Fieldside Classics: A Visit To Hentze Family Farm – “I’ll Shoot The Old Tractors And Trucks While You Buy The Walnuts”

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Folks around here have been visiting farms like Hentze Family Farm near Junction City for generations; the farm dates back to 1902. It’s a regular on Stephanie’s short list of farms for all the produce she freezes, cans, pickles and dries each year. Yesterday was a beautiful warm and partially sunny day, so we went for a hike and swung by Hentze’s for walnuts and tractors on their last open day of the year.

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I instantly gravitated first to this fine representative of what I consider the most beautiful tractors of the classic period, the Olivers. Their exceptionally slim hoods and Streamline Moderne styling made them the standout of the crowded field in the late thirties. This Model 66 is from 1949-1954, so the styling is a bit less exuberant, but it still retained the unusual full engine covers, something the rest of the competition never bothered with for the most part, for practical reasons, or quickly jettisoned.

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The 66 was a medium sized tractor for its time, and had a 129 CID (2.1 L) Oliver-Waukesha ohv four that was rated at 25.03 hp at the belt @1600 rpm. It competed against the immensely popular Farmall H and the John Deere B. The next size up, the  Oliver 77, had a six cylinder engine, which made it by far the smoothest tractor of its time and field.

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I got some seat time on a 77 during my tractor driving career, and its silky-smooth six was a revelation after getting buzzy hands from piloting a Farmall all day, or the full-body shakes from a two-cylinder Johnny Popper.

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The Olivers had a three speed gear box backed by a two speed, giving six speeds forward and two reverse. If only they’d been synchronized…life in the field as a nine-year old would have been so much easier.

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The second thing that caught my lens was this vintage mini-tractor. From early on, there’s always been a market for really small tractors to replace a mule or horse in certain jobs. I don’t know who made this particular one, but what really attracted me to it was its really big single-cylinder Wisconsin engine. I have some particularly memorable experience with one…

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I wrote about it here, but the short version is that some neighbors of the Mennonite farmers I used to stay with had built a home-made “chore scooter”, something a bit like this, but lower, wider and squatter; its sole purpose was to haul a few cans of milk from the dairy barn to the milk house, or run other chores around the big farm, sort of a proto-ATV. It had the same big Wisconsin engine up front, and was then backed by two three-speed car transmissions in a row, feeding into a narrowed car rear axle and wheels.

With nine gears forward and three reverse, it could slow down to a crawl, or really move out on the gravel road. I never had so much fun bombing around, fooling around with all the gear combinations; reverse-reverse gave a super low forward gear, and so on.

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Since third-third gave straight direct drive, this thing was potentially as fast as a car, given its automotive rear axle and wheels/tires. It was just a matter of how fast one could coax the big one-lunger Wisconsin. Which made me wonder, what speed does this thing run at?

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A model AGND, with 3½” bore and 4″ stroke, which is very much in automotive engine size. Displacement is 38.5 cubic inches, or 631cc; a thumper in the truest sense of the word. This was the biggest single cylinder engine ever built by Wisconsin, and I suspect it’s the biggest of its whole kind, in more modern history anyway. A quick trip via Google gives me the vital stats: first built in 1957, the AGND produced 12.5 hp @3200 rpm, and 32.5 ft.lbs of torque @2000rpm.

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What it doesn’t convey is the wonderful exhaust sound that one big cylinder made through the exhaust system made up of threaded pipe when it was in top-top gear and opened up: chuggg, chuggg, chuggg….I suppose theoretically the chore scooter could have hit about 55-60mph, given that the Wisconsin’s 3200rpm peak was probably only a bit below whatever old flathead six originally applied turning force to the rear axle. I doubt I got it up quite to that, but whatever it was, it felt more like 120, chugging down the straight gravel road wide open.

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Enough of childhood memories…let’s head over down on the other side of the farm store, which was once a dairy barn. Hentze’s sells a wide variety of produce, and things like green beans and cucumbers in 5 gallon buckets, so convenient for the home food processor. Walnuts were on our shopping list; a ten pound bag at least.

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The Oliver is not used in front line duty anymore; that’s left to several more modern International Farmalls and such. Well, this Farmall 560 with a two-bottom plow may look a lot more contemporary than the Oliver, but it actually dates back to 1958, the first of the “modern” styled in the family. This one look like it’s getting a tire fixed, and not getting its rear end repaired, which was a major problem with these.

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The 560 was International’s first six-cylinder tractor, but they used the same final drive as its 450 predecessor, and that turned into a fiasco. International had to rush out a stronger one in 1959, and undertake a massive replacement program for the older ones.

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In addition to the tractors, there’s a number of older cars and trucks around too, like this Mercury Topaz. Since we were the only customers, they must live here.

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Here’s the rest of the front-line fleet, but there’s some oldies yet to come elsewhere. This looks like a sixties’ International museum down here, except for the one lone John Deere, which I failed to go look and identify. Someone will know.

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Here’s the big guy, a 1466 Turbo. When this came out in 1971, it was still in the early years of the tractor horsepower wars. International unveiled the first 100+ hp tractor in 1965, their first turbo, the 1206. This 1466 is a later development of that, and its tested PTO hp was a whopping 145.77; what a massive jump from what most tractors had in the sixties, 50-70 hp. International had a head start in turbo technology, since it owned SOLAR back then, a dominant maker of gas turbines. Very few trucks were using turbochargers in the late sixties.

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This International 460 also dates to 1958. It may look like a little utility tractor like the Ford N series and such, but this little puppy has a healthy six cylinder under its hood, a slightly smaller version as in that 560 row-crop. The engine is rated at 71.5 hp; 61 at the PTO. BTW, this web site, tractordata.com,  has detailed specs on just about any tractor ever made.

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This high-boy 504 is obviously used mainly for cultivating between rows of vegetables and such, but its been put to use hauling a nice wooden drift boat most recently. The Hentze farm borders the Willamette River, so presumably it’s been used to launch it without getting wet. Clever…

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And here’s the classic farm truck, a 1955 Ford F600 in this case. The river is just past that line of trees behind its hood.

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The chickens and geese were getting fed, and the goats came to get in on the action. That lead to a noisy confrontation, and one of the smaller goats getting bit on its butt. And what’s that being used as a chicken coop in the distance?

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An International Metro, my favorite van ever (CC here).

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Hmmm; what’s this grinning up at the sun? Quite the horns on that head-becoming-skull.

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Fortunately I noticed something bright red peeking our behind the barn, so naturally I went to check it out. And I’m glad I did; what a gem of a tractor, a Massey-Harris 22 looking all the world like a big toy. Well, that’s what tractors are, aren’t they?

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Well, its toy-like appearance turned out to be a bit deceptive, as I assumed it was a class smaller than the Oliver 66. Not so; in fact, it has the Oliver beat with 31 belt hp. These were built in Racine, Wisconsin, and used a Continental-built 140 CID (2.3L) ohv four. By the way, overhead valves were almost ubiquitous in tractor engines going way back to the beginning of the species. The Ford tractors were the exception, thanks to Henry’s unabashed love of the flat head. Why?

Almost certainly because of the over head valve’s intrinsic greater efficiency. All tractors were tested by the brutal Nebraska  Tractor tests, and their power ouputs at the PTO, belt, drawbar, and tractive efforts were critical for sales and bragging rights. There was certainly no comparable tests for cars; then or now. A flathead is intrinsically less efficient in turning fuel into power.

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And back behind the barn is another familiar tractor from the fifties, a bit later than the M-H 22 though. The family I stayed with had an Allis Chalmers WD45 like this, with row crop front wheels, the first two years I went out. It was another player in that popular class, although it was a fair bit more powerful then the Farmall H; with 43 belt hp it was the most powerful tractor in its class, actually.

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The Allis Chalmers had an offset driver’s position, like the smaller Farmalls. It made locating the steering column easier, and gave better somewhat better visibility when cultivating.

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Almost missed this old tiller in the herbs by the front door. Another Wisconsin engine; this time an AB from the thirties or forties, making all of 3.0 hp at a leisurely 2600rpm.

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Here’s a picture of the Oliver being used  by Gordon Hentze, from their web site. Goodbye!