Jeff Flood’s pride and joy is the Allis-Challenger D21 pulling tractor, identical to the real Allis pulling tractor. Another favorite is the D21 with a plow. They take a special place in the family room of his Sullivan home.
Photo By Gloria Hafemeister
Model tractor collecting: It's all about the memories
What is it that makes adults like Jeff Flood want to buy toys and then load them into an expensive trailer six or seven weekends a year and unload them again to display them along with other toy enthusiasts?
It's all about memories, says Flood and other collectors like him.
More than that, Flood says, "The fun is in the hunt."
Walk into the basement of Flood's Sullivan home and it's easy to see he has a preference for Allis Chalmers. The home built cabinets house a sea of orange colored toy collections on glass shelves. Included is nearly every model toy Allis Chalmers made.
On the floor in another room stands a line of pedal tractors with another row on a shelf above them.
Flood has a special liking for Allis Chalmers because he grew up with them. He remembers his dad's WC unstyled tractor on steel wheels and then others through the years.
His family farmed at Guerney, IL, now a developed area just across the Wisconsin border.
In 1971 the family moved to Concord where there was more room to farm. His brother stayed on the family farm and Jeff moved on to start a remodeling business in 1984.
Collecting is Flood's hobby and he says he has fun restoring and painting pieces and hunting for those he's missing.
He goes to six or seven shows a year, showing off his collection and looking at other folks' collections.
He rarely finds one at a show, though. He usually finds them by word of mouth and he says now they are beginning to turn up on E-bay and other places on line.
"I get them in all conditions," he says. "Then I weld, paint and restore them."
Flood has 40 Allis Chalmers pedal tractors. He has all but one of the originals that were put out by either the Eska or Ertl company.
These are scaled down replicas of the real Allis Chalmers models, right down to the smallest detail.
There were 14 pedal tractor models made and Flood has 13. He's on the lookout for the missing tractor to complete his collection.
He also has a lot of orange implements to go with his pedal tractors, but he says those are also custom made by very skilled toymakers. He has a disc, chopper, wagons and four styles of trailers.
To the untrained eye, the pedal tractors look pretty much alike, but a closer look reveals differences in the hubs, colors of the grill, or placement of the steering wheel.
One has a maroon bottom, like the big tractor it's modeled after. Another has a black bottom.
Even the color of orange changed through the year. The early Alis Chalmers tractors were Persian orange. After 1963, the orange was lighter and brighter.
His pride and joy is the Allis-Challenger D21 pulling tractor, identical to the real Allis pulling tractor.
Another favorite is the D21 with a plow.
These cast aluminum pedal tractors have a special spot in Flood's family room. The walls in the room are filled with artwork featuring a farm scene with, you guessed it, an Allis Chalmers in the yard.
"I've collected these smaller Allis Chalmers toys since I was a kid," he says. "Some were mine when I was little and I've just added more.'
Actually he's added a lot more. Flood isn't even sure just how many he has, but he estimates it's hundreds. He has all sizes from the 1/32 scale to the 1/64 scale and some even smaller.
He says he likely has every toy model Allis Chalmers ever made. He also has many custom made Allis toys.
COMPANY'S RICH HISTORY
"Allis Chalmers was, at one time, experimenting with an electric tractor," Flood says. "I even have a toy model of that."
That leads to stories about the company itself.
He says they had a fascinating history and are actually still in business making off-shore drilling equipment.
"Hoover Dam uses Allis Chalmers generators," he points out. "They made ship motors. They made a little of everything."
Their Gleaner Combine line led the way in grain harvesting innovation.
Flood says the company had many innovations over the years. They were the first company to come out with a round baler; first to have rubber tires on their tractors; first to have live power (power take-off that keeps going when the tractor stops); first to have front wheel assist; first tractor over 100 hp.
"I have a D21, the first to have 100 hp," he says. "I have six other tractors and 12 lawn mowers in all conditions."
He enjoys taking his restored tractors in parades. His wife Kathy joins him, driving the restored G, commonly used by vegetable growers.
Allis Chalmers started in 1901 by the merger of the Edward Allis, Fraser & Chalmers Co. and the Gates Iron Works and Dickson Mfg. Co. The first corporate headquarters was in Chicago, but later moved to Milwaukee in 1906.
Shortly after the merger in 1901 a new factory was built in West Allis. This plant eventually grew into a giant industrial complex and employed 17,000 people in its prime.
The company started making electrical equipment and then steam turbine generators. It soon became known for its hydraulic turbines and generators. Many of them are still running today around the world.
The company built its first tractor in 1914 and it was a leader in the farm machinery industry until the farming recession in the 1980s.
In 1985, the farm equipment operations were sold to Klockner-Humboldt-Deutz of Germany. Tractor production continued under the Deutz Allis name until 1990, when the company was sold and renamed AGCO (Allis Gleaner Company).
AGCO continued to manufacture tractors under the AGCO Allis brand until 2002 when the tractors were renamed AGCO.
Flood will have his Allis Chalmers tractors and pedal tractors at the Ixonia Vintage Tractor Show on May 26-27 in Ixonia.
The show includes tractor parades from Lebanon on the north and Rome on the south. There will also be tractor games, including the tractor "teeter-totter," a flea market, kids activities and more.