Julie’s Tractor

By Staff
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The VAC Case above, known as 'Julie's Tractor,' took four years to restore by Frank D. Holzschu, 4057 Inter town Road, Petoskey, Michigan 49770.
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Julie Holzschu with her VAC Case tractor in 1994.
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Left to right: Art, Frank L-, and Martin Holzschu and Lawrence Sterly.
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4057 Inter town Road Petoskey, Michigan 49770

This is the story of a Case tractor. The tractor was purchased
the same year Julie was born and it was used many years on the
Sterly family farm. Julie, our three sons, and I have been members
of the Buckley Old Engine Club for a number of years and are
charter members of the Walloon Lake Fly-Wheelers Club. I have
restored many old relics over the years and have taken them to the
shows. This is what led to the restoration of Julie’s
tractor.

In the late 1940s Julie’s parents bought a farm south of
Petoskey, Michigan, and started their family. It was a hard
beginning, real horse power was used to till the land. They had a
few milk cows, pigs and some chickens. In 1952 Julie’s father
bought a new VAC Case tractor. It was the first of many advances to
update the farm into a modern and economic business. From that time
on more tractors were bought and a top producing dairy herd was put
together. The farm has since been handed down to Julie’s
brother. He has continued to upgrade the farm.

In the early 1960s Julie learned to drive this tractor. The
probable reason for this was that hay wagons needed to be
transported to and from the field and barn, during the hay making
season. Her older brothers were needed to load and unload the
wagons so it became Julie’s turn to do the driving. She had to
pull back on the steering wheel, slide forward on the seat to push
the clutch in far enough to shift gears. It took some practice and
it wasn’t long before she became an expert wheel person. She
has a vivid memory of pulling the big and heavy loads of hay. The
front wheels of the Case would lift off the ground as she drove up
the grade and used the brake to steer onto the drive leading to the
barn. For her older brothers this was an added thrill, but for
Julie it was a frightening experience.

Around 1965 there were a number of tractors on the farm.
Julie’s father bought a new 706 International tractor and
traded in the VAC Case. At that time the Case was in fair
condition, but had an enormous number of hours on it. Her father
also had another VAC Case in better repair, so the original Case
was gone.

In 1968 the second VAC Case was broken and the dollars for
replacement parts were high. While talking to the implement dealer,
Lawrence learned of the whereabouts of his original tractor. He
traced the owner and bought it for a parts tractor. It was in sad
shape, the block was cracked, and it didn’t run. He hauled it
home, put it in the shed, and took the parts needed for the other
tractor. Obtaining the original tractor was for economic reasons
rather than sentimental, but he was happy to have the tractor
back.

In 1975 Lawrence sold the farm, built a new home and tool shed.
The original tractor was moved to the new shed. As time passed he
continued to rob parts for use on the other VAC Case.

In 1990 after an old engine show, Julie thought it would be nice
if I was to restore the original VAC Case tractor. At the time I
thought a VAC was a dull tractor with no class. I had other
projects, and after restoring a F-12 Farmall tractor a few years
before, I knew the amount of work would be great. I told her to
check with her father and see if we could buy the tractor. Lawrence
gave her the tractor. We hauled it home and put it in our storage
building. We tore the tractor down and made an assessment of the
damage and missing parts. It was clear we needed another tractor
for parts, and the project was put on hold until another tractor
could be found.

My uncle had an older model VAC Case and I told him when he was
ready to get rid of it, to let me know. In the spring of 1993 Don
came to our home and told me he was done with the Case and if I
wanted it, to come and get it. The next day my boys and I hauled
the tractor home. The tractor ran and I thought we were all set. We
started the restoration, bought new tires, and everything was fine
until we opened the engine. The block had been cracked inside and
out and been repaired once before. The timing gear on the camshaft
was loose and one could rotate the crankshaft three-quarters of a
turn before the camshaft engaged, and there were a host of other
problems. Again we made an assessment of parts and it was clear we
needed another engine. If this tractor was a 1920 cross mount Case
one could take the parts and do whatever to make it run and it
would be fine, but when new parts can be bought for a VAC Case, it
does not make sense to bandage it back together. So the project was
put on hold for a second time.

I still thought a VAC Case was a dull and boring tractor. After
one has worked on and been part owner of a traction engine, water
wagon and prairie plow, the row-crop tractor holds little
affection. One evening at the Buckley Show we were talking with
friends about locomotives and how they were streamlined in the late
thirties and early forties. That’s when it dawned on me. Case
introduced the VAC in the early Forties; it was not only styled, it
was a streamlined tractor. This perception of the VAC changed my
mind. A VAC Case has class, and lots of it.

In February 1994 Julie found an ad listing a Case tractor for
sale. We bought the tractor, hauled it home, disassembled the
engine and had all the things done to make it run like new. We had
the crank ground, main bearings line-bored, and the head and valves
reconditioned. We assembled the engine in May, completed the
tractor in June. The project took about four years. The VAC went
from a hard working farm tractor to an abusive owner who cared
little for the tractor, just what it could do for him. Then back to
the farm as a parts tractor, and is now Julie’s pampered
antique parade vehicle. I think Julie’s parents were a little
disgusted with me at times. They would ask me how things were going
on the Case and I would tell them the project was on hold for one
reason or another. Julie was also disheartened at times, but
understands that a restoration project takes on a life of its own.
There are many twists and turns. Sometimes it just takes time to
get the parts and pieces in condition and order to assemble them
into something. Julie intends to drive the tractor in the parades
at Walloon Lake and Buckley, but has no plans for pulling hay
wagons in the future. This is the true story of Julie’s
first-class tractor.

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