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Old Iron: A follow-up and a farewell

Lance Phillips for Progressive Forage Published on 27 November 2019

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing this column for Progressive Forage for three years. When I heard the magazine was looking for someone to write about vintage tractors and old hay machines, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

A local extension agent was already writing for the magazine, and he heard they were looking for someone to write an “old iron” column. He mentioned it to my club president, Ron, who reached out to me to see if I might be interested. I called the editor, Lynn, right away, and we had a great conversation. It seemed like the right fit for both of us, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

I remember my papaw saving many magazine articles; he loved to look at and read farm magazines, especially ones that offered a feature on vintage farm machinery. When I would stop by, he would usually have one ready to show me. Sometimes it would be something like we were working on at the time, and others were just something interesting he knew I’d want to see. He’d say something like, “When are you going to put some of yours in a magazine?” Well, who would have thought I would be writing the stories myself, providing photos of our stuff and do it for three years for a great publication? I think he would have been really pleased to go to the mailbox and pull out a magazine with my story in it. I sure wish he had been around to do that.

I also wanted to follow up on a story I did about Oliver muscle tractors of the ’70s. I wrote about our Oliver 2255 FWA with 3208 V-8 Cat diesel and the Oliver G-1355 with 585ci Minneapolis-Moline diesel (my favorite of the two).

Oliver G-1355 with 585ci Minneapolis-Moline (M-M) diesel engine

I created some confusion when I emailed the photos to Lynn, so the G-1355 didn’t make it into that issue. This tractor would barely run when we got it. We tried several different things to help it, but it didn’t do any good. We had to have the injection pump rebuilt, all new injectors and had to completely re-time the engine (with help from our buddy Jader). Whoever had been messing with it had really done a number on it. Now it fires right up, runs like a champ and is such a pleasure to use. I really hope I can hitch it up to the Vermeer 605 Super J round baler and see what it will do one of these days.

I was hoping to be able to include an update on the New Holland Super 78 Hayliner square baler. Dad, Andrew and I worked hard on it several days back in June and July trying to get it ready for our annual show. We didn’t quite get where we needed to for it to go into service, but we did make some great progress and diagnosed and addressed some of the bigger issues it had. We mounted the VH4D V-4 Wisconsin air-cooled engine and cranked it up. We finally got the plunger out of the baler but still have some work to do in the chamber before we’re ready to put it back together. I really look forward to using it and will hopefully take it to next year’s show.

Several things have changed since this journey through our collection began. I don’t have near as much time to farm as I used to, so I decided to sell my land to hopefully focus more on the kids and create more time with them now that they are both in school. It still hasn’t sold yet, so anybody out there thinking of moving to Virginia, give me a shout.

I also don’t have as much time to tinker on the tractors, so I’ve decided to “thin the herd” and liquidate a few of them while coming to the realization that I can’t save them all and can’t acquire something just to save it from the scrap yard. They say this tractor-collecting hobby is a “sickness,” and it probably is, but I’d sure rather have this problem over a lot of other things going out there. Believe me, as a pharmacist, I see a lot of alternatives to having a nice, safe, rewarding hobby working with many great people – and it ain’t pretty.

Our tractor club is all about “preserving the past for the future,” and we are working hard to do just that. Please support your local collector organizations, and if you or someone you know inherits, finds or has a barn full of old equipment and doesn’t have a clue what to do with it, please let these people know, and they can help guide you in determining a value of your equipment and advise the best ways to disperse it. Many clubs are classified as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and can accept tractors and equipment as donations in accordance with certain guidelines.

I guess it’s time to wrap it up. This will be my last column in Progressive Forage. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Lynn Jaynes for this opportunity to share our collection and experiences involving our old iron with readers across the country; I have actually been contacted by a few of you, and I greatly appreciate that as well. I would also like to thank all my buddies who have helped me and taught me about tractors and hard work over the years. No way to name them all, but they know who they are.

Hopefully, these writings can someday give my kids an idea of what all this stuff meant to their dad, Dubby (my dad) and Papaw Pete, and all the hard work and time it took to get what we had. (And hopefully it’s before they plan a big auction to get rid of all this stuff, but maybe not.) Only time will tell, I guess.  end mark

PHOTO: The Oliver G-1355 with 585ci Minneapolis-Moline (M-M) diesel engine was also sold, as was the Minneapolis-Moline G-1355 and the White 2270. As the meadow-green paint slowly peels off, you can see this tractor probably began its life as an M-M.

I wish I had a firm number of how many were true Oliver G-1355s from the factory. Some wise Oliver specialists have said if the dealer had an M-M version on the lot, and the farmer was partial to Oliver, they would repaint and rebadge the tractors as Oliver right there at the dealership. Photo by Lance Phillips.

Note from the editor: We’ll miss Lance’s column, as I’m sure readers will too. We felt so lucky to find Lance and are fortunate enough to consider him a real friend. Thank you, Lance, for sharing your passion with us. We miss you already.