Malueg family restores agricultural heritage
The 1974 Model 6644 Max II Fox Self‐propelled Chopper that provided the inspiration for the 2012 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days commemorative toy was originally built in Appleton but was given new life three decades later near this community about an hour’s drive to the northwest.
It was one of the last models made by the Fox River Tractor Company that began operation in 1919 to build a 4-cylinder tractor but later shifted gears and became a leader in the manufacture of silage harvesting equipment until ceasing production in the mid 1980s.
Jim Malueg, who drilled grain and picked and chopped corn for local farmers, brought the Fox 6644 to the Marion area to open cornfields for local farmers. “He’d cut one or two rounds (consisting of three rows per round) around the outside of the field and several through the middle so harvesting equipment being pulled by tractors wouldn‘t run down rows of good corn.” Doug Malueg, Jim’s son, recalled.
“The Fox Chopper was the toughest, fastest chopper of the time and it was sold worldwide from Outagamie County,” Malueg stated. “Farmers prized the chopper because it had a big V6 Detroit diesel engine, a three-row head, hydrostatic drive and optional cab.”
When Jim was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, Doug and his brother, Dennis, decided to fill in.
“Farmers were calling and asking if anybody was going to open up the fields,” Doug explained. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ I did it to get through the year, because we thought Dad was going to get better.” However Jim died Oct. 26, 2005, a day before his 76th birthday.
Although he had grown up with the Fox, Doug had not operated it for 20 years. “It was tired iron,” he remarked. “You had to go real slow and baby it and do repairs in the field to get through the day. Chains and belts and hoses broke regularly.”
After limping through the harvest season, Doug, who operates a heating and cooling business, set out to improve the performance of the machine that had seen 4,000 hours of service.
Although Malueg had previously restored cars and tractors, the Fox chopper would present some unique challenges. He and his sons, Nathan and Logan began by rebuilding the corn head.
The three spent much of that winter and early spring stripping it completely, sandblasting the unit down to the frame and finding and installing new parts.
“When we put the restored head back on the machine and it made an unbelievable difference,” Doug said. “So many bearings were shot that it took a lot of horsepower to run the head before, so now the machine had a lot more power.” He chopped 160 loads with it that year, with no repairs.
After using it for a season with the restored head, Doug decided to restore the rest of the machine. He and his two sons removed the corn head, put the machine into his heated shop and took it apart.
“Using the corn head as an indicator of how bad everything was worn out,” he says, “we disassembled everything, removing the wire harness, sheet metal, wheels and transmission, right down to the frame.”
From that point, progress was slow. Doug and his sons repaired parts that could be repaired, added new ones that could be found, and fabricated sheet metal to replace parts that were too dented or too rusty to use.
“We went through the transmission, bevel gear case, final drive, brakes, gear boxes, had the hydrostatic drive motors rebuilt, updated radiator and shroud, and added new belts, hoses, chains, drive sprockets and idler sprockets,” he noted.
Malueg’s restoration project was aided significantly by Norris and Barry Works of Indiana, who owned one of the largest Fox dealerships in the U.S. They donated a large number of Fox 6644 parts and an instruction manual for the machine.
“We really appreciated that manual because we had 500 parts laid out, hanging up in the attic,” Doug said. “I didn’t always know where pieces went, because three people had torn it apart.
“So we set some to the side and worked on the easy stuff, and kept narrowing it down, handling the little pieces, and then looking in the book to figure out with the pictures where a certain part went. It was like putting a giant puzzle together after dumping all the pieces out of the box. You start with the easy pieces first and then go to the harder ones.”
Along with restoring the Fox 6644 to like new (or possibly better-than-new) condition, the project also brought Malueg and his sons closer together.
He’s also developed friendships with surviving managers of Fox Tractor Co. “They’ve given me patches, shirts, jackets, tie clips and more as they realized how enthusiastic I am about Fox,” he said.
Malueg has now added a cab to the machine, which he describes as a work in progress. He has proudly displayed it at numerous agricultural events and has driven it in many parades.
“It always draws a crowd,” he says. “Old farmers come up and start telling me stories about the one they had or the one their neighbor had.”.
When the Outagamie County Farm Technology Days organizers approached him about producing a replica of his restored choppers as the commemorative toy for this year’s show, he not only readily agreed but he and Nathan also agreed to serve as co-chairs of the committee.
“This is such unique collectible toy,” Malueg said. “It not only is part of the history of Outagamie County but it’s also the only forage harvester to be a Farm Technology Days commemorative toy.”
Just as there were challenges in restoring the full-size machine, there also were challenges in producing 1/16-scale replica.
Since there were no existing dies on which to base the toy, designers used Malueg’s full sized, restored model.
A crew from TWH Collectibles of Manitowoc took more than 300 photographs and made custom measurements of the machine from every angle to produce the necessary blueprints.
Those who attend Farm Technology Days July 17-19 north of New London, will find Malueg’s handsome restored Fox 6644 Chopper displayed in the heart of Tent City near the Media Trailer.