It's IH fever, and the International Harvester Club Chapter 38 has a serious case. The largest chapter in Western Canada, the group held their annual show in Yorkton this year. A wide variety of IH enthusiasts came from as far away as New Brunswick to show off their prized trucks, tractors and other IH material at the Thresherman's Show and Senior's Festival, showing a wide spectrum of the company's history.
IH displays were numerous, showcasing the wide range of products which the brand offered, which ranged from tractors, trucks and farm equipment to kitchen appliances. Many enthusiastic owners showcased a wide variety of different machinery.
One of the largest displays of machinery came from Roche Farms in Rosser, MB. Bruce Roche says that his family started collecting about 15 years ago, starting locally before seeking out rare and different tractors, including tractors from different parts of the United States. The family brought out about 15 pieces, from a garden tractor to bigger models. He says it took three trips to get the whole group to the show.
Roche says that the collection started with his great-grandfather, whose first tractor was an M model.
“We got bit by the IH bug, so to speak.”
The family looks for tractors with clean and straight sheetmetal, ideally looking for machines that are in good shape and won't require too much bodywork or new rubber, Roche says.
One of the highlights of the collection is a 1947 road patrol model. Roche says that they're not sure how many there are in the world, but that it's a very rare model they found in Oklahoma.
“In this case, Farmall supplied the tractor, Contractors Machinery supplied the grader, and joined them together,” Roche explains.
He says they've got pretty much all the tractor models covered, but they were talking about getting a truck to complete the collection.
It was a busy weekend overall, but Roche says that he appreciated the warm Yorkton welcome and that he also hopes to keep showing with the IHC into the future.
The oldest truck at the show was a 1913 MW High Wheeler, and that was owned by George Kirkham. He explains that the truck itself was a landmark for the company, coming only a few years after they were established and being their first water-cooled truck.
Powered by a two-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine, the truck can go about 18 mph, and shares very little with a modern vehicle. The entire truck is made of wood, Kirkham explains, and it isn't much like more modern vehicles.
“It's a pretty primitive machine, not very different from a wagon and a horse, maybe a bit more reliable than a horse.”
Even driving it is a foreign experience, as it has hand controls for throttle and spark advance, as well as a crank starter mounted on the right hand side. The truck was also made before the company put the steering wheel on the familiar left hand side.
The truck is the oldest model in Kirkham's collection, which numbers 48 restored International trucks. He says that the passion for the brand is hereditary, as his dad was the zone manager for the company for 40 years. He's kept up the tradition, selling International trucks since the '70s.
“I don't know anything else, I don't care to know anything else, I'm a pretty singular focus. I chase new trucks during the day and old ones at night.”
That passion has also gone down generations, as Kirkham's daughter Shelby is now working on trucks of her own. While she was unable to make it to the show, Kirkham brought her truck, a 1960 IH B100, which she began restoring when she was 15.
Kirkham says that she had been bugging him to restore a model since she was 13, and it took her 9 months to complete the project. When the project began, the truck wasn't running, and he says she learned a lot and did a lot of work on her own. He notes that all the bodywork on the cab of the truck is her own.
“She's very conscious of what it is and all the hours she spent on it, between her and I and a couple buddies we got it finished up and it's a very nice piece,” he adds. He's proud of the work his daughter did on the truck, and he says that she's been helping him with his projects long before she got involved on her own.
“It isn't the first time she's ever done anything, she's been out in the shop with me since age nine.”
He doesn't know what it is that keeps the passion going from generation to generation, but it's clear that there's a passion that makes the family want to keep working on the trucks.