Collector empties sheds
By MIKE CORN
STOCKTON -- Many of them are battered, bent and broken. But for collectors, the rows of tractors and antique trucks are a treasure trove.
They'll all be going on the auction block Saturday in a field south of the manufacturing facility that made the collection possible.
Art Wilkens and his late brother, Jim, assembled the collection through the years, filling storage buildings in Plainville, Atwood and Bird City.
The equipment in Bird City, however, won't be sold.
Most of that equipment is restored and on display during the Tri-State Antique Engine show every July.
Wilkens, who hails from the Bird City area, built a successful trailer manufacturing business that started in Goodland. As it grew, Wilkens built a facility in Bloomington in Osborne County and finally Stockton, where it remains.
While he credits his brother with purchasing most of the pieces going on the auction block, he admits to buying a few.
"He did 90 percent of it, I think," Wilkens said as he looked over the rows of Diamond T trucks. "At that time, I was doing awfully good in the trailer business, and I gave him the checkbook."
But at 76 years old, he decided it might be time to trim down the sheer number in the collection.
"My brother died three years ago, and I'm just getting around to getting rid of stuff," Wilkens said.
It also will free up three sheds -- two measuring 40-by-240 feet and the other 50-by-150 feet. He's planning to sell all three of those buildings, reducing an already burgeoning tax load.
Business at Wilkens has slowed considerably, he said, the result of a struggling economy and high fuel prices. He's also quick to point to taxes and regulations for much of the blame.
Inside the Wilkens shop this week, employees were sprucing up some of the trucks, a few that won't be a part of the sale.
There's also a Case eagle -- a long-ago used cast iron statute that graced the front of Case dealers.
Wilkens got his from a former Quinter dealership and even went so far as to create a mold from it to pour two more slightly-smaller replicas.
And while there's tractors galore, including John Deere, International, Allis Chalmers, Case Ford, Massey-Harris and Farmall-McCormick Deering in the pasture, Wilkens especially is fond of the Diamond T trucks lined up.
It's the first truck he and his brother ever drove.
He pointed to high cab trucks, those with 4 extra inches added to the doors and windows. And he talked about the sought-after hood ornaments, a T-in-a-diamond with a long fin, and said they alone can fetch hundreds of dollars in good condition.
Some of the trucks were missing the ornaments, the T was missing or had a broken fin.
Even a set of used hubcaps could fetch $500.
"I'm keeping seven Diamond Ts," he said. "I've got a shed up in Bird City with good stuff in it."
He's getting rid of a 1935 Dodge Airflow truck, thought to be one of only seven left, and a six-door Cadillac limousine with only 28,000 miles on it.
Despite the growing and glowing list, the auction's set for a single day.
How the prices will be is uncertain.
"We'll find out," he said. "It could bring half-price or it could bring more."
* Start time for the auction is 9 a.m. immediately south of the Wilkens manufacturing facility, approximately 5 miles south of Stockton on U.S. Highway 183. Details of the auction are online at vanderbrinkauctions.com.