By Marceil Skifter
We’ve all heard the expression “like father, like son,” but when Fred Bissen was bitten by the Ford bug decades ago, the “infection” spread to daughters, sons-in-law and grandkids as well!
Growing up in rural Stacyville, Iowa, Fred Bissen became hooked on Fords. It began with his father's 1914 Model T, now owned by his daughter, Emily, and her husband, Dean Kiefer. It has been fully restored by Dean and Emily and can be seen in many parades and car shows around the area.
In 1940, at the age of 20, Fred was thrust into farming after both of his parents were killed in an auto accident. From that moment he took over the Bissen Family Farm. He began farming with six horses and a McCormick Deering 1020 tractor.
In 1946 he bought his first Ford tractor, which he still owns today. The Ford Ferguson 2N cost him $918 and was the start of a big collection for the Bissen family.
On March 29, 1947, Fred bought his second tractor, another Ford Ferguson. The tractor was bought from Jorde Motors in Osage, Iowa for $1140. He holds the original receipt, which states the following: fill tires $8.50, lights $21.50, install lights $3.00, step plates $6.60, plow $165 and a cultivator $145. Sales tax was $29.56, bringing the ending total to $1519.16.
In 1951, Fred purchased a Ford 8N for $1,425. The 1947 Ford Ferguson tractor was later traded for the second Fordson Major Diesel sold in Mitchell County Iowa. It came home with Fred in 1955. This one and the 8N were later lost in a shed fire in 1979.
Fred married Myrna Elliott in 1942 and together they raised 12 children; seven girls and five boys. Sadly, their son, Howard, was killed during the Vietnam War. Myrna passed away in 2009.
Now at 91 years of age, Fred has moved to Stacyville and his youngest son, Larry, and his family, live on the family farm. The other three sons, Jim, Dale and Russell, operate farms nearby, and not only do the father and sons still collect tractors, but others in the family do as well.
The Bissen clan has collected over 80 Ford tractors. Most of these are used for farming purposes, but some are used in local “tractor pulls”. . . just one more reason to buy more tractors! Quite often, the Bissens enter the only Fords in these events, and do quite well.
Trying to pick a favorite among the Bissens’ collection is difficult, but when pressed, they mention the 1927 Fordson, 1940 9N, 1946 2N, 1950 E27N, 1953 Ford Jubilee, 1958 901 Select 0 Speed Diesel, 1959 541D Offset, 1963 Super Dexta, 1964 Super Major 5000, 1971 9000, 1979 FW30 and many more. And Fred’s newest toy, a 2009 “Boomer”—an 8N retro, which he loves to drive.
Their allegiance to Fords doesn’t stop with farming equipment; Ford vehicles are also a must for the family. Fred loves to drive his 1965 convertible Mustang during the summer months. He also has a 1960 Lincoln Continental.
The collection will continue to grow as the Bissen family grows. Some of Fred’s 34 grandchildren have caught on already, and the love of Fords is starting to spread to his 39 great grandchildren (soon to be 40, as this goes to press).
Great-great Grandpa would be very proud!