Farm Horizons, May 2001
Howard Lake farmer Victor Miller restores antique tractors
By Lynda Jensen
McCormick Deering Farmalls, Minneapolis Molines, Oliver, and of course, the classic Ford 8N tractor . . . there's just something about antique tractors that makes Victor Miller want to spend his summers restoring them.
Miller, a resident of rural Howard Lake and a retired fourth generation farmer, enjoys taking old-time tractors and making them run like new again, he said. Many of the models he restores are ones he remembers operating as a youth.
Miller farmed several hundred acres north of Howard Lake for 61 years. This ended in 1987, when his youngest son, Kevin, took over the family farm.
Before then, Victor's father, L. A. Miller, farmed several hundred acres and kept dairy cows about six miles north of Howard Lake, much the same as Victor's grandfather, Carl.
Now, Miller keeps 15 models that were new in the 1940s and 1950s on his property, with several manufacturers to choose from.
The second youngest son of seven children, Victor resides with his wife, Ethel, eight miles north of town.
Victor's favorite model is the first one he ever bought as a young man in 1941 - a red and cream colored Ford. He was only one of three in this area to have one, he said. It's the best tractor because of its smooth ride and ease of operation.
Ford started using gray for tractor colors, then went to the red and cream in 1948, until it settled on its familiar blue, Miller said.
"He sells one and buys two back," Ethel said.
In fact, Miller bought a tractor in terrible shape from a Cambridge man. The tractor belonged to the seller's grandfather, Miller said.
When Miller was done restoring it, it looked so nice that the former owner wanted it back in the worst way, he said. Miller sold it back to him.
He obtained one tractor in Flint, Mich., when a friend lined him up with a 1950 International Cub about five years ago, he said.
Another time, Miller bought and restored a 1920 Minneapolis (not Moline, because it was before the two companies merged), which weighed 12 tons, he said. He successfully restored it and sold it to a guy in Watertown, S.D., he said.
Most of the people he sells and buys from are closer to home, in Wright County, he said. Hobby farmers are usually the only ones interested in buying the tractors.
All of the tractors Miller restores are fully functional. Some may have seen them on display at the Wright County Fair, Annandale Fourth of July celebration, and parades in Lester Prairie and Waverly, he said.
Right now, he is looking at restoring a 1940 John Deere B, but is wondering how to get the 9x38-inch tires for it.
Usually, finding parts is no problem, he said.
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