Nearly 40 years ago, Larry Kreilkamp was on a mission to find a tractor that he could team with his John Deere FBB grain drill. By chance, he saw a 1957 Super 88 Oliver listed for sale in the local paper. The owner near Fox Lake, Wis., was retiring, so the Rubicon, Wis., farmer attended the fall auction and made the top bid at $1,600.
“I learned he had bought it off the showroom floor from a local Oliver dealer, and the tractor had never been driven on the road since his property lay adjacent to his farmstead,” Kreilkamp says. “Come spring, the 88 went on the drill and later handled a granular box loaded with 6.5 tons of fertilizer. It was also used to auger grain, rake hay, trail hayracks and wagons, plus pull a 15-foot White cultipacker on soybean fields before the crop emerged.”
This tractor was manufactured in Charles City, Iowa, from 1954 to 1958. The price was $4,000 in its final production year. Features included a wide front end, hydraulics, belt pulley, fenders, manual steering, 20-gallon fuel tank, dry disc brakes, open operator station, two lights in the front and one in the rea, an outer light on the side, and a Waukesha-Oliver 4.3-liter six-cylinder engine.
Behind the I-head 6-inch engine was a six-speed transmission with high and low reverse gears and a PTO that was independent from the transmission — a first for Oliver. This machine used a push-button starter with a solenoid. The art deco styling and vibrant green color incorporated into the streamlined Oliver would later make this tractor line very popular among collectors.
Kreilkamp recalls driving tractors on his parents’ 80-acre farm when he was 10. He ran the Allis-Chalmers AC on a two-row cultivator and raked hay with a Four Star Minneapolis-Moline. When he started farming in 1978, his first three tractors were a 1971 Oliver 1955, a Case 630 and a 1968 Oliver 1650. A 1941 John Deere H and a 2000 John Deere 7810 four-wheel drive are the oldest and newest tractors in his collection.
Kreilkamp tills 1,100 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa-grass hay, and does custom harvesting and trucking with his sons, Jeremy, Josh and Justin. He estimates the 88 handled field chores for about 300 hours each year. Changing the oil at regular intervals helps keep the tractor in prime running condition. He has overhauled the motor once, changed the brakes and put on a new radiator. Today, the Oliver is taken to area shows and gets a workout at the fall plowing show.
“This has always been a solid, reliable tractor. It has good maneuverability, is easy to get on and off, features above-average power, starts like a champ and hits the road running fast,” Kreilkamp says. “When I began farming, having a dependable tractor and finding something at a reasonable cost was a top priority. That Oliver 88 caught my eye, fit the bank account and was a good investment. Since I have spent the most hours in the seat, it is my favorite tractor.”
Persinger writes from Milwaukee, Wis. To have your favorite tractor featured, email or send in a photo of yourself with your tractor, along with a 300-word write-up about the tractor, to: email@example.com or Wisconsin Agriculturist, P.O. Box 236, Brandon, WI 53919.