Russ' Vintage Iron

Another Vintage Iron Generation?

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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This Massey-Harris 44 is not the Quinn family's Massey mentioned in this column. But perhaps someday the Quinn Massey will look as good. (Photo by Massey-Harris_44 by RoseOhioResident; CC BY-SA 4.0)

As you know from reading this column over the years, my family's color of choice with tractors on our farm is John Deere green. We do, however, have a couple other colors of tractors on our place.

We have a 1955 International Farmall 400 with a wide front end and a grapple-fork Farmhand loader as our back-up loader tractor. We put up hay about 30 miles away from the home farm so we needed two loader tractors, one on each end, to load and unload round bales of hay.

We bought the 400 from my uncle a good 15 years ago when he bought a four-digit Oliver tractor with a loader. The old gasburner is kind of nice to have when it's cold out and you need a tractor when all the diesel tractors are not plugged in.

Before we had this tractor, about 20 years ago, I had bought a 1951 Massey-Harris 44 tractor with factory three-point to move bales. My thought was we could push bales off the trailer and then we could move them into place with the Massey and a three-point bale mover.

The Massey would pick up the bales, but it just couldn't lift them off the ground very far. On a flat spot, you could line up the bales, which we did, but if you ever had to move a bale up an incline you had to go in reverse, because in forward gear the bale would catch the ground and come off the bale mover.

After we got the 400, the 44 didn't really have many chores it could do.

If you know anything about this model of Massey-Harris you know the PTO shaft is above the center link for three-point, so running a three-point shredder for instance is not an option. I'm not quite sure why they would use such a strange design.

I thought about selling it but I never did. We ran it on the auger at harvest time in the fall for a few years and then it got parked in the back corner of the shed. It didn't run for a number of years.

Enter my 15-year-old son, Kyle. He helps us on the farm and he was curious about old Massey in the corner of the shed.

So one day this fall when the harvest equipment came out of the shed, my dad and I dug the Massey out of the corner for him. He put a new battery in it and we took the carburetor off and cleaned it up some.

He got it running again but now the new battery won't stay charged. We told him most likely there is something wrong with the generator, which is why it's not keeping the battery charged. So the next project for him is to take that off and get it rebuilt.

And so it begins -- perhaps another generation of vintage tractor enthusiast is born. He always liked driving tractors (especially the 620 since it was his great-grandpa's tractor) but now he appears to want to work on them.

He has told me he would like to have a John Deere tractor of his own, but for now having the Massey is better than having no tractor at all. He is a freshman in high school and involved with FFA and has even thought about restoring a tractor for a future FFA project.

I guess we will see if this actually happens or not. For now, he is just trying to keep the old Massey Harris running -- which will keep him busy for a while.


Last month I wrote about the "Exhibit A/B" John Deere tractors, after seeing an "Exhibit B" John Deere D listed on an online auction. For those of you who didn't read the column (or know about obscure tractor manufacturing facts) Deere produced 50 Ds in the summer of 1930 which had some special modifications.

An old, unrestored D is normally worth a few thousand dollars at most. I ran into one with an online bid of $13,000 -- way more than usual. Why? Because it was an "Exhibit B" D. I never did go back and look to see what it ultimately brought.

I was hoping to hear from folks who had experience with these tractors. But I suppose because these are SO rare, not very many people ever owned one or even know someone who owned one. This is too bad -- it would have been very interesting to hear their stories about these tractors.

If you have any stories about "Exhibit A/B" John Deere tractors, please reach out to me. I would still love to hear some tales about these tractors.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Russ Quinn