GREENSBURG — A 1959 Ford 881 Select-O-Speed Gold Demonstrator, also known as “Miss Jill,” was chosen as “Best In Show” from the nearly 50 tractors that recently participated in the Annual Dan Wilson Power of the Past Parade at the fairgrounds.
Enlisted by Power of the Past Board of Directors, Mrs. Sarajane Wilson was chosen to judge the entries in the POP Parade and select the champion. Sarajane is the widow of Dan Wilson, one of POP’s original founders, who passed away in April 2018. Wilson was asked to use her knowledge of vintage farm machinery while judging.
As one of the original founders of the Power of the Past, Dan and Sarajane’s entire family — children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — all participate regularly in POP events. In keeping with a family tradition, they chose 10 of Dan’s original personal tractors to present in this year’s annual event.
“They picked my mother to choose Best in Show because of all she learned beside my father in their almost 60 years of marriage,” explained Bonnie Weisenbach, daughter of the couple. “It’s not about me, I just help Mom get the information out there.”
“Miss Gill” has an interesting history as well.
Ford introduced its revolutionary “Select-O-Speed” transmission in 1959. It provided a wide range of options with 10 speeds forward and two in reverse, all possible through the use of hydraulic clutch packs, bands and planetary gears; it allowed shifting up or down “on the fly” with no clutch.
To promote the Select-O-Speed, Ford launched one of the biggest advertising campaigns in its history, utilizing radio, trade publications and the infant television networks to advertise the company’s latest and greatest contribution to farm machinery.
To maintain their Ford dealerships, larger dealers were required to have at least one “Gold Demonstrator” on hand (painted gold, hence the name) to use as a sales tool. Farmers were encouraged to borrow the tractor and try it out on their own plots. If the Demonstrator did not sell after a year on the dealership floor, the tractors were usually painted the customary red and gray and sold as simpler floor stock.
Unfortunately, even though Ford backed the transmissions with a 100 percent year warranty, the Select-O-Speed tractors were never able to outlive the stigma of a transmission that had a lot of problems.
To this day, because of their high-dollar repair tags, very few people own them as anything more than just curiosities.