Russ' Vintage Iron

Rare Vintage Combines

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
Connect with Russ:

A couple months ago I was on Twitter and someone had posted a few photos of their Oliver self-propelled combine. I have seen Oliver pull-type combines and corn pickers (my dad even owned a pull-type Oliver corn picker for a short period of time) but I did not even know Oliver ever made a self-propelled combine.

As I always do in these situations, I turned to the internet. Sure enough there is a website with a list of Oliver combines (…).

According to the site, the first combine they had a photo of was an Oliver 25 model combine. There was also model 33, 35 and 40 combines listed. The site did not have what years these combines were made but it was a combine without a cab so I would guess it was probably from the 1950s.

Then the next series was another uncabbed combine, models 430 and 431. Another series appears to be 525 and 535. There were also 542 and 545 models.

Then Oliver went to four digits and the combines had cabs, which again using some logic is probably in the 1960s. One series looks to be 5542 and 5555.

And then the last three-number series of Oliver combines (7300, 7600 and 7800) appear to be later when the Oliver with the White Farm Equipment Company as the one photo is a red combine but it says "Oliver" on the side of the machine. I remember seeing a few White combines, that were actually red in color, over the years but again I have never seen an Oliver combine -- green or red.

Years ago I was traveling a state highway somewhere in west-central Iowa and sitting on a farm place was a blue Ford combine. Up to this point (and since now that I think about it) I had never seen a Ford combine.

Again I turned to the internet but this time I couldn't find information much about Ford combines.

I did find some photos of a few combines - photos which featured older, red Ford combines (maybe from the 1950s) and some which were of blue combines (perhaps from the 1960s/1970s). The one sales flyer I read said the blue combines was 630 and 640 model Ford combine.

And that is about the extent of my knowledge of the Oliver and Ford self-propelled combines.

I did stumble upon a farm equipment chatroom and there was some discussion that for a short period of time Oliver and Ford went together to produce combines and the Oliver versions were painted green while the Ford combines were red. However, I couldn't find any other information confirming that this was actually true.

It does make me wonder how many other farm equipment manufacturers built a full-fledged, self-propelled combine. I think we all know John Deere, IH/Case/Case IH, New Holland, Gleaner, Massey-Harris/Ferguson all built self-propelled combines.

Am I missing any North American combine manufacturer? Obviously Oliver and Ford should be added to this list.

I say full-fledged, self-propelled combines because I know companies such as New Idea and Minneapolis-Moline both manufactured power units and attachments, which could do a host of different harvesting.

I wrote a Vintage Iron column from February 5, 2016, (…) about the New Idea Uni-Harvest system as a visit to my wife's late grandparents' farm revealed a couple old Uni-Harvest systems still parked in the tree line. These two Uni systems were his harvesting machine for a later portion of his farming career, according to the family.

The Minneapolis-Moline Uni-Tractor was made from 1951 to 1963, according to (…). The machine was a 48-horsepower power unit used to drive other machinery, including the Uni-Harvest combine, the Uni-Forager forage harvester, the Uni-Baler hay baler and the Uni-Picker corn picker.

Did you own an Oliver or Ford combines or maybe you knew someone who did? What are your/their experiences with these machines?

What about the New Idea or MM Uni-Harvest systems? Did you harvest many different crops with these interesting vintage machines?

Please contact me and we will run these stories in future columns.

Russ Quinn can be reached at