Root & VanDervoort Reunion

Diversity was the order of the day at the 2003 Root & VanDervoort Reunion.

| January/February 2004

That statement pretty well summed up reaction to the selection of Root & VanDervoort engines on display at the 2003 Root & VanDervoort Reunion. Held in conjunction with the Antique Engine & Tractor Association's 42nd Annual Show Sept. 12-14, 2003, at the club's show grounds in Atkinson, Ill., the reunion drew 150 R&V engines of amazing variety from around the country.


The people responsible for pulling this all together were Dick and Carol Ann Wells, Moline, Ill. Relative newcomers to engine collecting, Dick and Carol Ann bought their first engine, a John Deere-badged R&V, in July 2001. That first engine was quickly followed in September of that year by yet another R&V. A few months later in the course of communications with R&V registrar Peter Lowe in Australia, Dick and Peter discussed the idea of an R&V reunion. With Dick's growing interest in R&V, and his proximity to R&V's former digs in neighboring East Moline, the idea took 'root.'

The fact that R&V's centennial anniversary (R&V formally incorporated in 1900 in Champaign, Ill., before moving to East Moline, Ill., in 1901) had already passed didn't stop Dick from forging ahead with reunion plans. Never one to miss an opportunity, Dick tied the reunion in with East Moline's centennial anniversary, and in the process mustered support for the show not only from the mayor of East Moline but also Deere & Co., arguably R&V's biggest customer during the company's heyday in the 1910s.

Three Days

Less than two years later the reunion became a reality, and looking back, it's hard to believe the Wellses have never put on a show before. Well-organized from start to finish, the reunion lived up to its billing as the largest gathering of R&V engines since the factory stopped production of stationary engines in 1919.

In addition to gathering R&V engines and owners, the Wellses organized a banquet for Friday night attended by three descendants of R&V co-founder William H. VanDervoort. Dick and Carol Ann also organized Saturday's Guinness world record attempt for the most running, pre-1925 gas engines manufactured by a single company, and for the most assembled, pre-1925 engines (including car and tractor) manufactured by a single company. The former attempt recorded 96 engines, while the tally for the latter was 161. Dick is still waiting for confirmation on the attempts.

Sunday saw a tour of the old R&V facilities in East Moline, a sprawling complex of buildings employed to this day as a manufacturing facility. Wandering through the factory is like stepping back in time, old timbers and piping from the R&V days still holding the buildings together. Remnants of the old oval track where R&V Knight cars were tested are still visible on the grounds.


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