Beautifully Restored! 1956 Case Orchard 405 Tractor

Since we are a week away from Christmas, I find this 1956 Case Orchard tractor to be very appropriate. Not just because of its festive, two-tone paint job but because it looks like it should be strapped to a Lionel 6816 flatcar and making the rounds on a Christmas train layout. It’s always interesting to see what one values and considers worthy of restoration – this is not what we usually encounter on Barn Finds though the “barn” part seems apropos. And I have learned that collecting tractors is not that unusual a thing to do, I have known at least two different people who conduct themselves as such and I have actually been able to review one of those individuals’ modest collection. Let’s see what we can learn about this unusual little tractor. It is located in Fenton, Missouri and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $7,455, reserve not met as of this writing.

The J.I. Case company has old roots going back to the mid-1800s. In the mid-1970s Tenneco purchased a controlling interest in Case and then in 1985 Tenneco bought certain farm implement assets from International Harvester and created what is known today as Case IH. In the mid-90s, Tenneco spun off Case IH and it was purchased by Fiat and then became a subsidiary of  CNH Global which in turn merged with Fiat Industrial, CASE IH’s current overlord – follow all of that?  Generally “orchard” tractors were offered from the ’20s to the ’60s with the ’40s and ’50s being their big years. They were designed for tight operating conditions, like orchards, and that’s the reason for the enclosed wheels, a way to keep orchard limbs, etc. out of the moving machinery. The model 400, such as this example, was introduced in 1955.

The seller claims that this tractor has undergone a “no expense spared” professional restoration. It looks like it! There isn’t a scratch on any of the exposed body panels, much less dents, misalignment, or farm induced mayhem. The brilliant two-tone finish is a combination of Desert Sunset and Flambeau Red which is believed to be its original colors and those adopted and used by Case for all of their equipment until the end of the ’60s. The seller states that the restoration of an orchard tractor is hampered by the need to straighten, or actually manufacture replacement body panels as they are no longer available with the exception of rarely stumbling upon NOS components. Mechanically, an orchard tractor is really no different than a non-orchard model so that aspect of restoration isn’t as much of a challenge as the exterior aesthetics can prove to be.

Power is provided by a 49 HP, 251 CI, in-line four-cylinder diesel engine. Interestingly, the transmission is a four-speed manual with a dual-speed differential allowing for a combination of eight different speeds and a top-end of 13 MPH. The seller doesn’t state how this tractor operates but we’ll go with the assumption, that as the result of a no expense spared restoration, it runs as expected. Then again, it’s doubtful that this orchard tractor will see another orchard anytime soon, if ever again.

It seems as if no detail went unattended in the restoration, even the simple instrument panel is adorned with all-new Case styled gauges functioning as the result of complete rewiring. The excellent work, vibrant colors, and art-deco styling make this Case Orchard tractor a must-have for any tractor collection, wouldn’t you agree?

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Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    That’s really cool! Almost too nice to get dirty.
    I wonder what the reaction was from his neighbors,
    when a farmer bought one of these new?

    Like 8
  2. GP Member

    Now when I here Kenny Chesney sing ” she thinks my tractors sexy” I know why. A tractor with skirts, Beautiful.

    Like 11
  3. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    I have a friend who has a collection of John Deeres, but beyond that I don’t follow the collector tractor world. That said, I’ve never seen anything like this. Very stylish and very cool.

    Like 5
  4. scott m

    My pappy said, “Son, I’m going to blow my reactor
    If you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod tractor.”

    Like 18
  5. Howard A Member

    Finally, but let’s back up the tractor a bit. It’s important to note, Case tractors have been made in Racine, Wis. since 1842 when Jerome Increase Case, started the Racine Threshing Machine Works. It was one of the founding companies of Wisconsin and remains there to this day. The screens and panels are options for certain applications, but most had none. The 4 cylinder diesel was a new venture, I read, although Case was late to the “diesel” game, with others already having them. It was one of the 1st “self starting” diesels, as before, most diesels had “pony motors”. Regardless, gas motors were still the rule, than them new fangled diesel jobs. Farmers are the hardest people to convince them of something new. Vintage tractors have an even less of a calling than most things collectible, mostly because, people just have no interaction with one, and probably couldn’t drive, or much less, start one anyway. Tractor auctions today are usually attended by other farmers, and farmers aren’t known for making unnecessary purchases, but an old tractor always hits home and most look like this, because they were proud to have one.

    Like 22
  6. On and On On and On Member

    I drive through rural Wisconsin quite a bit, I’m always impressed with old tractors. Everyone with a few acres or more had one for hauling and snow removal. Lots of collectors, and I’ve had the opportunity to see some up close. Seems that when Dad retired from working the farm, a tough wear out your body kind of job, he moved into a heated area or shed and restored the old tractors. Gorgeous and functional machinery with a large following and parts network………..I particularly like the small ones, cute and fun.

    Like 12
  7. OIL SLICK

    I can’t help to think that those body panels are designed like that for a reason and not just for aesthetics. Think about an apple orchard and all of the apples falling out of the trees. This is a real mess and they end up everywhere so the panels protect from that.

  8. Chas H

    The fuel pressure and manifold vacuum gauges are interesting for a diesel engine tractor.
    The panels keep branches from getting tangled in the running gear or steering wheel/driver’s face.

    Like 2
  9. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Almost an Art Deco style design. Much more attractive than any Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche (tractor) out there IMO. Looks like a lot of time, money and love spent here-GLWTA.

    Like 8
  10. Poppy

    The fist photo resembles the spawn of a Mack truck and the Wienermobile.

    • Poppy

      Kidding aside it’s a really cool tractor. I’ve never seen one like this before.

      Like 7
  11. 370zpp

    (Almost) stunning.
    (Very) cool.

    Like 3
  12. dogwater

    Ok so you buy it then what yard art? or are you going take the family on a trip to the beach on it.

    • Howard A Member

      I believe you are missing the point with this, and it’s very common today. This old gals working days are over, and to a tractor nut, there’s a simple tranquility in putt-puttin’ around the yard, maybe pulling the kids on a wagon, but this is pure fun. $8,000 dollar fun, could be debated, I suppose.

      Like 9
      • Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

        When I think about it, maybe it’s just a different version of what you and I like to do. It’s a nice day, you get in your classic car or truck and head to town to run errands. In parallel, the (retired) farmer gets on this Case and heads over to the neighbor’s to see how his corn is doing. And maybe, if town isn’t far away, rides on into town to run errands.

        Like 6
      • Mountainwoodie

        Its really beautiful. I agree with HoA. If I had money to blow I’d love to have it. I’d drive into town r e a l slow. Drive all my fellow geezers in their 60 K heated seat pickups c r a z y! :)

        Like 2
    • Tim

      There are all kinds of events to go to every summer (except for covid). The one I like is https://www.antiquepowerland.com/steam-up

      Like 6
  13. chuck

    Hmmm…
    I’d like to take the body from one of these, and mount it on a dragster chassis.

    Like 3
  14. Lance G Nord

    I must admit, I’ve never said, “That’s a badass tractor.”

    I won’t be able to say that again after seeing this one. That’s one badass tractor.

    Like 7
  15. Thom

    Orchard tractors aren’t all that rare (at least in apple country). Why they didn’t include the 3 point hitch in the rear has always baffled me. As far as price…you really can’t go too wrong if it’s running. Not much wears out on these old beasts, although I prefer gas models. Give it a spray of ether and fire it up. Even though I left the farm 50 years ago, I wouldn’t dream of living out in the country and not having a tractor.

    Like 4
  16. Larry Ashcraft

    I was bitten by the old tractor bug over 30 years ago. My grandpa was a farmer, and although his tractor was a Massey Harris 70, he would pull his truck over and shut it off and say “Listen; Johnny Popper” while we were riding with him to the grain elevator where he worked. He eventually got his own 1950 John Deere AR in 1965, and when my grandma moved to town in 1992, she offered me the AR. I restored it in one summer and went to the Colorado State Fair that August, along with my 14 year old son and my restored 1953 John Deere 40.

    We participated in the pulls, the show, and the State Fair Parade, and had loads of fun for ten days. Most of the guys I met there have now passed on, but they were a memorable bunch, and really welcoming to this non-farmer.

    A companion model to my AR was the 1950 John Deere AO (model A, Orchard). IMHO, I think the John Deere is even racier looking than this Case.

    I don’t know how to post pictures her, but google the AO. I bet you’ll agree with me.

    Like 5
  17. MCH

    The body is wrapped in smooth steel to prevent it from hanging up on branches or snagging fruit as it moves between rows of trees. Looks like ’30s streamlining too – I LOVE IT

    Like 2
  18. charlie Member

    And the skirts and shields must have made it safer as well. I drove a John Deere with the narrow front wheels off and on for three summers 60 years ago and was quite comfortable with it, but in the hilly land of New England it was really risky if running on a side hill. And other workers would hitch a ride with real danger from the big rear wheels turning next to them while they hung on. It did woods work, dragging logs out of the woods, and pulling wagons, and, other miscellaneous things around the property and in the winter, when I was not there, it plowed snow.

    Like 2
  19. C5 Corvette

    Just Beautiful! Maybe there’s hope for my 71 Case 580b with backhoe and loader which I use each summer!

    Like 2
  20. lbpa18

    Always impressed by your encyclopedic memory Howard. In this case though, the top speed with the aerodynamic improvements probably left the others in the dust. Maybe as much as 14 mph :)

    Like 1
  21. DavidL Member

    I love this tractor!! The apparent streamlining left me a little perplexed as I did not see the need for streamlining. Styling is not something I expect to see in a tractor but can see the need considering its function. Seeing this now I have a vague recollection of seeing something similar growing up in the orchard country of SW Oregon. This one is too cool not to be included in my Lotto collection (when I win it that is). Great Find!

    Like 2
  22. chrlsful Member

    yes, glad 2C no ‘tricycle’ frnt as well.
    Much of the restoration is about “All those yrs farmin I could never keep up w/my faithful ol tractor’s maintenance. By gosh, I can do that now. I will finish my job ! AND one I can B proud of. Let the kids do the farmin, I got time now.” Seems like 100s of names of these ol orphan tractor co.s across our land. A new one crops up for me several times a yr. One of the community fathers, a far away look in his eye, the name almost whispered off lip…

    Neighbor in his ’80s retired, now hasa job – go out to the barn’n wrk on the tractors. He’s got em (all J.Deer) from a lill cart hauler upto a 750 (hasa 4 cyl gas phony motor to start the huge 2 cyl diesel).”B”, “M”, 204, gosh I guess there’s 10 of em, then some duplicates. He’s about 1/2 way thru his green hord (herd?).

    Yes they go to fairs, yes they wrk the lill truck patch for the house kitchen/ neighbors meals – veg, herb, flowers, no they do not go out’n do ‘real wrk’ but they sure as hell kick butt. A man can get killed by one. Nonea toy…

    Like 2
  23. Comet

    It’s odd to see a vacuum gauge on a N/A diesel tractor. Perhaps to monitor the condition of the air filter?

    Like 1
  24. Dave

    It certainly is not hard to look at, and it’s easy to appreciate the work that went into it……..probably not a straight panel on it when restoration commenced 😳. My only nit picky wonder is…….what did it look like when it left the factory? Nearly this nice? I bought a brand new Massey Ferguson diesel in 2012, that came to me with “blemishes”. Not sure how they happened with maybe 2 hours on it, but those were merely the first of many😞.

    Dave.

  25. Peter J Weinzierl

    i gotta say, his baby is way cool!!! I think its much better looking than an A/O Deere with the skirts. It comes from a time when things were thought out and built to last, unlike the new Case’s where its plastic everything and computer operated clutches, etc. Give me the levers and knobs any day. If only I had room, she’d be in my living room! Love the art deco look and styling. Its easy on the eyes

  26. Karl

    That’s a very beautiful tractor there is a lot of time and money into it to make it like this! The Orchard tractors and the HI CROP variants are always worth more than row crops and standards because there far less numbers built. I have a 59 John Deer 730 diesel row crops that I plow with every year with a collector my tractor is nice but it still gets used for what it was intended! I have great respect for the folks who collect and use these pieces of history, there is still in my eyes better than sitting on my 730 on a beautiful fall day JUST ENJOYING IT ALL!!!

  27. Karl

    Mountain woodie you need to check your pickup prices my neighbor just bought a 1/2 ton GMC and it was 75k!

  28. CVPanther Member

    What a beauty! I’ve ridden and driven tractors since I was in the mid-single digits and they never cease to be super cool to me. I get just as excited by seeing a nice old tractor as I do seeing a nice old car.
    What stories these tractors could tell. Entire generations often using the same tractors.
    If I understand it correctly if you buy a brand new JD, you aren’t even allowed to work on it yourself anymore. Not sure with other manufacturers, but that is just a shame.

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