It was just a tractor skeleton and a pile of parts when Bob Anderson first laid eyes on the Titan 18 -35 more than 30 years ago while visiting a farm at High Bluff.
“But I could see she’d been a beauty,” says the MacGregor farmer and lifetime International Harvester Company enthusiast.
He knew this was a rarity too. He would later learn just this and one other are known to exist anywhere in North America. All others vanished. Why they did, is what makes the big old two-cylinder tractor with throttling governor a legend.
It was a sunny day in August back in 1979 when Anderson first spoke to its first owner, Joseph Bowes. The Titan had been in the Bowes’ family since purchased new by the grandfather back around 1913-14. Like others, the senior Bowes had no doubt been impressed with this new make and model rolling off IHC production lines in Chicago.
But it was a clunker from Day 1. Farmers hated it, says Anderson. It malfunctioned all the time. Not the least of its problems was a flywheel that frequently came loose.
“I’ve read there were so many problems they (IHC board of directors) called a special meeting and cancelled the program,” he says. He’s also read just 119 of the original 259 planned were produced.
“They said farmers were so mad they would bring them back and dump them off in the (IHC) yard in Chicago saying ‘here’s your pile of junk.’”
But they didn’t all end up on the scrap heap.
The Bowes used theirs until 1927 and almost exclusively for threshing, said Anderson “although they had problems with it too,” he adds. They kept it around after retirement and by 1950 they’d stripped it down for restoration.
lorraine stevenson photo
Thus, the pile of parts Anderson came upon that summer. He was intrigued and expressed interest in it. The phone rang that fall.
“I remember he called me at five o’clock in the morning. I was still half asleep or more and he said, ‘This is Bowes speaking. Do you still want the Titan?’ Then I woke up,” says Anderson. “‘I said, I sure do.” And he said, ‘well, come and get it,’ and that’s exactly what I did.”
He hauled all the parts to his farm in three pickup truckloads. Don Blight of Blight’s Portage Ltd. hauled the tractor over.
“And so the fun began,” says Anderson.
The rest of the winter he pored over parts and operating manuals figuring out how to piece it back together. The engine was seized solid, the air tank rusted out. Having never seen one before, assembling it was all by guess and by golly. Fortunately, the Bowes had saved the manuals.
“It was like a great big jigsaw puzzle,” says Anderson. “Everybody who came to see what I was doing said ‘your head looks OK on the outside, Bob.’”
And would it run? He jokes how, after the rebuild was complete, about waiting until no one was home to start it up.
It ran fine, “and a nicer running two-cylinder engine I have never heard,” he says.
And so it became a gem among his extensive IHC collection. The public has seen the Titan 18 -35 at the Threshermen’s Reunion
OFFERED FOR SALE
But the time has come to let it go.
On August 1, Anderson will put the rare International tractor up for auction, along with all the rest of his tractor collection, including 8 -16 and 10 -20 Moguls, a Titan 10 -20, plus various IHC stationary engines and an Aultmann and Taylor Harvester.
It’s the Titan 18 -35 that’ll be tough to part with, he admits. But that’s not for lack of buyer interest. There’s plenty of that.
“It’s been a fixture in the family,” he says.
Saved from scrap:
Lifetime IHC enthusiast and tractor collector Bob Anderson rebuilt the Titan 18 -35 over the winter of 1979-80 after acquiring it from its original owner at High Bluff.
below: Probably the rarest of all the International tractors, a Titan 18 -35 will be offered for auction at
MacGregor on August 1.
– BOB ANDERSON, MACGREGOR FARMER AND OWNER OF THE TITAN 18 -35