The Fenstermaker Silver King

Claude and Marilyn Fenstermaker in front of their 1948 Silver King at Farm Power of the Past

While walking through Farm Power of the Past, you might have seen a recently restored 1948 Silver King Tractor owned by Claude and Marilyn Fenstermaker. As it turns out, the Fenstermakers have quite a history with Silver Kings.

Claude inherited the Silver King from his father Doyle Fenstermaker. Doyle bought the tractor from his father, John Earl Fenstermaker, who had a Silver King Dealership in Ansonia.

John Earl was the first person in Darke County to have a Silver King tractor and was appointed a dealer. He ran the dealership at his house in Ansonia and often went to farms to try and sell tractors.

“I’ve still got the briefcase that my grandpa (John Earl) carried when he would call on the farmers and try to sell them a tractor,” Claude said.

Fenstermaker briefcase
John Earl Fenstermaker’s Briefcase, Silver King Tractor Service Manual, and the Silver King advertising literature.

Along with the briefcase, Claude found service manuals for silver kings, brochures advertising the tractors, and a note from his uncle that mentioned a fun story about when John Earl made the switch from steel wheels to rubber tires on his tractors.

“Some of the Silver Kings would come out steel wheels, and others had the rubber tires,” Claude explained. “Grandpa (John Earl) wasn’t really sold on the rubber tires until a salesman came out and the tractor had steel wheels on it, and they put eggs about six inches under the dirt and ran over it with the steel wheels, and it crushed all of the eggs. So then they put the rubber tires on it and did the same thing, and it never broke the eggs. It was to show that the compaction on the soil of the rubber tires wasn’t near what it was on the steel tires.”

Doyle bought the tractor in 1948, along with spare parts, for $2,315.25. He farmed with the tractor until he passed away in 1984. Claude’s mother gave it to him shortly after.

“He (Doyle) starting farming with this Silver King and a Cockshutt 40,” Claude explained. “We used it to farm corn, beans, and tobacco.”

All of Doyle’s sons, Claude, Craig, Kent, and Kyle, have run the Silver King. Even Claude’s wife Marilyn has run it! Claude has been driving it from a very young age.

“My mom was not happy about it, but Dad put me out there on the Silver King at six years of age, dragging the plowed ground,” Claude said. “I couldn’t even reach the pedals I had to sit all the way at the edge of the seat just to reach.”

Claude restored the tractor in 2019. He had it sandblasted down to the bare metal, he primed it, his friend and neighbor Randy Spitler painted for him, and he put all new tires on it.

When it came to painting the tractor, Claude ran into an interesting problem.

“You see, some of the Silver Kings are gray or silver, this one has always been white,” Claude said. “I asked if there was a specific color, and they told me that whenever they (manufacturers) were done for the day, whatever paint was left over would get thrown into the pot for the next day, and maybe that person might’ve mixed the color just a little bit different. So the way they explained it, there really wasn’t a one true color for a Silver King.”

If you went to Farm Power of the Past and looked at the Silver Kings, you can tell he’s right. Every Silver King Tractor has its own unique shade of white, gray, or silver.

Claude takes good care of this family tractor. It’s kept in the barn with blankets to keep dust and dirt off, and he starts it every now and then and drives it down the road. He keeps it clean, running, and looking like new.

“It’s survived six generations,” Marilyn explained. “From John Earl to Doyle, to Claude, to our kids, our grandkids, and now the great-grandkids.”

Fenstermaker 1948 Silver King
Fenstermaker’s 1948 Silver King Tractor at Farm Power of the Past

Claude and Marilyn are part of a Silver King club.

“The tractors were built in Plymouth, Ohio,” Claude said, “Every year, they have a Silver King show, the first weekend in August, we going to be back up again this year.”

With quite the history between Silver King Tractors and the Fenstermaker family, this 1948 is a cherished heirloom that has been loved and will continue to be loved for generations.