ALL ABOUT TRACTORS
BY PAUL WALLEM
It can’t be that hard to build a tractor. All it takes are designers, engineers, draftsmen, and a factory full of machine tool experts, robots, assemblers, painters and a lot more.
And it can’t be that hard to use that tractor to grow a crop. Until you realize that often just one person in a farming operation is borrowing the money, choosing the right fertilizer and seed, and deciding the best time to plant with the right equipment and the right tools to harvest.
Those of you that farm know it takes a lot more. Dealing with bad weather, crop diseases, machinery breakdowns, labor shortages, etc. requires endless decisions.
It’s the same in tractor manufacturing. That is why I want to tell you about the life and career of a tractor-builder family.
Mike Bunnell was an Indiana farm boy. He grew up on an AC-WD. After obtaining his engineering degree he became one of very few who worked with all three, IH for 13 years, CaseIH for 15 years, and finally CNH for 19 years.
His first job as a rookie engineer in 1972 was at the IH Research & Engineering Center. Next came a value analysis assignment followed by a temporary diversion with the Cub Cadet Group. By now you can see that a tractor engineer’s job constantly changes.
Various other assignments included the design of the IH 86 series cab, the 50 series transmission, and the 50 series cab and 2 + 2 cab. And more after that.
The Tenneco purchase of IH Agriculture Group in 1985 brought these projects to a halt. For this young engineer and most of the IH team, the future suddenly looked very uncertain.
Then the future looked brighter when Bunnell was invited to Racine after the buyout. Transmission engineers from Case and IH were gathered to discuss new products, and Bunnell was named lead on new cabs and controls. Their mission was to complete these components for the new CaseIH Magnum tractor.
Three years later, he was named chief engineer over ongoing projects in Doncaster UK. Following the closing of the David Brown Plant, their engineers were transferred to his team.
More changes took him to Uzbekistan on several occasions as that antiquated tractor plant was closed after the Case IH merger. Then, after 15 years with Case IH, Mike was transferred to CNH for numerous assignments involving tractor engineering.
After 47 years total, Bunnell retired. But there’s a lot more to this family’s story. Jane Bunnell had a parallel career with the IH/Case IH/CNH threesome.
She arrived to work at the IH Research & Engineering Center in 1976, four years after Mike. They met there, dated, and married after several months. She actually worked for Montgomery Design International, under contract for IH and Case IH for the next 26 years.
Jane’s responsibilities throughout those years included graphics for all divisions as well as icon graphics for instrumentation. From 1978 to 2011, she developed all appearance graphics for ag products. Virtually all graphics, model numbers and safety decals on Case IH products since the two companies combined were designed by her.
In 2011 Jane joined CNH. She was with them until she and Mike retired. Between the two of them, their work involved IH, Case IH, and CNH for 90 years.
Farming and ranching require endless decisions, changes, disappointments, and challenges. I’ve added the Bunnell story so you can see another side of agriculture – the constant-changing careers of those who build your tractors.
Others have that same intense passion for agriculture, no matter what their occupation is. These are folks who not only grew up on a farm but stay connected with the family farm for a lifetime. That’s what John Croft has done, throughout his lifetime.
After growing up on their Leaf River, Ill., farm owned by his dad and purchased by his grandfather in 1921, John chose to become a Vo-Ag teacher. After five years he joined an agricultural service company then went on to a career with Growmark.
During that time, he and his wife Karna, a French teacher, continued all through the years to spend time on John’s home farm, and then purchased it from his mother in 2004.
He restored his grandfathers’ F-20 from the ground up. He acquired a Super-H like his dad owned, and also a 460 Utility and 560 Diesel.
Even though Karna’s career was teaching, she has been a partner in the restoration of the home farm, and they travel every weekend from their Normal, Il., home to the farm to continue the restoration.
John left me with these thoughts after showing me his lifetime “home away from home.”
“There has never been a tractor on this farm other than IH.” His last comment was “We are just caretakers of the history of this farm.”
Paul Wallem was raised on an Illinois dairy farm. He spent thirteen years with IH in domestic and foreign assignments. He resigned to own and operate two IH dealerships. He is the author of THE BREAKUP and SUCCESSES and INDUSTRY FIRSTS of IH. See all his books on www.PaulWallem.com. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.