'When I grow up, I want a Massey-Harris' - Norfolk enthusiast's rare vintage tractor collection is up for auction
PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 July 2019 | UPDATED: 20:59 07 July 2019
It was a lifelong passion that began almost 70 years ago - but now after amassing one of the UK's rarest vintage tractor collections a Norfolk enthusiast is putting his pride and joy up for auction.
Bob Parke, from Marsham near Aylsham, said it will be a "sad day" when he says goodbye to his extraordinary collection of Massey-Harris farm machinery, which is expected to attract worldwide interest when it goes under the hammer in September.
It is regarded as the biggest - and one of the finest - collections of these machines outside the USA, and includes several models unique to the UK.
Significant lots among the 50 tractors include a lovingly-restored 1937 Pacemaker, and a "one-off" pair of Massey-Harris 55 diesel tractors linked together by a dealer in Montana to double the horsepower, making it the first 110hp tractor. It is the only one in the UK.
There is also a 1956 US Air Force tractor, which Mr Parke believes saw service at RAF Sculthorpe near Fakenham, and a 1941 Massey-Harris 82, used by the Royal Canadian Air Force, and thought to be the only one of its kind in the UK.
The oldest machine is a Wallis Model K from around 1914-16, bought from an auction in Texas.
There are also five combine harvesters, including a 1949 model thought to be the only working model remaining of the five surviving examples, and a self-propelled corn-picker, the only one in the UK.
Mr Parke, now 78, said his passion for farm machinery began at the age of 10.
"I always had a hankering for Massey-Harris, because when I was a boy I grew up in the harvest field and the farm I worked on had a standard Fordson and a high Major which I was not allowed to touch or drive," he said.
"But the neighbouring farmer had a brand new Massey-Harris 744D and I said: 'I don't care, I don't want to drive your Fordson Major because when I grow up I want to drive one like that Massey Harris."
Mr Parke, whose career was in industrial construction, began his tractor collection by picking up an old Field Marshall in 1993, and finally achieved his childhood dream of owning a Massey-Harris when he bought his coveted 744 model for £3,000 at a vintage rally in 1995.
But he said the time was now right to let go of his treasured machines.
"There are so many that at my age, and my health, I cannot look after them so I am going to downsize and get some money back in the bank," he said. "It will be a sad day, but the bottom line is I have spent too much money on tractors and I haven't got much left."
Henry Treloar, an agricultural business consultant from the Norwich office of Brown and Co, which is organising the auction, said: "Brown and Co are very privileged to be involved with the sale of one of the UK's rarest, if not the rarest, and widely considered the largest, collection of Massey-Harris memorabilia, tractors and combine harvesters.
"Bob is an incredibly passionate collector who has sourced numerous tractors and combines from his trips to, and friendships in, Canada and the USA over the past 25 years, and it is testament to his passion that he has restored and maintained the collection to such a high standard.
"Given the scale, uniqueness and the quality of the collection there is significant interest from both the domestic market but also internationally from places like Canada and USA where a lot of the tractors were sourced from, as well as from France due the unique French-manufactured tractors in the collection.
"We are looking forward to a very busy sale day and hoping for some nice sunny weather to do the collection justice."
- Mr Parke's entire collection will be on public display for the last time at the Marsham Show, a weekend of family fun and vintage displays at Orchard Cottage, Allison Street, in the village on August 10-11.
- The machinery auction will be held in Marsham by rural agents Brown and Co on September 6 and 7. For more details see the Brown and Co website.