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A Farmall H pulls for curing kids cancer

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The charity auction 1948 International Farmall H, pre-restoration. Photos courtesy Mecum Auctions.

International Harvester’s Farmall H became a staple of American farms in the 1940s and ’50s due to its reliability, versatility and power, offered at an affordable price. In November, a professionally restored H will cross the auction block lending its longtime popularity to a worthy cause.

The nonprofit organization Curing Kids Cancer will benefit from the sale of an overhauled 1948 H at Mecum’s Gone Farmin’ Iowa Premier sale in Davenport, November 8-10. The tractor’s restoration is being handled by JC Tractor Restoration in Hobart, Indiana, with parts provided by Steiner Tractor Parts, Inc. A time-lapse video of the tractor’s teardown, below, may help to whet the appetites of perspective bidders.

Curing Kids Cancer was founded by Grainne and Clay Owen in 2005, a year after their 9-year-old son Killian, died of leukemia. To date, the organization has raised more than $10 million for pediatric cancer research and treatment.

Mecum Auctions and Curing Kids Cancer first teamed up in 2011, when a café racer-style motorcycle built on the show Café Racer was donated to Curing Kids Cancer then sold at  Mecum’s Kissimmee auction. Curing Kids Cancer and Mecum Auctions have raised more than $4 million since.

Mecum’s Gone Farmin events have moved dozens of Farmall Hs — many for $1,000 – $5,000. The most astounding sale of an H to date was at Mecum’s Davenport sale in 2015 where an unrestored example changed hands for $40,000.

1948 Farmall H

Back in 1940, a new Farmall H with rubber tires retailed for $962, though buying the tractor with steel wheels shod with cleats (which became a must during WWII) saved the buyer $200. The H made its debut in 1939 along with Farmalls A, B and the biggest of the group the M. All of the tractors shared rounded hoods and horizontally slotted grilles styled by legendary industrial designer Raymond Loewy — the man behind such instantly recognizable icons as the Lucky Strike logo, the Studebaker Avanti, Air Force One’s paint scheme and the Pennsylvania Railroad’s awe-inspiring S-1 locomotive.

IH also later commissioned Loewy to design its now-iconic logo. Loewy dreamed up the red lower-case I in the center of a black capital H. The dot over the I was supposed to represent a driver’s head looking over the hood of a Farmall while the black upright columns of the H represented the tractor’s tires viewed head-on.

1948 Farmall H

International Harvester marketed the H as an all-purpose tractor for farms of up to 160 acres. The H was powered by a four-cylinder gasoline (or distillate) engine and shared its chassis and wheelbase with the larger Model M, so much was interchangeable between the tractors, including IH’s implements. Most Hs were produced with a tricycle-style front end, but a high-crop version with a wide front end was available.

Buyers flocked to the H and International sold 390,000 copies during the workhorse’s production run that ended in 1953 with the introduction of the Super H. Today, Farmall Hs enjoy a loyal following, good parts availability and information is easy to find, making the H a great prospect for a restoration project.