After collecting and restoring unique and rare tractors for many years, Eric Ziel and wife Carol have decided it’s time to let go of their sizable collection. They aren’t retiring, just downsizing their farming operation and planning ahead. About 120 tractors will be sold at public auction June 30 at their farm near Boone in central Iowa. They’ll also auction off some stationary gas engines and other antique farm implements.
“I determined we were never going to have enough time to restore all of the tractors, although my original intent was to restore them,” Eric says. “So, I’ve made the decision to sell most of the tractors and engines even though I hate to see them go.”
The tractors he’s keeping aren’t necessarily rare tractors, he explains. “One is a tractor my grandpa bought new, and some are tractors our daughter Jennifer restored as FFA projects. I do have other favorites. It’s a tough decision, which ones to keep and which to sell. We’ve had a lot of these tractors a long time.”
He always had some tractors, but 20 years ago Eric got serious about collecting rare tractors. Since then, he and Carol have searched the U.S. and Canada. Acquiring a few each year, the collection grew. Their collection includes nice originals, front-wheel-assist tractors and high crop models.
Most tractors can run
“By the time the June 30 auction arrives, we will have spent about eight months getting these tractors ready,” Eric notes. “That includes working on electrical systems, batteries and fluids, and more with some of them. Most of the tractors run. We have very few that will not be running on sale day.”
The tractors have been kept inside, filling three buildings and more on the farm. Many of the tractors are in original condition. Originals are popular among collectors, because you know what’s been done to them.
Eric started out collecting tractors with Detroit engines, primarily Oliver tractors. Oliver made a lot of tractors with Detroit engines. He has close to 50 Oliver tractors, over 50 Minneapolis Moline tractors and around 20 high crop models, including Allis Chalmers, Case and International. “We only have one John Deere we’ll be selling on auction,” he says. It’s a model 435 Deere he bought because it has a Detroit Diesel engine.
An emotional attachment
Selling a collection this size is a big project. Eric and Carol hired an auction company, Aumann Auctions of Nokomis, Ill., which specializes in selling vintage farm equipment. “I’ve known Kurt Aumann for a while and his father before him. We’ve bought tractors at sales they’ve handled,” says Eric.
Taking the first step in deciding to sell wasn’t easy. “It was hard to pull the trigger,” he says. “To call Aumann Vintage Power and say I wanted to sell our collection was difficult. But we are trying to move on. We want the tractors to go to a home where they will be taken care of.”
Eric’s favorite tractor is a toss-up between his imported Porsche 111 high crop and his Oliver Super 99 with a GM diesel engine, followed by an 856 International high crop and a number of Minneapolis Moline tractors. “I think I have the only high crop 111 Porsche in this country,” he says. It was imported from Austria and he bought it from a man in South Dakota who imports tractors.
Every tractor has a story
The Ziels bought tractors both at auctions and privately. Every prior owner of every tractor had some type of story with the tractor. “Some humorous, some serious, every tractor has its own story,” Eric says. “As much as I will miss some of these tractors, it’s time for our fleet to be divided and to let the tractors go their own way. Future owners will have their own stories of how they got the tractor or where it came from.”
The oldest tractor is from 1926. He has a lot from the 1930s, several from the 1940s. Most of the collection is late 1950s and 1960s. Front-wheel assist began showing up in the 1960s. Most of his high crop tractors are 1950s and 1960s vintage; a few are older.
Eric has three AC D19s, which are extremely rare. One is a diesel, of which Allis Chalmers only built 56. He also has a restored gasoline-powered D19 high crop and an LP gas HC D19 in need of restoration. AC only built a total of nine LP and gas D19 high crops.
“We only know of two other D19 HC LP tractors and one other gas D19 HC in existence. This accounts for five of the nine; the other four are probably lost to time or scrap,” he says.
“The most-rare tractor I have is a Minneapolis Moline 706, painted orange and yellow, and it runs on LP gas and has front-wheel assist,” Eric says. The company made one LP tractor and two diesels in that color configuration. They were displayed at state fairs where MM had a polling contest: What color do you like? The orange lost. Minneapolis Moline kept making the tractors in yellow and brown in that era.
Located next to Farm Progress Show site
The location of the June 30 auction of the Ziel tractor collection is easy to find. The Ziel farm adjoins the Central Iowa Expo site on Highway 30, just east of Boone. It’s the home of the Farm Progress Show, where the 2018 show will be Aug. 28-30. The Ziel family is a co-host of the Farm Progress Show, which has been held at the Boone location every other year since 2008.
Visit Aumann Auctions for more information and photos.