|By Cindy Ladage
NOKOMIS, Ill. — A tractor sold for more than half a million dollars smashing records when it sold on April 13 at an Aumann Auction.
“Probably the biggest accomplishment was a new world record set for the most expensive antique tractor ever sold at auction,” auctioneer Kurt Aumann said after the auction.
The record setting tractor was a 1910 Marshall Colonial Class C. Built by Marshall, Sons and Co., in Gainsborough, England, these were built specifically for export to English colonies. Tractors were shipped to Canada, South Africa, India and Austrailia. The catalog description said, “This impressive example is a Class C that is powered by a vertical 2 cylinder gas engine and originally shipped to Canada. Repatriated to the UK from Canada in the 1980s, it spent its working life in Saskatoon. Marshall had its own subsidiary in Saskatoon, the British Colonial Tractor Agency, which assembled tractors shipped from Gainsborough in crates. Some 300 Colonial tractors were built before production ended in late 1914 with the final batch going to Russia.”
In 1842 William Marshall bought the defunct engineering works of William Garland and Son at Back Street Foundry in Gainsborough. In 1849 he renamed it the Britannia Ironworks and began to produce road steam engines. In 1857 his son James Marshall become a partner and the company name was changed to William Marshall and Son. Marshall’s produced large numbers of steam traction engines, steam rollers, portable engines and agricultural machinery of all types.
In 1900 the firm started designing internal combustion-engined tractors to be called the Colonials, with a power of 16 to 32 hp (not comparable to modern hp) for the export market to replace steam engines.
Of the 300 Colonials built, the catalog claimed only two complete and one partial tractor are known to remain. This example was almost lost to history according to Aumann’s.
In the mid 1980s, a European tractor dealer made buying trips to Canada about 3 times a year. He always bought some tractors from a big salvage yard near Medicine Hat, Alberta. One day the owner of the salvage yard shows the dealer a poor quality Polaroid picture and asked him if he knew what the tractor was.
The dealer asked to see the tractor, but was told it wasn’t for sale. It took more than 15 buying trips before the dealer was able to finally see the tractor. The owner of the tractor was the granddaughter of the original owner and she told the dealer they were keeping the tractor in the family.
Every time the dealer was in the area he would stop by and ask about the tractor until one day the family said they were ready to sell. The tractor was then loaded onto a flatrack and went through the Canadian prairies to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it was loaded in a containership to Antwerp, Belgium. The tractor was sold to an English collector, who then sold it to another English collector. That collector then consigned it to Aumann Auctions and it made its way back to North America where it sold for $535,500.
Other highlights included the sale of a 1912 International Harvester 45hp Titan which sold for $393,750. This Titan Type D 45hp tractor was launched at the third Winnipeg Trials that was held in July 1910. According to the Aumann Auction catalog, “At the trials, it recorded 47.8 hp from its two cylinder engine and averaged 2.54 acres per hour with a 10-furrow amp plough. It was a very successful product for International Harvester with more than 1,000 built at the Milwaukee Works before it was re-rated as a 30-60 hp model at the beginning of 1914.” The tractor is believed to be one of only two twin-stack models in existence.
International Harvester had a good day on the auction block. The third highest bid was the 1913 International Harvester Mogul Junior which had the same basic design of the larger 30-60 Mogul. The difference is the Junior utilizes a single cylinder engine as opposed to a two-cylinder engine. While 812 of the Juniors were built, very few remain. It sold for $357,000.
Another highlight was a 1911 5 hp Twin Motorcyle. The 1911, 2-cylinder belt drive Yale Motorcycle was thought to be in unrestored original condition. The engine was listed as free and the motorcycle had been part of the same private collection since the 1930s and lived most of its life stored away. The catalog stated, “This remarkable Yale has shared space with the same small collection of brass era automobiles since the 1940s. The collection had been on display but moved into private hands in 1949 and hid away in a hangar.”
Yale became among the more successful of the early motorcycle manufacturers, and were branded as the “gentleman’s machine,” available in a classy gray hue, and polished nickel. The company remained with motorcycle production until 1915. The motorcycle sold for $78,750. This gem is going to a museum, the Legends Vintage Motorcycle Museum in Springville, Utah.
Another story right out of the history books at this auction was the sale of Henry Ford’s 5/8th scale Fordson that he had built for his grandchildren. The catalog said, “By the mid-1920s, Henry Ford had mellowed a bit from the overly focused hard core businessman into a doting grandfather. He had set up a miniature farm on Fair Lane, his family farm, for his four grandchildren. In the summer of 1925 he asked his star engineer Howard Simpson to design a Fordson tractor to approximately 5/8 scale for an 8 to 10 year old boy to drive. He enlisted the help of Gene Farkas, an engineer responsible for much of the Fordson design to help him. Together, the two designed the tractor out of Model T, Fordson and specifically designed and cast parts.” It had been purchased in 1982 at an inventory reduction auction at the Henry Ford Museum.
The miniature Fordson sold for $89,250. The best part though is the tractor is going back to the Ford family. “In a weird twist of fate, after being gone for decades, we’re proud to announce that it has been purchased back by the Ford family and will go on display back at Fair Lane, the home of Henry and Clara Ford,” Aumann said.