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1936 Deere Wins Oldest Operating Combine Contest
FARM SHOW salutes Bob O'Neil, Almira, Wa., winner of our contest to find the oldest operating combine.
The upcoming season marks the 55th consecutive year that Bob or his dad have gone to the field with "Old Faithful" a 1936 Deere Model A pull-type that Bob's dad, and his uncle Frank, bought new for $5,000, which included an RD-6 Caterpillar to pull it.
"It's a little slower than the new models but it does as good a job," says Bob. He revamped the hydraulics so the Cat "skinner" can adjust the header from the driver's seat. "I'm tempted to reverse the changes and go back to being the `header puncher' so I can ride on the combine instead of the Cat. I like being able to hear what's going on. I can tell by the sounds if there's a problem."
Bob has a junked combine which he cannibalizes for parts to keep "Old Faithful" running. Three self-propelled combines handle the bulk of his harvest, but Bob still manages 7 or 8 days of harvest with his favorite machine. "Operating it," he says, "is pure pleasure."
Here are other proud owners of "indestructible" combines that earned honorable mention in our "oldest operating combine" contest:
Rick Danielson, Grantsburg, Wis.: "I use it every year to harvest about 20 acres of soybeans," says Rick of his trusty old 1949 Massey Harris (Model 26 RT). It's powered by a Chrysler Industrial 200, 6 cyl. engine and is equipped with a 10 ft. grain head. As far as I know, I'm the third owner. The motor was overhauled 15 years ago."
Ralph Lawler, Linton, N. Dak.: Ralph expects his 1952 John Deere Model 55 to last "at least another five years with a minimum of maintenance. It was purchased in 1952 for $6,200. I bought it in 1983 for $1,000. I'd estimate it has harvested well over 16,000 acres. It still has the original Hercules motor which has been overhauled twice. The machine has spent the majority of its life being shedded. Almost every part has been replaced or rebuilt over the years. The challenge now is to find new parts. In the 7 years I've owned it, only one day was lost in harvest due to down time."
Albert Rem me, Dennison, Minn.: "I've owned my Case 120 self-propelled since 1965. It must have done a lot of work before I got it since the tires were recapped. I used to combine 100 acres a year with it but now only use it on about 20 acres of oats and wheat. I have a 1973 Massey Ferguson 760 that I use to harvest about 200 acres of corn and soybeans each year."
Kenneth Albinger, Saukville, Wis.: "My father has an IHC 127 SP combine, purchased in 1953, with a 12 ft. grain head. Dad, who is 80 years old this year, usually runs the machine. It did about 300 acres per year until 1980 and is now used on about 50 acres annually. It starts up just like it was brand new. Neighbors can't believe that the grain is cleaner than what the new machines are doing."
John Ruff, Logan, Kan.: "With the exception of a few design changes, I wish I could buy a brand new one exactly like it," says John of his 1958 IHC 151. "Last fall, it finished its 33rd consecutive year of use.
I've run it for 28 of those 33 years.
"The 151 isn't an easy combine to operate. Its controls are poorly designed and located, and it's dirty to run (I still haven't put a cab on it). But it has an incredible appetite for straw.
"The only major modification I've made was to have the cylinders and concaves rebuilt by St. John Welding, of St. John, Kan. That change made an entirely different combine out of it.
"A new 151 sold for $6,000 to $7,000 when they first came out. Manufacturers tried to build combines which most fanners could afford to buy and pay off in a few years. It's been a long time since that type of machinery has been available.
"I honestly don't know how much longer my dependable old 151 will keep going, but I hope it's a lot more years. I've never seen a combine I like better. It has given exceptional service and has probably been the difference between profit and loss on my wheat for several years."
Dan Stone, Deckerville, Mich.: "I have a still-operating 1959 Deere 45 with a grain head and a 210 corn head. I didn't use

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1991 - Volume #15, Issue #2