WOW! What An Expo!

By Staff
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Rockol tractor shown at last summer's 'Ageless Iron Expo.'
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Double power take-off
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Dale Eppert's Thieman tractor
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Dale Eppert's Thieman tractor
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Richard Buckwoldt's 1919 GO tractor
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Sidemount controls

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 in  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!

Gas Engine Magazine
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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines