Seeing red at the season's first vintage tractor show

Gloria Hafefmeister

IXONIA – When tractor enthusiasts gather in Ixonia May 27 and 28 for the first vintage tractor show of the season they will likely find a sea of red in the park.

Karl Kayzar has been collecting tractors since 1992 when he bought his favorite, the Super M, that reminded him of the one he frequently drove in his youth.  In fact, he doesn’t know for sure but there is evidence that it might just be the very tractor he drove.

International Harvester is the featured brand of this year’s show and along with it the Wisconsin Chapter of the International Harvester Collectors Club will host its annual “Farmall Frolic”, an event that takes place at a different show in the state each year.

One particular collector, Karl Kayzar of Watertown, is happy that the red tractors and equipment will be featured. It gives him an opportunity to show off his impressive collection of tractors. Like so many collections, Kayzar has a story to share about each one.

Kayzar collection

His collection began in 1992 when he located a 1953 Super M like the one he drove in his youth on his parents’ Illinois farm. In fact, Kayzar wonders if it could possibly be the actual tractor he drove.

Kayzar knows his dad sold the tractor to a farmer from Whitewater but he doesn’t know what happened to it after that. Since he doesn’t have the original book that went with it, he doesn’t know the serial number of the tractor his dad previously bought new.

The tractor he now owns, however, has two screws on the side like the one his dad had.

Kayzar says, “When he first got this tractor he used it for picking corn. He screwed a shield on the side to keep the husks and chaff off the motor.”

Kayzar doesn’t know why this tractor would have those two screws on the panel unless they at one time held a shield, too. 

He also noticed a leak in the housing on the tractor and said his dad had the same problem with the one he had.

Kayzar has a 1944 “H” Farmall that he won as a raffle prize from the Randolph FFA organization. He also has a 1948 “C”, a 1946 “B”, a 1947 “Cub.”

His collection also includes a 1957 “350” that he bought with New Idea corn picker from a farmer at Pulaski. He sold the corn picker right at the sale and only brought the tractor home.

Anyone with an interest in old farm equipment, particularly the long line of International Harvester which includes McCormick Deering Farmall line, will enjoy coming out to Ixonia for the first Vintage Tractor expo of the season on May 27 and 28.

Kayzar has a 1958 “450” model with a 1960 2M-HD two row-corn picker. When he set out to find a corn picker like he remembered he located a collector who had many corn pickers in various condition. He bought two identical corn pickers. Neither one worked but he used parts from each of them to build the one he now has.

When he found the #249 -250 corn planter made between 1960 and 1964, he wanted to make it look original.

Before he could repaint it, he disassembled it completely, scraped all the grease and dirt out from all the gears and then repainted it in the original colors.

Kayzar needed to repair the hub on the wheel but was told the part was no longer available anywhere. Finally he found a dealer in Allenton who knew of a place that bought left-over parts from implement dealerships that were closing. The Allenton parts-man was able to locate just what Kayzar needed.

He says he could have used an after-market part or fixed it in another way but then it would not be authentic.

He also says the after-market parts, while cheaper, are not as good.

As an example, he points out that he had problems starting one of his tractors and found out it was because the distributor cap was not original, but instead was a cheaper style. In order for it to work properly it must have brass in the distributor cap. When he replaced the cap, the tractor worked fine.

Kayzar buys the tractors in all conditions, then takes them apart and makes necessary repairs. He does his own painting and uses only real enamel paint like the originals, not the shinier special coats that many collectors use to make their tractors look fancier.

Completing his collection is a 1940 McCormick Deering Flare and Grain Wagon; and a Little Genie Plow, made between 1928 and 1960.

History on the farm

Kayzar says he would have liked to farm but he had three brothers at home on the farm and when he returned from the military their farm wasn’t big enough for all four to farm with their dad.

He went on to complete his apprenticeship as a brick mason and later became an ironworker. In that job he was in charge of workers constructing some of the huge structures in Chicago including the O’hara Field airport control tower.

In all those years, however, Kayzar never lost his interest in farming and the equipment he remembers using.

He remembers his dad warning him, numerous times, about the dangers of the corn picker and being told to never stick his hands in the husking rollers.

Kayzar remembers a time when he and his brother, very young at the time, decided to go plow a field on their own. He drove the tractor and his brother operated the controls. The problem is the plow shares went in and out of the ground, resulting in a very uneven surface and the rows were curved.

They were afraid their dad would be upset when he saw what they had done but, to their surprise, when they returned from school the next day they saw a perfectly plowed, very smooth field and their dad never said a word about it.

 Another time Kayzar and his brother were assigned the job of cultivating the corn. They worked hard to keep the cultivator in between the corn rows and noticed their dad peeking over the fence to monitor their work.

He remembers one particular B Farmall tractor on the farm that had previously been owned by a neighbor.

An old rusty corn picker is parked on the line fence behind Karl Kayzar’s shop.  It was used for parts to put together the vintage corn picker he has restored.

Kayzar says, “During the war International Harvester (IH) had a deal that if a farmer decided not to keep the tractor he purchased, IH would buy it back. Our neighbor died, though, so the contract he had with IH no longer applied so Dad got to buy it.”

Learned from dad

He credits his dad for teaching him a lot about fixing and maintaining tractors and farm equipment. He says every winter his dad would work on some tractor and he would be in the shop with him, handing him tools and observing his work.

Kayzar remembers his dad as a very innovative guy. 

One year, during an era when hardly anyone in Illinois raised soybeans, he was talked into trying the crop. They had no experience with it and the seed was not like today’s hybrids. The plants got very tall and lanky and were loaded with soybean pods. 

They tried combining it but the vines just wrapped around the tines. Finally they cut once around the field with a sickle mower and then dad and his sons pitched the material into the combine, by-passing the tines. After the first round they cut another and repeated the process until the whole field was done.

When they sold the soybeans they got five-dollars a bushel, a very high price for any type of crop back then. 

 The family milked a few Guernsey cows and sold cash crops. Kayzar's mom was in charge of the herd and the boys helped her milk. Dad was in charge of the crops. When he sold them and brought home his check his mother would ask for a new living-room chair or couch but he used the money to buy better equipment for their farm.

Kayzar says it makes him sad to return to the area where he remembers farming because the rich black ground where they raised so many good crops is now raising houses.

His wife got hooked on the idea of collecting, too, but she concentrates more on the farm toys.

She says, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

She says she is always on the lookout for a unique toy, almost always the red ones. Once in awhile she’ll bring one home only to find out he already has one in the collection.

She says, “The fun is in the hunt. Her favorite is a tractor a cultivator with an umbrella protecting the farmer from the sun.”

All the toys they have in their large collection are true replicas right down to the smallest details.