Last Off Line

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There are certain objects you can own that give you bragging rights in a community of enthusiasts. Maybe you have a rare painting signed by the artist or a campaign poster signed by a beloved U.S. president. In the Allis-Chalmers tractor community there are a few tractors that come with bragging rights: A prototype tractor,  a first or last tractor of a production run, or one of the very early tractors–before they were orange! One tractor that I consider to be a shrine is the Allis-Chalmers 6070, but more specifically the model 6070 with serial number 1972. This tractor is the same mechanically as any other 6070 that rolled down the line at the West Allis Works that was assembled, started, and tested by workers of UAW Local 248. What sets this particular tractor apart from others is its mark in that company’s history. No other tractor came after it, because on December 6, 1985, that tractor closed the book on 71 years of Allis-Chalmers tractors.

The tractor, until just recently, was part of the Don Fenetti Allis-Chalmers collection in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Don was a truck driver and hauled tractors out of the West Allis Works. His connections with the company led him to acquire this astounding piece of history. Don passed away in 2009 and left this massive collection behind. I was fortunate to have been able to get a tour (twice) from one of his nephews. It was an Allis-Chalmers paradise. Don took very good care of his tractors, and he had them all restored and in tip-top shape. I had always heard of this collection, but Menomonie is a few hours drive from where I live. This past year I learned that his collection was going to be auctioned off, so I knew I had limited time to see this 6070.

My wife and I were heading to Minneapolis for a wedding, and I called ahead to see if I could arrange to see the tractor. I called the farm–no answer. So I left a message hoping I could arrange to see this tractor. A few days went by and I didn’t hear anything. We went to Minneapolis to the wedding and I still had heard nothing. Finally, around the time the dance started my phone rang and it was one of Don’s nephews. He said that he would be more than happy to show me the tractors. I was overjoyed. I would finally be able to see this tractor collection that had the holy grail of all AC tractors. We stopped in the next day on our way home. Nothing prepared me for what was in those sheds. These were some of the sharpest looking AC tractors that I have ever laid eyes on.

We made our way through the long line of tractors. Finally, I saw the tractor I had always read about…the last one. It was right there in front of me. This was the tractor in the photos from the plant that day where factory workers posed for a photo with their last piece of work, and where two men shook hands at the back of the tractor as it continued down the line with a large sign that read, “That’s All Folks, The End.” The original slow-moving vehicle sign was still perched on the back with the inscription “Last Off Line Hold 12/6” still as dark and bold as the day it left the factory. In the tractor world, the authenticity of a tractors age is told by the serial number. In this case, the number is proof that this is in fact the last AC 6070 and the last tractor made. There is no doubt about it! The name “Deutz-Allis 6070” on the hoods reminds us enthusiasts of the 1984 buyout by German tractor maker Deutz-Fahr. If one where to peel that sticker back, the name “ALLIS-CHALMERS ” would be revealed. Not only did I get to see this machine, I got to sit in it! It was one of those bucket list items I could now cross off of my list. I was so thankful that I got to see it, and wished my dad and brother could have been there. I told my tour guide the story of how my dad, brother and I got interested in AC tractors. He said I was welcome to come back with them for a tour.

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Fast forward a month and I was on my way to the 25th annual Orange Spectacular in Hutchinson, Minnesota for the BIGGEST Allis-Chalmers show in the United States. It had been a few years since our last trip there, but Dad, Adam, Dan (my father-in-law) and I were on our way to the show. On our way home after an incredible weekend, we stopped by the farm again for a tour. The guys were impressed. We had taken in a lot of orange tractors the previous day, but this was above and beyond. They were as amazed as I was the first time I saw all of them. Then we came to the 6070 again. It sent chills down my spine again. It made me think about the guys that built these things for a living. What was going through their minds as they built this tractor? It was essentially their pink slip moving down the assembly line. How could a company so big that made so many different things (tractors was just a fraction of what they made) go bankrupt?! I was glad to see it again and take it in. I think I appreciated it a bit more with the guys with me.

The Fenetti Auction closed today, and all of these tractors went for high dollars–as I figured they would. The 6070 went for a sum of $46,000 which is nearly double of what the machine priced at brand new. I am not sure who got it, but I am sure they bleed as much orange as Don Fenetti did. I think all the people in the AC community are holding their breath hoping it is going to a good home. I know it will. Seeing that particular tractor will be one of those memories that I will look back on with a big grin and cherish.

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