Collecting Case in the family genes

Gloria Hafemeister
Now Media Group


When Jerome Case was just a child growing up on his family's New York farm, he read about a machine that could cut wheat without people needing to use their hands.

He developed an interest in agriculture at that point and went on to develop and improve the design of threshing machines and manufacturing them in the plant he established in Racine in 1842.

By 1895, the company was also producing gasoline engines, and in 1904, Case introduced the first all-steel thresher machine. Case also sold its first gasoline tractor that year and developed a wide line of products, including threshers, binders, graders, water tanks, plows, buggies and even automobiles.

In fact most people, except for Case collectors and enthusiasts, don't even realize that between 1920 and 1927, Case built a seven-passenger touring car.

Those interested in the Case line of equipment and tractors will want to be at Ixonia on Memorial Day weekend when the sixth annual Ixonia Vintage Tractor Expo takes place May 28 and 29.

The Ixonia Club's president, Curt Pernat, and his family are enthusiastic Case collectors, and their collection will be among the many other Case pieces on display at the show.

Curt and Mary Pernat are both enthusiastic about antique equipment, but Curt said it started quite a few years ago when his wife went to an auction alone and ended up buying the first tractor in the family's collection that has grown to 20.

'There was a Case CC offered at an auction,' Curt said. 'Mary went to the auction alone and then called us and said we should bring a trailer to haul home the tractor she bought.'

Collecting is genetic

It started the family tradition for a hobby shared by Curt and their two sons, John and Luke. While Mary still enjoys the antique equipment shows and is active in the Ixonia Vintage Tractor Expo club, they said when they find a tractor, now she questions whether they really need another one.

'It's sort of a genetic thing' John said. 'When any of us are out driving around, we seem to be able to spot a Case anywhere, even if it's tucked behind some brush on a line fence somewhere. We just have to stop to check it out.'

Both John and Luke share their dad's enthusiasm for Case equipment and other antique farm equipment. Luke, in fact, even named his son Case. At 7 years old, he shares his grandparents' and parents' enthusiasm for the tractors as well.

The Pernat family has about 20 pieces of equipment, including a like-new Case self-propelled combine that Curt bought at his Uncle Edwin Timmel's auction.

Case made its first self-propelled combine, a Model 123 SP harvester, in 1942. The Pernat's combine is a 1963 or '64 model 600.

Pernat recalls that his uncle only used it to combine the wheat on his dad and his uncle's farms. Then it sat unused for many years until Luke Pernat worked on it and got it running again.

'It still works fine, and we will bring it to this year's show in Ixonia,' Curt said.

Pernat owns the farm his uncle once ran. It's about 2 miles from the farm on which Pernat grew up.

The Pernats also own a Case pull-type chopper from the 1950s and the Case grain drill that was restored and used for Farm Technology Days when Dodge County hosted the show in 2009. It was the model for the collector toy at the show.

Also among the tractors in their collection is a 970 Black Knight made in 1969 as a demonstrator model. Its Curt's favorite.

Curt pointed out that many tractor companies used to make specially-painted demonstrator tractors when new models came out. They were painted differently than the companies' other tractors, and when the dealers were done demonstrating with them, they went back to the factory to be painted the traditional color.

Case didn't do that, he said. Instead, they sold the demonstrator models as they were painted, and that makes them a bit rarer.

Regarding his gold and black tractor, Curt said, 'It had a tag saying which dealer it was specifically made for. I found it in a farmer's yard near Berlin, and I stopped and got him to agree to sell it to me.'

Fun is in the hunt

He also has a red, white and blue patriotic tractor that Case came out with in 1976, the bicentennial of the United States. There are about 200 Stars and Stripes models, and Curt found his when a farmer traded it in at Waupun Equipment in Watertown, where Curt is employed.

Curt's most recent find was a Case Odyssey garden tractor that is quite rare.

'When you collect things like this, often the fun is in the hunt,' he said.

Besides Case, the family also has other tractors including an Allis B, John Deere B that Curt's dad bought new in 1947, a 9N Ford, Farmall C and a few others. John and his wife, Jody, own an Allis WD 45 and hope to buy another tractor soon.

John and Luke spend a lot of time at their parents' farm working on the old tractors and equipment. John said he is looking for a farmette in the area where he can store and work on his growing collection.

The family members all agree that collecting and restoring this equipment is a bonding thing.

'It's something we enjoy and do as a family,' Curt said.


The Ixonia Vintage Tractor Expo at Firemen's Park in Ixonia is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 28 and 29.

Members will drive their tractors to the show on a 25-mile route on some of the back roads between Lebanon and Ixonia on Friday. Another tractor parade on Saturday, for anyone who wants to participate, will go from the show to Oconomowoc and will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The show will include tractor games and tractor teeter-totter; a flea market; live music both days; and demonstrations of rope-making and blacksmithing.

There are numerous children's activities, including a scavenger hunt, fishing pond, pedal pull, barrel train rides and pedal tractors available to ride.

Inside the building at the park there will be toy tractor collections and model train displays.

New this year, the show will also include a consignment auction on Sunday at noon.

To learn more about what's on that auction, visit the club's website at www.Ixoniavintagetractorexpo.com