(Scroll down for slide show)
RAVENNA, Ohio — When his father bought a new Farmall H in 1948, Lloyd Hodgkins of Jefferson, Maine, thought it was top of the line.
“The H was just like having a Cadillac,” said Hodgkins, a 77-year-old Farmall collector near the coast.
When his father died in 1992, Hodgkins became interested in finding an H that he could restore for the memories. It was a difficult search, he said, because so many of the model H tractors were too badly worn and it was hard to find one with decent sheet metal.
The search for that Farmall H would turn out to be just the beginning. Hodgkins found one he liked, but then found himself buying more of Farmall’s lettered series tractors — the Cub, BN, C and a Super C, and a Farmall M.
All of the tractors were restored by a local father-and-son business in Maine and displayed at local events.
Alden Peabody, of Augusta, Maine, restored the tractors with his father, Harold. They generally were in decent shape, Alden said, but needed some basic repairs.
“He (Lloyd) wanted them to run properly and look like they did when they made. And he wanted to use them,” Alden said.
But in recent years, Lloyd and his wife, Peggy, found their age and the challenges of caring for the tractors to be too much.
“It was beginning to become quite a chore to get them in and out just right,” Lloyd Hodgkins said.
The couple recalled one incident when they were pulling one of the tractors to another location with a strap, and the strap unexpectedly broke and nearly caused injury to Peggy.
The couple has six grandchildren, but Lloyd said they were uninterested in the tractors and did not understand the history or the significance of the models.
So, they decided selling them was the best option, under the stipulation the tractors had to sell as a group and go to a good home.
Things turned out better than they imagined.
Bob Wenrich, an Ohio tractor collector from Ravenna, found the tractors for sale on the Internet while he and his wife, Jean, were spending time in a seasonal apartment in Florida.
“When I called him the first time, he told me that he was selling them all as a group and he didn’t plan on piecing them out,” Bob Wenrich said.
He made flight arrangements to see the tractors in person, arriving the night of Dec. 6. The two men looked at the tractors after dark with a flashlight.
Bob, 79, spent the night with the Hodgkinses, and the next morning, he gave the tractors one last look in full daylight. Liking what he saw, Bob and Lloyd sealed the deal.
“It really worked out beautifully for me,” Bob said, adding that he plans to display the tractors at events, possibly at Portage County’s Randolph Fair.
And not only did they acquire seven new tractors, but Bob and Jean also made new friends.
Peggy Hodgkins said Bob was a little unsure about spending the night in a stranger’s home — given the recent Craigslist murder in Ohio. But, the experience helped draw the two families closer together.
Peggy Hodgkins said the two men were similar in many ways — even down to the details of how they took their coffee and breakfast. The Hodgkinses said they hope to some day make it to Ohio, to see the tractors in their new home.
“I had a good feeling about him,” Lloyd said. “He just seemed like a good guy and he is.”
The tractors arrived in Ravenna in December on a flatbed semi trailer that hauled all seven in one trip. Bob Wenrich said there’s some light maintenance that needs done, like washing off some grease and dirt, but is pleased with the new additions.
Wenrich did not grow up on a farm, but helped farmers in his neighborhood who used Farmalls and Allis Chalmers tractors.
“When I was a kid I ran a BN Farmall for several summers,” he said.
As for missing the tractors now that they’re gone — Lloyd said he’s holding up pretty well. A longtime collector, he’s used to change and liable to start collecting something else.
“I walked away from airplanes and motorcycles and now tractors,” he said.
It helps knowing they got a good home, he said, and where they’re at if he ever wants to visit.