Prolific Ohio tractor collector is selling out

SUFFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio (AP) — Antique tractors line the property at 679 Congress Lake Road, creating a rainbow of color that has been known to cause passing motorists to stop, back up, and take a second look.

For years, Carl Rufener has displayed his collection — now numbering 70 tractors that date back to the 1930s — for a week or two in July, then tucks them away until the next summer.

But when Rufener puts his tractors away Sunday night, it will be for the last time.

He's already set a date with an auctioneer. On Oct. 4, he intends to sell off a collection that has been 30 years in the making.

The 76-year-old Suffield farmer said it's time to let go.

On some level, he said, he'll even be relieved not to have to keep up with maintaining the tractors. Batteries, oil, gas, tires ... there's always something in need.

Still, he says people are skeptical he'll go through with the auction.

"I hear people say, 'He's never going to get rid of those,'?" Rufener said.

Rufener got hooked on his hobby in 1987, when he purchased a pumpkin orange 1950 CO-OP tractor, similar to the one he had grown up with.

Born in 1938, he was raised on a farm that borders the one he now owns — where he raises grains and transports milk from local farms to dairies. The memories are still fresh of riding that CO-OP with his dad.

But his nostalgic longing to have something from his childhood wasn't enough, and he eventually bought so many historic vehicles that he had to build three barns to contain them.

There's a story behind each tractor, and Rufener has been known to greet his impromptu guests and share the tale of some yellow, red, white, green, blue, orange or gray behemoth.

His collection includes 25 different makes. Some came whole. Some were shipped in crates and had to be reassembled or given new parts. All are functional.

Slipped in among the antiques is one labeled "Prototype. Built in Suffield, Ohio." That one he made himself, using parts from five different models.

A year ago, Rufener was still in a buying mood.

At an Indiana meeting of Minneapolis Moline collectors, he invited an elderly lady to his lunch table, and the ensuing conversation revealed she had a 1938 UDLX, a tractor that had long been on his wish list.

Known as a "comfort tractor," the vehicle came with an enclosed cab, radio, heater and other creature comforts. But Rufener said nobody wanted to pay the extra money for a piece of working-man's farm equipment back in the day. Production ended after a year; only 20 are known to still exist.

"She said, 'I wanna sell it.' I said, 'You just sold it,' " Rufener said.

The UDLX may have come off his bucket list, but it's made it onto the auctioneer's list, where Rufener hopes to get $140,000 or more for it.

There's only one tractor Rufener intends to keep: A 1968 Minneapolis Moline G900 for which his only explanation is, "I just like it."

Anyone wanting to see the tractors may stop by the property during the day, now through Sunday. There is plenty of parking.

Local resident Pauline Persons is among those who will miss visiting the display every year.

"It's amazing to see someone amass such a big collection," Persons said. "And his love and passion for it, and the fact that he wants to share it with everyone in the community. Every year you want to see what his new additions are."

On the upside, she's got her eye on a particular tractor and expects to be there for the auction.

"If he sells it, I might buy it," she said.