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Loves his ‘high-priced toy’

By Staff | Jun 22, 2012

The view from the driver’s seat. The unit on the left was restored from a barn fire and the right was assenbled by parts that took Leckband six years to collect and another six to assemble.

OCHEYEDAN – When Larry Leckband goes to “take the twins out,” it’s not what a person would expect, unless a person knows Leckband.

When he says that, he’s talking about a tractor that he assembled with an idea he once saw in a Minnesota tractor show. It serves as both an antique tractor ride vehicle and a great conversation piece.

“The question I get asked the most is, ‘Is it factory?’ ” Leckband said.

In fact, it’s anything but factory.

The Ocheyedan-area farmer loves to tinker with old tractors.

-Farm News photos by Karen Schwaller Larry Leckband, of rural Ocheyedan, takes his twin tractor unit for a run. Leckband takes his unique machine for tractor runs and area parades from Mount Pleasant in southeast Iowa to Fargo, N.D.

When he was at a Case-IH Red Power Round-Up show in Westminster, Minn., about 15 years ago, he saw an exhibit which featured two tractors hooked together to make one overall tractor. That exhibitor brought his twin tractor creation from Maine.

It was made up of two A Farmall tractors from the late-1940s, and Leckband said there were probably only two or three twin tractors in the country. To his knowledge, he has the only tractor like this, which consists of two 1947-era McCormick-Deering Farmall AV tractor engines – vegetable crop tractors with taller back wheels to navigate through high crops.

Leckband said a friend had “a lot of old farm equipment in a barn, and the barn burned down.” He said the tractor was in that barn. Neither the barn could be saved, nor could the tractor removed from it. It ended up in a salvage yard in Worthington, Minn.

“I found it and bought it and cleaned it up, and then it sat around for six years while I looked for parts to make up the other tractor,” he said.

After six years and all the parts he needed to assemble the other side, the twin tractor came into being – consisting of a restored tractor that had been burned and myriad parts that Leckband collected.

It took him six more years to get it all put together.

“The transmission and housing bolt patterns were pretty much the same,” Leckband said, “so with a little ingenuity, I pieced it all together.”

Once he had all the parts to construct the twin unit, which sits on the right as the operator sees it, he next confronted how he to connect the two and make everything work. It took a little thinking to design a support system to support the front end of the twin, as well as to make the rear axle – an iron frame to hold the larger ends of the two tractors together.

“The bolt patterns were symmetrical on the outer axle housing,” Leckband said. “The more complicated part was getting the axle inside the drive axle. I had to do a little machine work to get that done.”

The clutch system is foot-operated one for the left unit and a hand-operated lever for the twin. There is also a left brake and a right brake, just as with most tractors.

The tractor features a starter for the left unit, and a generator (power unit engine) on the right.

The starting process involves starting the engine on the left as usual and coordinating putting both of the tractors in gear. Leckband said the right tractor will pop-start the left engine.

“In order to keep the battery charged, you have to run both of the tractors at the same time,” Leckband said. The unit, he discovered, was no good for tractor pulling.

He tried it.

The biggest challenge to this project, he said, was in not knowing what the tractor would do once he started it up for the first time. He sat on one of the front tires and talked about it.

“I was sitting on a five-gallon pail,” he said, “I didn’t have a seat on the tractor yet. I had pushed the clutch in and was then afraid of what the tractor would do.

“So I shut it off and put the seat on it. When I started it up and put it in gear, it didn’t do a thing,” he said ed it up and put it in gear, it didn’t do a thing,” he said with a laugh.

Leckband said there were two differentials in the back end and without doing anything to tie them together, he said they just sat and spun, the tractor going nowhere.

The engines – an 18-horsepower and a 22-horsepower – drives the tractor about 22 miles per hour.

Leckband said the back tires are the right ones to have for that model, but the front tires are supposed to be narrower and taller.

“I don’t have those kind of tires on the front of the tractor because of the highway driving it does during tractor rides and shows,” he said.

Leckband said the tractor’s sole purpose is to be in shows and tractor rides. He goes as far as Fargo, N.D., Mount Pleasant, Albert City, and the Okoboji area for the Okoboji High School FFA’s tractor ride and other rides as well.

He estimates he has $10,000 in this twin tractor. He’s turned down handsome offers to sell it, he said.

“Everything about it is unusual,” Leckband said. “It’s nothing but a blamed high-priced toy. The first year I had it at the Clay County Fair, the guys at the Case-IH place asked me to bring it over there because they had never seen anything like it.”

The restored unit on the left, Leckband named “Maynard,” honoring Leckband’s friend whose barn burned down and who has since died.

This is one of about 80 antique tractors that Leckband owns. He has restored about half of them himself. He said he has some unusual ones, including a Toro AL golf course tractor, along with the first tractor he ever purchased – a 1947 Allis Chalmers Model G with the engine in the rear.

Having restored so many tractors, and meeting the challenge of creating his twin tractor, Leckband said he’s glad he had a farming background to help manage this particular labor of love.

“If someone makes something to bolt together, some idiot will put it together,” he joked of himself. “You don’t have to be an engineer, but it helps to be a farmer.

“For a farmer to be productive, he has to know how to keep things running. If he calls someone else to fix (problems), his pockets get drained.”

Leckband, 78, still farms near Ocheyedan, and manages an excavation and subdivision business when he’s not farming.

“I like to have fun, and it keeps me busy,” he said.

Contact Karen Schwaller at kwschwaller@evertek.net.

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