The Old Tractor Guy

Bob Pelzel of Sleepy Eye is the guy a number of antique tractor and implement enthusiasts and dealers call when they need an old tractor part, or perhaps an entire tractor of piece of machinery.

“When they call, I go to work,” said Pelzel, who admitted he will be 77 soon.

A farmer most of his life, Pelzel doesn’t plan on leave the antique tractor and implement business anytime soon. “It’s been a very good hobby for me,” he said. “I’ve met lots of interesting people who share my interests.”

Lots of Pelzel’s tractors are John Deere models, but he’s got a few Fords, Internationals and Massey-Ferguson models, among others. Tractors and implements from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s are in his wheelhouse.

Old tractors may not look like they’re very valuable to the untrained eye, but looks can be deceiving. Two years ago, Pelzel attended an antique tractor auction a few miles south of Owatonna where one of the highest bids was $160,000 for a John Deere 630 high crop tractor, which was reported to be one of only 10 of its type in existence.

“Lots of older guys collect tractors and implements. When men get old and don’t restore them anymore, they sell them,” Pelzel said.

He hosts his annual antique tractor and machinery consignment auction starting at 10 a.m., Saturday, June 14, 2014 at his auction lot outside the old Sleepy Eye Mill building, in the center of town, adjacent to the water tower.

Auction items include two restored 1947 John Deere BOs with consecutive serial numbers from an owner near Austin, Mn, plus many more parts, attachments and machinery.

Pelzel, who owns the old mill, would like to open an antique tractor and implement museum in the building someday. He has already restored part of the building.

Pelzel’s restored antique collection inside the mill includes a number of two-cylinder engines including a John Deere irrigation well engine he said was among just 100 made, two John Deere 430 orchard tractors, a six horsepower Fuller & Johnson engine that powers a large wood sawing blade, a 1933 John Deere GP, a 1956 Ford Thunderbird and a diesel-powered 1980 Oldsmobile Tornodos.

Pelzel said the Old Sleepy Eye Collectors Club of America plans to meet at the Eagles Orchid Inn in 2015. As he did in 2008 when the club met in Sleepy Eye, Pelzel said he plans to host a mill building tour and provide historical information about it.

Story, photos by Fritz Busch

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