Massey tractor collection earns local father-son duo a magazine feature

Cindy Mullet
Thursday, August 13, 2020
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Submitted photos: Neil and Kyle Hoff stand in front of one their current projects.

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Neil and Kyle’s complete collection of Massey Ferguson Lawn and Garden tractors.

In prime John Deere country, Neil and Kyle Hoff collect Massey Ferguson lawn and garden tractors, a distinction that landed them a feature article in the July “Massey Harris Ferguson Legacy” magazine.

When Neil saw an announcement in an earlier edition that the magazine was planning to feature the small tractors, he called the editor and told him about their collection he said. Most collectors of Massey tractors are in the Eastern United States, and the editor was intrigued that someone in Montana had such an extensive collection. He chose them for the feature story.

The Massey tradition goes back to Neil’s dad who farmed in North Dakota. He hooked up with the Massey dealership there, developed a relationship with them and always used Massey equipment, Neil explained.

Neil and Kyle started their collection with a small tractor they restored when Kyle was a second grader. They lived in town at the time and had no plans to start a collection but after that one was restored, they came across another and then another and the collection grew, Neil said.

They started collecting before a person could go on-line and search so they found most of their tractors and parts through contacts and happenstance. It was mostly word of mouth, Kyle said.

On a family trip to Canada they saw an ad in a magazine for a tractor, checked it out and ended up buying it. Fortunately they were driving a pickup with a topper so could transport it back to Glendive. They hauled it all across Canada and back home, Neil related.

Neil’s wife, Nadine, had friends who were custom combiners based in Kansas. They called one day to say they h a d found a tractor, were Neil and Kyle interested. The Hoffs sent them money, they bought the tractor for them and over a Labor Day weekend, the Hoffs drove to Kansas to visit their friends and pick up another tractor, he said.

Neil and Kyle also attended trade shows in Billings where they set up a display of their restored tractors along with some pieces from Kyle’s toy tractor and implement collection. That exposure led them to additional contacts in the community of Massey collectors, he added. 

Their collection isn’t just for show. Of their 18 garden tractors, eight to 10 are used regularly. Each of the tractors they use has its own attachment from mower decks to dozer blades, snow blowers and tillers. They don’t keep batteries in all the tractors as they have found it’s easier to switch out batteries than to change attachments.

“We’re keeping the parts stores in business for batteries,” Kyle noted.

Not all of their 18 tractors have been restored. Some they still plan to work on. Others they use for parts, but they are working on another restoration project this summer. They have the tractor disassembled and the parts are ready to be primed and painted, he said.

The garden tractors may be small but each has hundreds and hundreds of little parts. When a tractor is disassembled parts can cover an eight-foot table, he added.

Details are important to Neil and Kyle. On their first restoration project they struggled to find all the right decals to match the original. The internet has made that search easier, and they’ve also found a dealer who supplies authentic Massey-Ferguson lawn and garden tractor decals. It’s amazing how many decals go on a small tractor, Neil noted.

For their earlier restoration projects they took photos of each step and drew diagrams showing how the parts fit together. Those photos had to be taken to be developed before they could use them as guides. They still have boxes and boxes of photos from those early days, Neil said.

When the “Legacy” editor called to tell them they had been chosen for the July feature story those boxes came in handy. The editor wasn’t able to come to Montana and needed the Hoffs to supply photos for the story. Neil was off work right then so he and Nadine had time to go through the boxes and select some to send him, Neil said.

Now in the days of cell phones, they snap photos as they go along so have more photos and instant documentation. They also delete them as soon as they finish a project so don’t have the same historical record, Kyle noted.

In todays “throw-away society,” the Hoffs take pride in keeping old stuff running. Their garden tractor collection is testimony to that philosophy of life.

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