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Cub Cadet lawn tractors are Illinois family’s hobby
By CINDY LADAGE
Illinois Correspondent

AUBURN, Ill. — Joe Wheeler works at a truck dealership in Springfield, Ill. He puts in long hours, but when he is not laboring over a big rig, he is laboring over his “girls”. Joe’s girls are his Cub Cadet lawn mowers that his real girls, Kristen, 11, and Samantha, 5, love as well.

In fact, the whole Wheeler family including wife, Amy, have all joined Joe in the Cub Cadet craze, Joe, who lived in the country, always liked tractors. His first Cub Cadet purchase though was purely functional.

“I started collecting in 1999,” he said. “I bought a 1964 Cub Cadet Original to mow two acres.”

The reason he bought the Cub Cadet was also practical.

“At that time, it was cheap,” Joe added. “I paid $250 and I mowed with it for two years. Then it got so tired, it wouldn’t mow anymore.”

The Cub Cadet Original was soon replaced with another mowing machine. Since the first Cub Cadet has worked well, why change.

“I bought a 1968 10-horsepower International Harvester Cub Cadet 102,” he said.

This little Cub Cadet was a keeper. Joe mowed with it for two years on the farm, then another two when they moved to town. At their country house, they had a long lane that Joe said, “I pushed snow out of with the Cub Cadet.”

It was a lot of fun, he said. The little mower still runs, but he said it now smokes like a freight train. This mower has been relegated to the backyard along with several other Cud Cadet projects that are on his list.

One of the projects that he has is a Cub Cadet 800 Series model that was built in the narrow time frame between October 1974 and January 1976.

“International Harvester wanted to compete with K-mart and the other companies selling lawn mowers,” Joe explained. “They took a tractor; put a little engine in it and a little mower deck under it.”

The end result was a big mower with little power for an economical cost. The cost; however, didn’t make up for the lack of power, and the machine was a failure.

“No one wanted it then, but everyone wants one now,” Joe added.

Joe said he has always been an IH guy.

“I’ve always loved tractors,” he said. “I grew up in small farm towns and liked big tractors, but they are a bit pricey for me. But, I thought I could buy the little ones. The price of them now though has tripled. I got to looking at the Cub Cadets (back then) and thought I’ll fix that dude up. Then I was hooked.”

The first “dude” that got an overhaul was his first one, the Cub Cadet Original.

“The Original was restored in 2001,” he said. “I did everything. I took it down to the bare bones and sandblasted it, put in new bearings, bushings and rings. I refurbished it and my buddy, Jimmy Berkshire from Tallulah, Ill. primed and painted it.”

This little tractor has a few implements to go with it. It has a tiller and grader blade. The tractor turned out so well that he decided to do it again. The next Cub Cadet mower was a family project that began as a birthday project for Kristen.

Joe soon found there was something a bit unusual about this little mower. The 1964 Cub Cadet 100 he bought doesn’t have a serial number.

“The only two reasons I know for a tractor not to have a serial number is if it was an in-house tractor or a gift,” he guessed. “Because I can’t trace it back to the original owner, I don’t know the story.”

“The 100, my kids and I tore it down, sandblasted and replaced the bushings, and bearings. I painted this,” he added running his hand over the shiny, smooth hood.

Painting it at home didn’t work well, so he took it to his friend, Russell Mayes, who painted it. Mayes has since opened up his own tractor-restoration business.

The Cub Cadet 100 even has implements to go with it.

“It has a 3-point hitch system, and I have an 8-inch, one-bottom plow, a cultivator and a front-grader utility blade. This is my daughter Kristen’s tractor. She wants to mow with it.”

Since the tractor has been restored, Joe said the mower will remain in hiding until that notion passes.

The love the girls feel for Cub Cadets, Joe thinks, stems from him calling them “Daddy’s girls.”

“Because Dad thinks they are cool, so do they,” he said.

This farm news was published in the April 12, 2006 issue of Farm World.

4/12/2006