When someone says they collect tractors, the mind instantly goes to small model tractors, but Mike Wenzl has a working collection of John Deere tractors that he uses to plow fields.
Wenzl spent time on his aunt and uncle’s farm when he was younger, and they had the older John Deere two-cylinder tractors.
That is where he became interested in them.
As he got older, he began to check out that era of tractors and purchase them to begin his collection.
“My wife’s uncles had two of them (tractors) on a farm auction, so I bought two of them there,” Wenzl said.
“One thing led to another and I started restoring them. I hired the restoration on most of them or I hired them already restored.”
He said he has worked on a couple of them himself, but he’s not a mechanic, so it takes him longer.
Currently, Wenzl has 10 tractors, and eight are operational.
Additionally, he has two John Deere lawn tractors that were sold from 1969 through 1971. One tractor is cream color with a red top and the other has a yellow top.
“There was an era in there where John Deere catered to ladies, thinking they would like to have a colored tractor to mow with,” Wenzl said.
Red and yellow are just two of the colors, he said, noting there were blue and orange tractors as well.
The oldest restored tractor Wenzl has is from 1939.
He said his favorite part of his collection is that the tractors are operational and he can use them to plow.
“I’d rather be in a plow than in a parade,” Wenzl said.
Plowing up a field is a practice that has mostly gone away in the farming industry, but there are farmers who would like to have their field plowed. Those farmers put out an invitation and tractor owners like Wenzl go and plow their fields.
“Years ago, they believed in turning the soil. They don’t believe in it today,” Wenzl said. “They don’t want you turning the soil; they want you to leave the soil alone. They barely till it anymore. It’s minimal till and it’s supposed to be better for the soil. So to find a place to plow is kind of unique.”
Wenzl said all but one of his 10 plows are operational.
The first John Deere tractors were manufactured out of Waterloo, Iowa, and Wenzl has taken three of his back to the Waterloo exposition and has had them “Expo certified.”
“You get invited to be there, and you have to send in pictures and qualify and be accepted to the expo,” he said.
A unique part of Wenzl’s collection is an orange tractor that sticks out among the green.
The orange tractor is a 1951 Case that is similar to the one his father had.
“My dad had an orange tractor like that,” Wenzl said. “When I was 9 years old, he passed away, so I came across this one south of town and decided to go ahead and purchase it and restore it.”
Wenzl said his collection is history, from where the original tractors began and how they have progressed.
“Clear back in the 1900s, tractors started being manufactured,” he said. “These don’t go back that far, but they’re a preservation of history.”
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