He Just Can't Seem to Retire

3/16/2013 7:00 AM
By Lisa Z. Leighton Central Pa. Correspondent

Man Shares His Vintage Car and Antique Tractor Collection with Others
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Dean Koch just can’t seem to retire. He has owned a trucking business for more than 35 years and at the age of 70 he continues to work part-time. Part of the reason is that he truly enjoys working and being busy, but, he admits: “I also have an expensive hobby.”

Since the 1980s, Koch has sought out restored Oliver tractors and vintage cars. He has a soft spot for Oliver tractors because, he says, “That’s what I used as a kid ... since I was 10 years old.”

He quickly points out that he does have one restored International Harvester tractor, a Farmall 460. And, he has one John Deere stored in his barn; however, that’s not technically his since he’s storing it for his friend’s son.

Koch has spent all of his life hauling milk; produce like tomatoes, peppers and green beans; and fertilizer and grain for companies like Chef Boyardee, Musselman’s, Furman’s, Heinz and Hanover. Until 2006, he also farmed 45 head of steer. Now he leases the 87-acre farm out for hay, corn and soybean crops.

His collection of antique vehicles is perfectly preserved — each car and tractor has been meticulously and lovingly restored, polished and kept indoors in a heated facility.

He often has in his mind what he’s looking to collect, but most of the tractors and vehicles have come from local people who know about his collection.

“They come to me,” he laughed.

Koch points to one of the vintage cars and says, “I agreed to store this one for a while and ended up buying it.”

In 2004, he built the heated Morton building that now houses his sparkling collection.

“Before that, I had them stored in barns and sheds all over the place,” he said.

Sharing His Collection with the Community

Koch’s collection isn’t something that he keeps to himself. In the summer of 2012, he opened up the garage doors and drove the cars and tractors out into a grassy field near the highway. People came from miles around to see the collection. According to the guestbook, he also welcomed visitors from Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, Maine and even as far away as Wisconsin. It was such a great success and “reunion” of sorts that Koch plans to do it again in the summer of 2014.

In February 2013, he welcomed a group of 70 Pennsylvania Young Farmers to his property and to enjoy his collection of antique vehicles. Many of the young adults were from Lititz, Pa., Gettysburg, Pa., and New Holland, Pa.

He’s even hosted his high school class reunion at the facility.

One thing is for sure — Dean enjoys sharing his collection with others as much as he enjoys it himself.

His long-time employee and friend, Terry Martin of Lewisburg, Pa., has known Koch for 30-plus years and helps Koch organize large events. He also spearheads the kiddie pedal pulls and tractor rides for kids hosted by Koch.

Martin said, “It’s a good way to get them (the kids) interested. There seems to be a gap once kids get to a certain age. Parents aren’t around it and small kids don’t know much about it at all.”

Collection Spans Decades

Last September, one of Koch’s Oliver tractors, a 1966 Oliver 1550, won a best of show award in the Central Pennsylvania Vintage Iron Club show.

Other noteworthy tractors in his collection include a 1940 Oliver 60, 1944 Oliver 70, 1949 Cockshutt, 1949 Oliver 66, 1950 Oliver 77, 1955 Oliver Super 77 Diesel, 1955 Ferguson 40, and countless others.

Many of the cars in the impressive collection still have their original upholstery, original tires and extremely low miles, such as a 1929 GMC truck with just 13,000 original miles, a 1959 Ford Thunderbird with 14,230 original miles, and a 1969 Ford Galaxie 500 with just 22,500 original miles.

Other vintage cars in Dean’s extensive collection include: a 1937 Ford convertible Cavalier with a rumble seat; a 1948 Ford Coupe; a 1948 Studebaker Comet; a 1951 Ford F-1 pickup truck; a 1952 Mercury Sedan; a 1955 Crown Victoria Fairlane (this car took first place at the National American Auto Show in 2000); a 1956 Mercury Montclair, and a 1956 Ford F-100.

Koch knows the story of each and every one — the previous owner, where it came from, why it was sold, and the quirks and eccentricities of each.

Despite their showroom condition, Koch enjoys taking the tractors and cars to nearby shows and has been known to drive them in local parades.

“You don’t want to be stuck behind Terry in that 1929 GMC though,” Dean laughed.

For more information, call 570-523-1051 or email kochs@dejazzd.com.

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