Russ' Vintage Iron

One Man's IH Gold Demonstrator Vintage Iron Story

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Last month I wrote about some oddities in the vintage iron world, from John Deere having different models of tractors with the same number designation to both International and Ford having gold-painted tractors to mark some aspect in the history of their organizations.

Shortly after I wrote the column, I received a phone call from Richard Bird, a farmer from Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He had an interesting story to tell me about his International 1026 -- a gold demonstrator 1026.

His story began in the 1970s. He would often help neighbors on their farm, and they farmed with both an IH 656 and 1026.

In 1977, the neighbors had a farm equipment auction and the tractors were sold. The 1026 was bought by another small farmer in the area who used it sparingly over the years, mainly with a rotary cutter and to bale hay.

While the tractor didn't get used much, it did sit outside. Over the course of about 30 years, the tractor was in pretty bad physical shape, being exposed to the conditions over the years.

"It was just a big piece of junk," Bird told me.

This farmer had a farm equipment auction, and while Bird was interested in the old 1026, a local farm equipment dealer ended up buying it. The tractor then sat on their lot for some time.

One day after the dealer had the tractor for a couple of years, he emailed the owner of the equipment dealership to see if he would be interested in selling the old 1026. It turned out the dealer had restored the tractor and discovered it was a gold demonstrator 1026.

After some negotiation, Bird bought the tractor.

To refresh your memory from last month's column, in 1970 -- and just that one year -- International built five models of tractors (544, 656, 826, 1026 and 1456) with gold-painted hoods and fenders. The gold demonstrators marked the introduction of the hydrostatic transmission by IH.

Bird told me that, after doing some research on these tractors, as far as he knows no one really knows how many gold demonstrator tractors were manufactured by IH. He said that, at the time, every dealer was supposed to receive one, and after they sold the tractor, it was to be painted red.

He speculated that, in some cases, maybe the new owners wanted to keep the gold paint, so some may not have been painted red. However, a higher percentage of these tractors probably saw a paint job after being sold, and thus some were discovered years later as was the case with his 1026.

The most common gold demonstrator IH model was the 826, while the model that was the least common was the 1456, he said. The gold paint does increase the value of one of these five models, and he said he thought it could raise the value by $10,000.

Because of this, some less-than-honest people have been painting IH tractors gold in hopes of duping people into paying more for tractors painted gold. Bird points out only those five models can be true gold demonstrators AND only serial numbers from 1970.

Bird also told me that the gold demonstrator was not the first time IH painted farm equipment another color other than the familiar red. In 1950, the Farmall C, as well as some hay balers, were painted white to promote IH's line of farm equipment.

"While I used both tractors helping the neighbor, I really wanted the 656, as I used that one more," Bird told me.

Bird's gold demonstrator 1026 has only 2,880 hours on it, and it was featured in the July 2016 edition of Red Power magazine.

Do you have a unique tractor like Richard Bird's gold demonstrator 1026? Send me your story.

Thanks to Richard for the taking the time to call me. I always enjoy a nice conversation about vintage iron!

Russ Quinn can be reached at

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