One Collector’s Experiences Tracking Down A Centaur

By Staff
1 / 3
Centaur as it arrived from Cleveland.
2 / 3
Margaret and 'her' Cushman.
3 / 3
Don's first Centaur turning over dirt.

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.

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