One of the great things about working the machinery beat here at Grainews is I sometimes get a preview of the latest farm equipment book due to hit store shelves. This time Octane Press sent us a copy of one of their latest release, Classic Oliver Tractors: History, Models, Variations & Specifications 1897-1976, by Sherry Schaefer, to preview.
One of the first things to notice is that the author is a woman, which is rare among those who’ve penned machinery books. The granddaughter of an Oliver dealer and prolific writer, Schaefer has even worked with the Smithsonian Institute to help restore one of the earliest gas tractors ever built. She also has a long history with the brand through the various collector associations that have been formed by enthusiasts of Oliver and its history.
Schaefer details the rise and fall of the corporations behind the famous brand, which at one point took over the Canadian equipment company Cockshutt. That was a deal that still rankles many Cockshutt aficionados, even today. But it’s just one of the many tales of corporate shenanigans and executive infighting that eventually forced the extinction of the Oliver brand itself — and ultimately all the brands brought into its fold over the decades.
Aside from the corporate history lesson, most of the discussion within the pages of this book is about the machines themselves, their design and the back-stories of how and why they evolved as they did.
One thing every tractor and machinery enthusiast will appreciate about this book is the photography. There are period images and advertising along with high quality recent shots of various restored models.
Arguably, rare images are the ones most readers look for in a book like this. And Schaefer managed to find some good ones, including a shot of the very rare Twin 880, which was actually two tractors mounted side-by-side on the same chassis and designed to work by remote control — one of the many forerunners from decades ago that foreshadowed today’s drive to autonomy.
The book also talks about Oliver’s other manufacturing adventures, which included military aircraft components and outboard motors.
It’s well written, and overall it scores points from me as a good read. It’s a book that brand enthusiasts or those simply interested in the history of today’s farm machinery sector will appreciate.
You can order a copy of this book online at octanepress.com (from the U.S.), or from Amazon.
Enter to win a copy
Courtesy of the Octane Press, the publisher of “Classic Oliver Tractors,” we have a copy to give away to a Grainews reader. To enter to win, just send an email message to me, [email protected] or Grainews editor, Leeann Minogue, at [email protected]. That’s all you have to do. But don’t wait too long. The contest closes April 1, 2019.
We’ll announce the winner in an upcoming issue.