The Golden Ticket of Tractors

“I’ve been on tractors my entire life,” says Hunter DeBruhl.

Hunter DeBruhl is a tractor enthusiast with a focused passion — Massey-Harris tractors. He owns four of the machines and has found them all in the Southeast, which is like finding the farm-equipment version of a golden ticket, because the vast majority of the tractors are up North or in the Midwest. Massey-Harris tractors are the precursor to the more well-known Massey Ferguson brand (Massey-Harris was a Canadian company that built tractors from the mid-1800s to 1953, when the company merged with Britain’s Ferguson Company). DeBruhl and his family collect tractors, restoring them and showing them at events, including the upcoming Fall Harvest Days at the Western North Carolina Agriculture Center.

How did you become a fan of these types of tractors?
I’ve been on tractors my entire life. Most of my time growing up was spent with Granddaddy on his Ford Jubilee, which is now owned by my brother, Benjamin, and around tractors that other family members own.

Which tractors began your love?
Like most everyone, my first great interest was in John Deere tractors, but that soon changed. One of my cousins, Dale Harrell, is an avid collector of M-H and I always enjoyed looking at his collection. At one point in time there were a few Masseys that tractor pulled here and once I saw them pulling and heard the low rumble of the exhaust I was officially hooked.

What makes Massey-Harris tractors so collectible?
Massey-Harris was very innovative in the agriculture industry in a number of areas. Around here they are more collectible due to the fact that there were not many here to start with. Most of the Massey Harris tractors produced were for row crops or large-tract farming found up North and in the Midwest. They can have a higher center of gravity that is not suitable for mountain terrain.

What work do you do on the tractors?
All of our restorations and mechanical work are a collective family project. We do everything from general maintenance to full restorations. When restoring tractors, we can do everything from the paint, mounting new tires, to full motor rebuilds.

Tell me about the Massey-Harris 44 you restored.
That tractor is a 1949 Massey-Harris 44 and was the first tractor that I ever purchased. I bought it in southwestern Virginia shortly after I graduated from high school and I started the restoration shortly thereafter. We did the work in just under two months. The tractor got a full restoration including a motor rebuild, cleaning, sheet metal work, repainting, and new tires. Since the restoration was finished I’ve ridden the tractor in parades, tractor rides, tractor pulled with it, entered it into shows and used it for light work.

Why are these machines worth the time and energy it takes for restoration?
For me, its not about selling and money, but instead I do it to preserve a small part of our agricultural history and to spend time with my family. The sentimental value of all of my tractors are worth far more than their monetary worth.

Apple Country Antique Engine & Tractor Association presents Fall Harvest Days (rain or shine) from 8am-5pm Thursday, October 19 through Saturday, October 21 at the Western North Carolina Agriculture Center (1301 Fanning Bridge Road, Fletcher). $8/general, $20/three-day pass, kids under 12 free. 828-243-3166. www.applecountry.org.

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