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The Farmall 756 Custom with a rat in the toolbox…


Ryan Roossinck

February 22, 2024

Farmall 756 Custom at auction

While the Farmall 756 Custom isn’t the rarest thing to ever roll off the assembly line in Rock Island, it’s definitely not what you’d call a “common” tractor. You’d be surprised how many red guys have never heard of a Custom! They’re real, though, and there’s a nice one on auction in Walnut, IA right now. It’ll be going home with a new owner when the online-only auction wraps up on February 29th!

Here’s the auction details, before I forget.

Auctioneer: Gary Juranek & Associates
Location: Walnut, IA
Format: Online-only.
Auction close: Thursday, February 29, 2024 – 10:36AM CST
TZ Listing

Now, let’s talk about the 756 Custom, and what made it unique.

We’ll talk about the rat in the toolbox a bit later, too. It’s kind of a funny story!

The 756 Custom: Big power, low price!

Farmall 756 Custom
The 756 Custom accounted for less than 7% of the production of the model – even less if you count the International-branded variants! (Photo: Gary Juranek & Associates)

The 756 replaced the highly-successful 706, and it sold pretty well. By this point, a lot of farmers in the Midwest were starting to look at secondary tractors. The -56 tractors fit that role pretty well; they were nimble and versatile, and they could punch way above their weight class thanks to a stout lineup of diesel, gas, and LP engines.

However, while many farms needed the expanded capabilities and power, they couldn’t justify the cost of a fancy new machine. They needed the power, but the extras pushed the pricetag out of reach. Harvester listened to the voice of the customer. In 1969, they offered a solution; the 756 Custom.

Back to basics: The Price Fighter.


756 Custom badge
Harvester’s goal with the Custom models was simple; give the farmers a great tractor at a basic price. (Photo: Gary Juranek & Associates)

Typically when you went to the dealership, you could customize the tractor you bought. Every manufacturer knew that farming wasn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing; tractors could typically be optioned a number of different ways to meet the farmer’s needs.

With the Custom line (Harvester offered an 856 Custom too), though, it was different. They packaged up some of the most basic equipment, and stripped the tractors down of some of the more deluxe features. Save for tire size, there weren’t any options.

I won’t list out everything, but all 756 Customs came with the following basic options.

  • Naturally aspirated 310 German diesel making about 76 horse on the PTO dyno.
  • 16F/4R transmission with T/A.
  • Adjustable wide front axle.
  • Open station with row crop fenders.
  • One hydraulic remote.
  • Open battery trays with angle iron hold downs.
  • A round muffler.
  • Single-stage air cleaner.
  • A single headlight on the fender in the outside position.
  • Deluxe seat, but no hydraulic seat suspension.
  • A category II 3-point hitch.
  • 756 Custom badge (as opposed to the 756 Farmall badge).

Like I said, it’s basic, but it’s a fairly complete package for a budget-friendly tractor – and it’s a lot more tractor than you’d get with a 656. The one option the farmer could select was tire size. 16.9-34s were standard equipment, but 18.4-34s and 15.5-38s were available.

756 Custom serial tag
Over the years, a lot of 756 Customs have been upgraded to include a second remote or extra headlights and the like. The best way to identify a factory-original tractor is by the serial tag. If it’s a Custom, it’ll have CU stamped on the top line. (Photo: Gary Juranek & Associates)


It should be noted that while Harvester was launching the Custom line, John Deere was doing the same thing with the 4000. It was a stripped-down, lighter-weight version of the 4020 that made the same power, but carried a lower price tag. 

The 4000 ended up competing head to head with the 856 Custom, but the 756 Custom was in a weird space. Furthermore, it had competitors from Harvester as well as multiple other companies. Deere had 3020s in multiple different flavors (gassers were a must for winter livestock chores), and Oliver had a few low-price options as well.

On the internal side, both the 656 and 826 (which was introduced in 1969) were available as hydros. Those work well for planting and PTO work.  If you were a red guy with a good sized farm and you were buying a second tractor, you were probably looking for something that could handle a planter. A 756 Custom really wasn’t that tractor but an 826 or 856 was. On the other hand, if you were a small farmer and you were looking for a do it all big horse, you might opt for that 100-horse 826 Hydro, y’know?

I hesitate to say that Harvester created a solution to a problem that didn’t exist, because I don’t think that’s true. Their problem was that they might’ve had too many solutions and they ended up cannibalizing sales from the 756 Custom. It was a good machine, and it was close to perfect for quite a few tasks. That was the problem, though. It was close, where other offerings were closer.

At the end of the day, the 756 Custom was a one and done (1969-only) model, and only 737 were ever built. The 856 Custom was available for two years, but the bulk of the 3676 tractors built were 1969 models.

Were they successful? Hard tellin’.

In business, success is measured by revenue. With the 756 Custom, I’d imagine that Harvester felt like it was a flop. Perhaps there was less heartburn with the 856 Custom since it sold better. At the end of the day, though, it’s a moot point. The John Deere 4000 outsold both of ’em two to one.

I’ll say this, though. From a performance standpoint, Customs are basically identical to their regular counterparts, and I’ve rarely ever heard anybody complain that their 756 or 856 was a piece of junk in the field!

So what’s up with the tractor in Walnut?

Glad you asked.

The 756 Custom you can buy next Thursday…

Farmall 756
When Neal Schirm quit farming, this was one of the only tractors he kept. (Photo: Gary Juranek & Associates)

“But I thought we were gonna talk about rats and toolboxes or something…”

We will. Sit tight.

So, the guy who owns this tractor is a farmer named Neal Schirm, and his number was on the listing, so I gave him a call to chat this morning.

Neal started farming with his dad pretty much as soon as he got home from the Vietnam War. Furthermore, thanks to a fella named Jerry Mez (yep, that Jerry) who owned Avoca Implement, he’s been a red guy since then too. He told me, “Y’know Ryan, Jerry and the people at Avoca Implement always treated me right. They were always helpful and friendly, and that kept me coming back.”

At any rate, Neal had owned a bunch of red equipment over the years. But about fifteen years ago, Neal needed something with a bit more grunt than his trusty little 656 had. So, he started looking around, and stumbled on a listing for a Farmall 756 at a tractor repair shop just outside of Guthrie Center, IA. The guy who owned the shop had bought it at some point with the intent of fixing it up and selling it. He’d repainted it as well.

It looked good and drove nicely, and after a little negotiating, Neal got it bought. Not long after, though, he noticed something a little funky with a fuel line. So, like he’d done whenever he had an issue, he brought it to Avoca Implement. When Jerry looked it over, he turned to Neal and said, “Do you know what you’ve got here? This isn’t just any 756! Promise me that when you go to sell it, you’ll let me have first crack at it!”

Neal agreed, and that was that. Sadly, Jerry passed away before Neal was ready to let it go.

Livin’ the good life…

This little 756 Custom has lived a pretty good life at Neal’s place, honestly. Neal said, “To be truthful, I’ve never really used it for all that much. We had bigger equipment to do the big jobs, but I’ll tell ya, this tractor is awfully handy when it comes to moving wagons around the yard so we can chop ear corn! That’s really about all I’ve ever done with it. Once in a while I’d put a blade on the back and use it to knock the crown down on the driveway, but mainly all it’s done since I’ve owned it is move wagons back and forth!”

Honestly, other than a new cable to the hour meter, it doesn’t need much. The guys at Avoca Implement added a second remote, so it’s not 100% factory correct. However, it’s about as close as you can get. Furthermore, with two remotes, it wouldn’t be hard to put it to work on a farm with a mower, small baler, etc. The rubber’s good, it’s got a brand new clutch in it, the T/A works fine, the tin is straight, and it runs like a top. Neal has decided to sell it because it seems like a shame to just have it wasting away in the shed with nobody really using it. Neal’s son in law has taken over the farming operation, so it’s simply taking up space!

The rat in the toolbox…

One of the reasons that Neal bought this tractor was because he thought maybe he’d enjoy going on tractor rides with it. I didn’t say it out loud, but when he told me that, I thought to myself, “Imagine that…your friend and dealer was Jerry Mez – a guy who absolutely lived for tractor rides – and suddenly you own a tractor that’d probably be perfect for that sort of thing. Whodathunk?”

At any rate, he only ever ended up taking that tractor on one tractor ride – one that Jerry organized. It didn’t take very long for Neal to realize that tractor rides are a lot more fun to talk about than to participate in. He said, “You’re always on and off the throttle; you can never really just sit there enjoy the scenery, and after a while, it’s too darn loud and you’re just sitting there by yourself with a headache!”

To make things worse, the knob on the throttle was a little cracked and worked its way loose. Neal managed to keep it attached for most of the ride, but after a bump toward the end, it bounced its way off and he couldn’t catch it. He said, “Ryan, I watched that durn thing bounce off the throttle, then a tire, and then off into the ditch. I was in the middle of the group so I couldn’t just pull over to try and find it, so I just kept going.” I’m sure that was just the perfect end to what sounded like kind of a frustrating day.

Then it got worse.

When they stopped, somebody behind him asked him, “Neal, what the heck was that? I saw this black thing go flying off the tractor but I couldn’t see where it came from. What was it?”

He laughed as he told me, “I kinda had to think on my feet and I didn’t really want to tell that fella that I’d lost the throttle knob, so I fibbed a little. I told him, ‘I noticed a mile or so back that I had my toolbox cover was moving, and after a while it opened and a rat came flying out it!'” Everybody burst out laughing and it didn’t take long before most everybody knew that Neal had brought an unwanted hitchhiker along!

After that day, Neal decided he’d rather stick to riding horses where it was quiet, and you could hold a decent conversation with somebody!

Wrapping up…

Neal’s got a pretty neat little tractor that’s not only uncommon, but has a good story to tell as well! He and Gary Juranek (the auctioneer handling the sale) have had a few phone calls on it already, but I suspect more will be coming. So, if you’re looking for a nifty example of a pretty uncommon red one from the late sixties for your collection, this one is definitely worth looking at!

That said, if you decide to take it on a tractor ride…check the toolbox before you leave!

Make it a great week!

Auction Info

Auctioneer: Gary Juranek & Associates
Location: Walnut, IA
Format: Online-only.
Auction close: Thursday, February 29, 2024 – 10:36AM CST
TZ Listing

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