts, but we were a little concerned about the weather-light snow was predicted for the Cleveland area.

We said our goodbyes to the Haff family, thanked them for the Centaur, and headed back for Illinois. The trip home was uneventful. We did make a stop at Glenn Karch's in Haubstadt, Indiana. He has a 'Tiny Tim' generator like one I have. After a nice visit with Glenn, we arrived back in Sparta about 3:00 p.m. Monday afternoon.

Roger had been working on the Centaur for about three years, and had done most of the restoration, but he couldn't get it to run. He had other projects to work on, so that was another reason for selling it. In about an hour after I had it unloaded, Dave, Jim and I had the mag timed and had it running.

The tractor didn't come with any equipment, so I took an old horsedrawn plow and cut the beam off and adapted it to the draw bar. I also bought a potato plow from an old friend at the Boonville, Missouri swap meet and flea market last spring. I have repainted the 'power unit,' but have not found the time to paint the sulky as yet.

I am including a picture of my childhood dream, of watching the plow turning over dirt. I took it to four or five shows last summer and proudly drove it in a couple of parades.