Hobbyist Seeks Tractor Parts

By Staff
article image
Bradley B. Ware

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.’

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