Russ' Vintage Iron

Tracing Vintage Iron

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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One of things I really would like to do someday is find one of my late grandpa's old tractors, specifically a 1945 International Farmall M. The M was, as far as I know, the only new tractor he ever purchased in his long farming career.

The story goes, toward the end of the World War II he wanted a new tractor but he couldn't buy one because of rationing for the war effort which limited the amount of new farm equipment. His brother owned a nearby sand-pit business and he could actually still purchase equipment.

So my great uncle purchased the tractor from International and then my grandpa bought it from him. The only down side to this was the M was painted industrial yellow and so the first thing he did was paint the tractor the familiar red.

The rest of the story is he couldn't buy any implements to go along with his new tractor (again because of rationing) so he found an equipment dealer in the neighboring town of Valley, Nebraska, who essentially was selling farm equipment on the "black market." He ended purchasing several pieces of equipment from this person.

The M was his big tractor from the mid-1940s through 1960 when he traded a John Deere B for a John Deere 620 (which we still have and use today) at the John Deere dealership located in nearby Bennington, Nebraska. At this point, the M become his secondary tractor.

My grandpa continued to use the M through the late 1960s. He had some health problems about this same time, semi-retired and my dad and uncle took over farming.

In 1968, they traded the M in at the other local John Deere dealership in Valley for a used John Deere 730, their first diesel tractor. The 620 replaced the M as the smaller horsepower tractor on their farm.

The M was purchased by another farmer who farmed not too far away from my grandparent's. He was an older guy and used the M until he stopped farming sometime in the 1970s.

His son-in-law, who is distantly related to my family, and grandson ended up with the tractor and farmed with it for a number of years. As part of a school shop project, the grandson gave the M a new coat of paint.

Then in the late 1970s they put the M on a neighbor's farm equipment auction east of Arlington, Nebraska, and it was sold once again. And this is the end of the line for tracing what happened to my grandpa's M.

The son-in-law and grandson told me they didn't know who bought the M, obviously the tractor was not purchased by a local person or at least someone they knew. I asked some of our family friends who remembered that farm auction and even went to it but they too didn't know who bought it as it was several decades ago.

I also asked if anyone knew who the auctioneer was that day, thinking if it was one of the local auctioneering businesses in the area I could maybe see if they still had their records from that sale. No one could remember this fact either.

So that is the end of the trail for me on the M. I also tried to locate the B my grandpa traded for the 620 and later when the 730 was traded in.

I didn't find anyone who knew anything about the B but the family who bought the 730 after my dad and uncle traded it in were local. I was told they farmed with it for many years and then they sold it - to someone from Canada.

Stymied again.

I do actually know many people who have successfully tracked down a family member's tractor, bought it back and restored it. Congrats and know that I am happy for you, but also a bit envious.

Let me know your stories of how you tracked down your family vintage iron. How did you find it? Where did you find it? How long did it take? I will use these interesting tales in upcoming columns.

Russ Quinn can be reached at