GRANGEVILLE A piece of Camas Prairie old iron is headed east to corn country.
Last Friday, Oct. 27, the approximate four-ton 1917 Yuba Model 20-35 four-cylinder gas engine tractor was secured to a Bell Equipment flatbed truck pending shipment to an auction house in Davenport, Iowa. A sunny fall morning reflected across the tractor’s glossy green paint, still pristine from a restoration effort undertaken more than a decade ago by Ted Billups of Grangeville.
“It was purchased new from Cottonwood Hardware by Joe Uhlenkott,” Billups said, a Camas Prairie farmer who used the tractor for years for a number of uses: “They hauled grain to Cottonwood with it with three wagons behind, used belt on it with a stationary thresher, and they even ran a little rock crusher with it,” he said.
“It was ahead of its time,” Billups explained, the Yuba utilizing a planetary reduction drive system, and it ran on hundreds of steel balls in the track versus conventional track rollers. The tractor also has a single turnable front wheel: “It really wasn’t necessary,” he said, “but it carried over from the steam engine days.”
“That wheel,” he continued, “could get you into a lot of trouble.”
Billups turns 94 in November, and this week marks his 75th year working at Bell Equipment, at which when he first started “sweeping the floors,” he said, was then Brown Motors.
If you’ve seen a Border Days parade, or been involved in antique tractor clubs, or you’re just an enthusiast of the old iron, you’ve seen Billups’ handiwork. Raised in Nezperce, he started on tractors around age 6 and was still a young guy when he began fixing and then restoring them.
“I’ve restored over 40 tractors,” he said, and then clarified “I don’t like to use the word restore,” as that would mean every piece, part, bolt and nut is new.
A staple during July’s Border Days parades is Billups’ collection of working antique tractors that up until a few years ago were showcased in town during the annual October meeting of the Lewis Clark Antique Power Club. Among those in the collection was this Yuba, which Joe Uhlenkott’s youngest son, Ray, brought for Billups to restore. With that done and no immediate place for the family to house it, the Yuba remained in Billups’ shelter collection on Hill Street until recently when it was determined to put it up for auction.