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Vintage tractor up for auction

It’s an agricultural icon, a behemoth that ranks up there with the horse. In fact, it’s a piece of machinery that replaced the horse.

That would be the John Deere BN tractor, built in the early to mid-1940s.

And now you can be the proud owner of one designed in 1946, bought in Fresno three weeks ago, then restored for auction at the Orange County Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction on Sunday between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. at Lot No. 617.2.

The money raised from the sale will go to Centennial Farm Foundation, a youth-oriented educational arm that anchors the fairgrounds in the form of the Millennium Barn — a popular destination to some 50,000 school children a year with all its farm animal pigs, chickens, cattle and goats.


The tractor, one of 2,840 built between 1941-1947, has that shiny yellow and green coat of paint that has become a symbol of America’s heartland.

“After World War II, horses were virtually extinct because of this tractor,” notes Richard Dick, co-owner of Facilities Management West in Fashion Island.

That’s the company that, if all goes according to tentative plans, will enter into a 55-year lease and operate the Orange County Fairgrounds, recently acquired by the city of Costa Mesa for $96 million in what is being billed as a “tentative” deal with the state.

Dick, 74, said he knows all about the BN tractor because he was born on a farm in downstate Illinois. He’s long wanted to bring the tractors into the fairgrounds and make them a part of the landscape.


When Costa Mesa’s City Manager Allan Roeder heard about Dick’s vision, he told Dick he had a better idea: “Why not get a hold of such a tractor lickety-split and put it on the block during the fast-approaching hot rod show?”

Dick acted on it. He perused websites and found a tractor in Fresno in virtually the time it took to log on. He bought it, then shipped it to Rusty Acres Ranch, a restoration company in Woodland, Calif. By Sunday the tractor is expected to be at the fairgrounds, an interesting juxtaposition amid some of the finest examples of classic and exotic cars.

Let the bidding (do we hear 5,000, 5,000, 5,000?) begin.

The tractor’s run by a two-cylinder engine that generates 17 horsepower. (Again, the horses.)

While some of the cars on display are capable of going from zero to 60 mph in just a few seconds, the six-speed John Deere tops out at 15 mph.

“Centennial Farm and its connection with the people of Orange County is extremely important and dear to our hearts,” said Mark Ramsay, president of the Centennial Farm Foundation. “We’re grateful.”