Pete’s Top Tales

December 14, 2013 04:43 AM

Some machines have legends bigger than themselves

There are two aspects I’ve loved about covering auctions for the past 24 years. Of course, the first is price discovery—what is that piece of equipment worth? Second is the people. Auctions are events centered around people, and I’ve always loved talking about iron with folks from all over. There’s so much to learn.

The machinery discussion has really taken flight this past year with the explosive growth of our Machinery Pete Facebook page and "You Tube" channel. Both are ideal avenues to share machinery stories. Here are a few of my favorite tales from 2013, recounting the unique history behind each piece of equipment.

Thanks to all of the readers who reached out to share their pictures and stories with me; keep ‘em coming in 2014. To join in on the fun, visit and

You can e-mail Greg Peterson at

School Bus Loads Hay Bales

BusHayLoader DallasHenry SD

Dallas Henry from Highmore, S.D., shows how he and his two sons load dairy-quality alfalfa hay.

"For four or five years, I’ve used this bus to load bales, which goes 20 to 25 mph in the field. I bought it reversed but have done a lot of modifications. The truck drivers I sell hay to love it," he says.

It has an IHC 7.3-liter diesel engine and is geared with a four-speed Allison automatic transmission.

1957 Custom-Built Tractor


A tip on Facebook led to a custom tractor located in Clear Lake, Iowa. Built by brothers Vince, Jim and Dale Schmitz from Ventura, Iowa, the tractor used to run dual two-row corn pickers and a John Deere No. 6 corn sheller. It also pulled two plows at once (a four- and five-bottom). It’s built from three Farmall F30 tractors—two for the rear end and one for the tricycle front—with a Ford industrial motor from a 2-ton truck. In 1972, Bill Olson bought the tractor at auction for $1,500. Recently, Olson sold the tractor to Vince Schmitz’s son, Bobby, who restored it to like-new.

Tractor With 14 Hours Left Outside for 20 Years

JD4960 treepic2

Folks across central and southern Ohio knew of this tractor—a John Deere 4960 bought new back in the day, then inexplicably left to sit. Legend has it the original owner shooed away the curious ... at the barrel of his shotgun.

When the original owner passed away, Joe Young and his son, Ryan, of Rushville, Ohio, sprang into action. Ryan says the tractor showed 14.9 hours after he popped in a new battery. Amazingly, it started up fine. The cab still had plastic on the seat and cardboard on the floor—and the whiff of "new" tractor smell after 20 years. The Youngs had the hood replaced, as it had pitted out due to sap dripping on it. They also replaced the original tires. Now the tractor has a whopping 47 hours on it. A local dealer offered $100,000 for it. No dice. It sold for $72,000 new in April 1992.

1896 Golden Gate 7-hp Gas Engine: $200,000

GoldenGateengine 200K WA

Wow! That’s about all I can say about the price tag for this rare 117-year-old gas engine sold at a collector auction in Lowden, Wash., on June 22, 2013. Here are the specifications on the engine: "1896 Golden Gate 7-hp vertical single-cylinder gasoline engine. Built in San Francisco by Adam Schilling & Sons; No. 4 stamped on head. Ted Small [an early engine collector] had a new aluminum piston built. Original piston included. Very likely has the original muffler; 52" flywheel; 291⁄2" wooden belt pulley with custom wood portion done by John Knapp. Procured from Phillip Ferguson at the homestead in the Cottonwood Creek Foothills. Originally used to grind seed. Ran when tested."

1978 IHC 4186 with 6 Hours

IHC4186 MI  36500

Proof that I still haven’t seen it all came on Aug. 20, 2013, at an online auction from east-central Michigan. This sale had equipment owned by a someone who had the habit of buying things … and then just not using them. His auction had three amazing items:

  • 1978 International Harvester 4186 four-wheel-drive tractor (pictured) with 6 hours: $36,500
  • 1980 International Harvester 4386 four-wheel-drive tractor with 498 hours: $43,450
  • 1997 Ford F350 XL 4x4 pickup, regular cab, only 59 miles: $22,000

Maybe now I’ve seen it all.

Field of Dreams in New York

KevinSykes JDTractors NYshed

All across the country I’ve bumped into Kevin Sykes from Oriskany Falls, N.Y., who has been buying and selling low-hour John Deere tractors in outstanding condition. The picture is of Sykes’ shed that is full of amazing tractors. Some of the tractors were bought as investments. For example, in 1994, Sykes purchased a 1991 John Deere 4455 with 33 hours for $58,000. He sold the tractor in 2012 for $155,000 to a buyer from Mexico. Even after another interested buyer showed up the next day with a briefcase filled with $175,000 in cash, Kevin kept his word and shipped the tractor to the buyer in Mexico.

20 Custom-Built Hay Wagons Pulled by an International Harvester 1206

HayWagon20 pic

In late October, Ed Timm of Michigan sent me a picture with this description via Facebook: "My brother (Chuck Timm) has been building a hay wagon every year for the past 20 years. Here are all 20 in a row. He just keeps building them and adding to his collection. He uses old front and rear truck axles for the running gear and lumber from old power poles for the racks."

How cool is that? Sticking with something so unique like this for 20 years. What was even more amazing was the video of all 20 custom-built hay wagons being pulled by Chuck Timm’s International Harvester 1206 tractor.

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