It’s all about the yellow
BY KAREN SCHWALLER
ALBERT CITY – A gathering of farmers often produces good-natured ribbing about the superiority of the tractor colors red or green. To a Charles City man, it’s all about the yellow.
Harold Swartzrock is a soft spoken man. But underneath a quiet and friendly exterior is a man with an avid and active passion for Minneapolis-Moline tractors. He has 25 of the antique tractors in a shed at his home, in 50 years of collecting.
Though he’s not out tracking them down anymore, he said, he’s always up for looking.
“The shed ain’t full yet,” he joked with a quiet laugh.
Swartzrock, 84, brought two Minneapolis-Moline pieces to the Albert City Threshermen and Collector’s Show on Aug. 10-11. He brought a 1943 “Mathis,” and an NXT Jeep 4×4 – one of many different kinds of military vehicles produced by the Minneapolis-Moline, he said.
The Mathis is a tractor that was made in Strasbourg, France under the Marshall Plan. It’s based on the Model R, which was produced from 1949 to 1952 in row crop, standard and vineyard models. Swartzrock’s tractor is a vineyard model, of which only 10 were ever produced. There was a combined total of 388 of three models manufactured, he said.
“To my knowledge, there are only three or four of the vineyard tractors left,” he said. “They used metric measurements, so it’s all metric bolts,” Swartzrock said.
He said some of those tractors featured charcoal burners, because there was no gas “across the pond,” he said, at the time they were produced. Swartzrock said he didn’t think his tractor featured that charcoal burner.
He purchased the machine from a Le Seur, Minn., man last summer. When he heard the price, he said, he shook his head.
“My wife wanted it worse than I did,” he said. “She said we were taking that tractor home with us, and we did.”
The Jeep he brought to Albert City was used in its day primarily to tow bombers around airfields during WW II. Swartzrock said they were also used some in combat.
“This one has combat wheels on it,” he said. “Most had Ford truck wheels. I have another Moline military tractor in my shed. Minneapolis-Moline and the military came up with the name ‘Jeep,’ “
Swartzrock said the Jeep is his favorite piece of MM antique equipment he owns.
“It has a tractor engine in it, and that’s unusual. Most of them use automotive engines,” he said. “Minneapolis-Moline was very dedicated to military vehicles.”
Swartzrock said he has several tractors in his collection that are special to him, including a 1938 Minneapolis-Moline UDLX with a cab.
“They only made 150 of them, and now you can pay $100,000 to $140,000 for one if it’s been rebuilt,” he said. “Mine hasn’t been restored, but it’s run-able.”
Swartzrock said he’s proud to own a late-1950s-era half-scale Minneapolis-Moline steam engine, a one-of-a-kind undermounted Avery, hand-made by a Minnesota man. It was used to run saw mills at area antique and collector shows similar to Albert City’s.
Swartzrock said he has a few other antique Minneapolis-Moline tractors that are special to him. Some of those include a 1914 “Universal” with which his father farmed. He has a 1927 Rumely, which his father used in his threshing days. He has a Rumely “3060” that his uncle owned, along with two 1940s-era Minneapolis-Moline “R” cab tractors.
Swartzrock became interested in tractors when he was 7 or 8, he said, being around his father who farmed, and who was the neighborhood “fixer,” as he explained it.
“He would look at the neighbor’s tractors if there was something wrong with them, and get them running,” he said.
Swartzrock never received a high school education, but got out of the army in 1946 and worked for the Oliver Company in Charles City for four years doing maintenance welding. When 1950 arrived, he built a building to store his Minneapolis-Moline tractors and repair others. While in that building, he was contacted by a company official to see if he wanted to be a dealer. Swartzrock agreed, and Swartzrock Implement Co. Inc. was created.
“When I started there were four or five implement dealers in town, and now I’m the only implement dealer in Floyd County. They all said I’d go broke, but none of them knew I was broke when I started out,” he said with a quiet laugh.
Time changed the way tractors were repaired over the years, he said.
“We learned it all the hard way when it came to fixing a tractor,” he said. “Guys would bring tractors in and we would have to figure out what was wrong with them.
“Today it’s all on a computer somewhere – there isn’t much figuring out to it.”
He also said that, while his company remains busy, he sees fewer farmers now than he did back in the day.
“There used to be four farmers in every square mile, and now you can drive four miles and you may not even find a farmer,” he said. “Back in those days the grain a farmer produced left the farm on the hoof, and not on a truck.”
Swartzrock said his late wife, Darlene, was as excited about Minneapolis-Moline tractors as he is, and that it was special to share his love of those tractors with someone who was just as passionate about it as he was. They were married for 54 years. He said she was one of the best “parts people” he had at his dealership.
Today, Swartzrock is still excited about tractor shows, but is thinking of keeping his collection a little closer to home since ” it gets to feel more and more like a chore” each time he brings part of his collection somewhere. The Albert City Threshermen and Collector’s Show contacted him and asked him personally if he would bring his unusual and rare Jeep to display at this year’s show.
“I think I’m done collecting,” he said as he sat on his Jeep and scanned the many other Minneapolis-Moline tractors displayed there. “The ‘Mathias’ is the last one I bought. That was about a year ago. If something comes along, I might get it, but it would have to be pretty special.”
Swartzrock said he searched as long as 10 years to find certain tractors on the list of pieces he wanted to find. Asked what drove him to collect all of his tractors, he said simply, “Because they’re Minneapolis-Moline.”
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