Larry Pieplow builds a tractor from scratch 07.18.2007

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The day Larry Pieplow saw the real thing, he was moved to a different state of mind.

After five years and countless hours in his Seneca workshop, he created a half-scale model of the Mogul Junior, an International Harvester tractor that went into production in 1910.

He started with an engine and built everything around it, creating the design merely by looking at a photograph in a book.

But a few weeks ago he headed to the National Threshers Reunion north of Wauseon and saw a metal monster that stunned him.

larrypieplow

There was the real thing, the full size Mogul 30-60, an authentic king-size version of Larry’s Mogul Junior.

“I was on high all day long after seeing that thing,” he said.

The owner of the 30-60 told Larry to bring his model next year, and he just might do that.

The Mogul wasn’t Larry’s first home-made tractor, but there was a problem with his earlier model. It seemed to show up everywhere. For his second attempt, he knew he wanted something that nobody else had. The Mogul was a good choice.

“I’ve never seen another home-built model like it,” he said.

Larry grew up on a farm, worked the land with his father, and by necessity, learned how to fix tractors. He also spent most of his adult life working in a machine shop.

All of that experience came through in his workshop, because he had nothing but an old 6-hp engine and a photograph in an International Harvester history book.

Working with a cousin from Swanton, he first estimated the height of the man in the photo anpieplow.parts2d built rear wheels to correspond. Everything else followed, and he has a sheath of drawings to show what it took to design the unit.

“I built everything from scratch,” he said. “There was a lot of paperwork and a lot of trial and error. A lot times something wouldn’t work and I’d have to stop and refigure.

“I’d come home from work, put some wood in the stove, and  before you know it it would be 12 or 1 in the morning. A lot of midnight oil.”

After he bought the engine at a gas engine show, Larry figures he’s put about $2,100 into materials. Don’t even try to figure out his time invested.

A work engine

Larry has another Fairbanks Morse engine from around the same age, maybe 1919, that he bought at a business on M-34.

“I remember when I was 15 years old I could have bought one just like it for $5, but I didn’t have the money,” he said.

These days, a restored engine will fetch a thousand dollars. They don’t lose their value, he said.

The one he bought had been connected to a cider press and was frozen up. He freed the piston, cleaned it up and has it mounted on a cart he built—ready to run a saw mill or anything else a tractor might be hooked up to.

“Anything that will get you out of doing manual labor,” he said. “Let the engine do the work.”

The engines start up on gasoline, then can be switched to kerosene, alcohol or anything else that will burn rapidly.

They were good, reliable units, he said,   and “so simple you wouldn’t think they could run.” But their weight put them at a disadvantage as new models were developed. The engine, alone, on his Mogul weighs in at half a ton.

“In their day and age, they were right up the line,” he said. “I can imagine how my grandfather must have felt after walking behind a horse all day to see a big tractor drive into the field.”

Larry thinks about creating a good companion piece to the Mogul—a half-scale threshing machine for his tractor to power.

“That would make a real showpiece,” he said.

He also has an old Farmall M in the workshop that he would really like to restore. He’s not saying what he paid for it, but he’s heard they sold new for about $900 in the 1940s.

“I drove that thing to the ends of the Earth,” he said, recalling hours of field work. “It’s funny how you go back to what you had when you were a kid.”

That’s not all he has in the shop.

“I have three more engines, definitely good collector items,” Larry said, and then adds, “A guy collects the darndest things.”

  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.grieders
    ONE-TWO PUNCH—Morenci’s Griffin Grieder saved his best for last, running his fastest time ever in the 110-meter high hurdles at the state finals Saturday in Grand Rapids to finish first in the state in Div. IV. His brother Luke, a junior (right), claimed the state runner-up spot. Bulldog junior Bailee Dominique placed seventh in the 100-meter dash.
  • Front.sidewalk
    MORENCI senior class president Mikayla Price leads the way Sunday afternoon from the Church of the Nazarene to the United Methodist Church for the baccalaureate ceremony. Later in the day, 39 members of the senior class received diplomas in the high school gymnasium.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017