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Hampden home to largest collection of rare CO-OP tractors

Those driving to Hampden last week had the treat of seeing Winston “Winny” Johnson’s tractor collection on display.

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Posted on 9/6/14

By Melissa Anderson

Johnson had 15 of his CO-OP and John Deere tractors arranged for viewing on his property from the road.

While just about everyone is familiar with the famous  green and yellow of John Deere tractors,few know the interesting history of the CO-OP brand of tractor that Johnson collects.

The CO-OP brand of tractors was created by farmers to reduce cost through collective ownership of machinery production.  The early models were designed by Dent Parrett, formely of Parrett Tractor, and built in Michigan using a number of Chrysler components.

In 1938, production moved to new facilities in Indiana. Cletrac also contributed a few models and some production occurred in Saint Paul, Minnesota, at this time.

After World War II, an arrangement with Cockshutt led to the new “E” series of CO-OP tractors which were simply re-branded Cockshutt models. Poor sales led to the CO-OP facilities being sold to Cockshutt in 1952, causing the CO-OP brand to be discontinued.

“I wanted something nobody else has” Johnson said in regards to why he chose to collect the obscure CO-OP tractors.

Johnson started seriously collecting tractors about 20 years ago has a range of tractors with the oldest being a 1936 CO-OP number 2.

The newest model that Johnson has in collection is a 1951 CO-OP Number 3.

One of the contributing factors to Johnson starting to collect tractors was tracking down the first tractor that he ever drove.

Purchased brand new in 1938 by his father for $400 and four horses, which is close to $7,000 in todays money, it took Johnson 60 years to track down the John Deere he drove in his youth.

Most of the tractors that Johnson has were made in a St. Paul, Minnesota factory.

Johnson is not alone in his love of tractors, his good friend Don Steeves helps him work on  his collection. When not busy with other projects the two can be found working on a tractor in Johnson’s farmyard.

Johnson knows the history of each of his tractors and enjoys telling others about the stories these tractors have.  The value of these tractors, like so many beloved objects, does not have a price tag for Johnson.

One of the stories, for instance, was of how fast the CO-OP tractors can go. His uncle drove a 1937 CO-OP tractor home from St. Paul, Minnesota in 1941.  It took him two days to make the trip, spending a night in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The CO-OP tractors can reach speeds up to 40 miles an hour, if the driver has the nerve and doesn’t mind the bouncing around.

Another favorite tractor is one that was made during World War II. This tractor stands out amongst the collection for its lack of headlights and the sparse look of the body. Only 200 of the CO-OP D3 were made during war time.

Most of the tractors that Johnson has have come from farms across North Dakota. The furthest Johnson has gone to find one of his sought after tractor is Lake Lillian, Minnesota, where the largest collection of CO-OP tractors he knows of is located.

“I would say that I don’t know anybody that’s got more CO-OP tractors in North Dakota than me . Now if there is, I would like to meet them!” Johnson said.

Johnson enjoys showing off his tractors during the summer time partaking in parades and going on tractor cruises with other tractor enthusiasts.

For those who missed the opportunity to see the collection, Johnson’s phone number is 701-868-3763