The name John Deere conjures up images of shiny green tractors rolling through corn fields, but that wasn't always the case. John Deere started as a plow company. It wasn't until the early 1900s that it ventured into the world of tractors.
Most people don't know that, and that's something Rick Walker and the Maumee Valley Antique Steam and Gas Association would like to change. The group is hosting the 17th annual Winter Tractor and Engine Show this weekend at Memorial Coliseum. In the past it used the former Kruse Auction Park facilities in Auburn, but the new ownership there has changed that. The change of venue hasn't lessened the show; it's larger this year.
Walker said the tractors in this weekend's show are better-looking now than they were when they came off the assembly line. Collectors fix them up and bring them out to show off their handiwork. The tractors show the history of farming in the United States from 1918 to the 1970s.
“Farming has evolved immensely from that point, so you see a lot of variety,” Walker said.
There are tractors in the show of all shapes and sizes. The ones that were made during World War II are more obvious because of the metal tires; rubber was a scarce commodity during the war. Walker said tractors used to be smaller because there were more family farms, using less acreage, so a larger tractor just wasn't needed. With the advent of large corporate farms, smaller tractors are no longer in demand, and many are no longer made. They would be lost to the public, Walker said, if there weren't people who enjoy restoring and displaying them at antique tractor shows. The association, Walker said, is keeping history alive by educating the public about these antique tractors and engines.
Dale Davis and his wife, Rita, attended the show with their two antique Allis-Chalmers tractors, one a 57 D14 and the other a 1965 D10 Series 3.
“There were only 1,800 of the D10 Series 3 made,” Davis said, nodding to the sleek orange tractor. “We have a good time with our tractors, we take them to parades and tractor shows.”
Davis said they do five or six parades and eight to 10 shows during the summer. His wife drives the smaller tractor. The overhead lights of the arena sparkled off the two coats of clear coat that show off the tractors' perfect orange paint job. Davis grew up on a family farm near Climax, Mich. He and his wife lease out the acreage now, but they still enjoy their tractors.
Down at the far end of the arena, Lyman Newcomer, of Bryon, Ohio, was displaying a 2-year-old model engine he built. A retired farmer, he made all the parts.
“I had to have something to do with my time, so I spend my time making model engines and model tractors,” said Newcomer.
Newcomer fondly remembers having an American Flyer model train when he was a child. He used to get his grandfather to drive him into town so he could look at the trains.
Tangible history lines the aisles with more than 200 antique tractors in the show. In addition to the tractors, attendees can see small engines and farm toys, and vendors are at the show with tractor and small engine parts.