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Why two tractors of different color mean so much to this farmer

Why two tractors of different color mean so much to this farmer
One older orange tractor and one restored older red tractor are under the same roof.

The Allis-Chalmers D-15 in John Nidlinger’s toolshed doesn’t fit the color scheme. But it’s there for a reason.

“My grandad bought that tractor new in 1965,” says Nidlinger, Decatur. “It just had its 51st birthday.”

An orange tractor on a farm with different colors of machinery - none of the rest are orange - there must be a story.

“He had trouble with a Farmall in the early ‘60’s, and he bought the D-15 to make a point,” John recalls.

“It’s been here ever since.”

Was it a good tractor? “Let’s just say he made his point,” Nidlinger quips.

STILL A WORKHORSE: John Nidlinger’s grandfather bought this Allis-Chalmers D-15 after he had trouble with a Farmall tractor.

His grandfather wasn’t the only one who had trouble with the 460 and 560 series of Farmall tractors. Upgrading the popular M to compete in the late ‘50’s, the company went forward without upgrading the rest of the tractor to match the higher engine power. It was a gamble, and it misfired. Some historians and tractor buffs credit this gambit as one of the turning points in the battle between John Deere and International at that time in history.

The D-15 is only one of a couple of special, older tractors in the toolshed. Tucked in a corner is a restored Farmall H. “My grandfather bought it new, and dad started restoring it before he died. We finished it.”

One year ago, Nidlingers hosted a stop on the Indiana Farm Management Tour. “We had the Farmall H parked outside by one of our biggest tractors,” John recalled. “Someone in the crowd asked me which one I liked best. I had to go with the Farmall H because of all the heritage tied to it.”

PRIDE AND JOY: It doesn’t take much coaxing to get Nidlinger to pose with his grandfather’s Farmall H.

Although he didn’t say it, it’s probably not a coincidence that the Farmall H is restored, and the Allis-Chalmers D-15 is not. The series II D-15 is still in its working clothes.

It didn’t take me long to spot it, and not just because it stood out in a sea of other colors. I drove a D-15 for a neighbor in the late- 60s. That little powerhouse and I ground a lot of ear corn into dairy feed with an old grinder mixer. I also cut my teeth on a D-17 series IV that my dad bought from my uncle, who sold Allis-Chalmers tractors for the Bartholomew County Co-op at the time.

That’s what Throwback Thursday is for, right? Reliving history? I’ll bet you’ve got a tractor or two with a few memories in your toolshed as well. Let me know- I would love to come look.

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