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Fischer loves old tractors

Sleepy Eye farmer and tractor repairman Steve Fischer has quite a few tractors. You may recognize him best on his bright orange 1937 Allis Chalmers A tractor in the Sleepy Eye Buttered Corn Day Parade.

Steve and Elaine Fischer stand next to their 1937 Allis-Chalmers A tractor.

Perhaps the rarest antique tractor in area parades and other old tractor events like the Butterfield Threshing Bee, is Steve Fischer’s 1937 Allis Chalmers A tractor.

The bright, orange color may be the first thing you recognize. The big fenders that cover about half of the rear tires. It’s got a big engine too, 563 cubic inches, 80 horsepower at 900 rpm, Steve said.

“There were 1,225 of these tractors made from 1936 to 1942,” Fischer said. “They were designed for wheat land in North and South Dakota.”

Fischer said he likes old tractors and is willing to deal with their challenges like trying to find parts, with help from area businesses that deal with old tractor parts like Panning Brothers Tractor Parts of rural Gibbon.

“When they get old Allis Chalmers tractor parts that they think I may want, they’ll call me up and ask me if I want them. We often barter for old parts,” Steve said.

The driver’s seat and steering wheel dominate the ‘37 A/C A tractor.

Besides repairing tractors, he grows peas, soybeans and sweet corn on an 800-acre farm.

“New tractors are getting so expensive. Companies don’t want us restoring old tractors anymore,” he said.

New tractors can cost as much as a house. Do-it-yourself repairs are going away due to costly computer software and lack of available parts.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported recently that more farmers are looking for cheaper, simpler, decades-old tractor that cost a fraction of the cost of new ones, are much easier and cheaper to repair.

Allis-Chalmers has lots of interesting history.

The 1937 Allis-Chalmers A tractor is highly visible in bright orange and its big rear-wheel fenders.

In the early 1930s, the company worked with Firestone to put pneumatic rubber tires, instead of cleated steel wheels, on tractors that improved traction and fuel mileage by 10% to 20%.

The company name dates back to 1860 when businessman Edward P. Allis bought Reliance Works of Milwaukee. He later formed the Edward P. Allis Company, known for revolutionizing flour-milling with roller milling. Edward Allis’ sons grew the company to one of the country’s largest steam engine builders.

Scottish immigrant Thomas Chalmers came to the U.S. in about 1842. He later worked for the first steam-operated sawmill in the country in Chicago.

In 1901, the companies and a another entered the industrial engine business that later rolled into a new locomotive consolidation, the American Locomotive Company (ALCO).

Successors now are Allis-Chalmers Energy, Inc. which provides services and equipment to oil and gas exploration companies; and AGCO, a global leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of agricultural equipment.

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