“Anytime it set anywhere with public access, I was always a little worried and nervous about it,” he says. So, he routinely secured the trailer with several padlocks and wrapped the wheels with a 12-foot log chain.
And on that particular summer’s day, he followed the same routine before leaving the parked trailer. When he returned, he was shocked. The parking space was empty.
The collection was inside a trailer parked at Purple Wave Auction in Manhattan, Kan., when the trailer – and everything inside – was stolen July 19, 2014.
And the Manhattan, Kan., collector has been searching for his belongings ever since.
Now, he’s asking for the help of Toy Farmer readers who may recognize any of his personal collection of 1/16 and 1/64 combines and the white, Forest River 6- by 12-foot single-axle cargo trailer.
Among VanNahmen’s collection were approximately 50 combines, including some unique remote-controlled versions, and a Caterpillar remote-controlled Challenger tractor. Models included John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, Claas, Caterpillar, AGCO and New Idea.
The trailer also held videos and drawings from VanNahmen’s work in development with various companies, and personal memorabilia, including plaques and photographs.
VanNahmen was product development and marketing manager for Agri-Technologies from 1993-1995. During that time, he worked with designing and building a new combine, which was known among Kansas area farmers and major manufacturers as the XBR2 Bi-Rotor combine.
Among VanNahmen’s collection was a one-of-a-kind, radio-controlled, aluminum, 1/12-scale model of the XBR2 which he built in 1994. The model was used at the U.S. Custom Harvesters convention, Commodity Classic and National Farm Machinery Show to help promote the benefits of the Bi-Rotor combine.
Also stolen were copies of the 1994 book, “Dream Reaper,” signed by author Craig Canine, which documented development of the Bi-Rotor combine. The trailer also contained other memorabilia documenting the development of the XBR2, including original drawings of the XBR2 power train, grain handling, drives and versatile power unit, and extensive photographs related to the project.
After completing the XBR2 project in 1995, VanNahmen began to work for Caterpillar and Claas in the ag products division in DeKalb, Ill., and Omaha, Neb., developing Challenger tractors and a Lexion line of combines for the North American market.
“Scale model combines are very useful to have on the table during design and development discussions. We were working on enhanced features such as rubber tracks, folding grain tank extensions, variable drives and autonomous controls in the late 1990s,” VanNahmen says. “Enhanced models of the Lexion were also needed, so we spent many evenings and weekends cutting out the plastic underbody of the Cat Lexions and retrofitting them with Tyco Fast Traxx differential steering, remote-controlled undercarriages.”
A few of these were originally Claas green, but repainted Cat yellow and decaled.
“They'd be one of a kind. Another unique aspect is that the rubber tracks are spliced together to get the correct scale length,” VanNahmen says. They include a Cat 480 1/16, a Cat 485 1/16, and the Cat Challenger 1/12 tractor.
Another valuable model in the collection is a Versatile pull-type 1/12 combine.
“The large 1/16 scale model of the Versatile combine was unique since it could unload on both sides. The scale model also opens up, to show the internal workings of the transaxial threshing and separation components,” VanNahmen says.
Another unique model was a one-of-a-kind modified John Deere Big Farm S670 combine that had a retrofitted Tyco remote-controlled chassis.
The trailer also contained several plaques with VanNahmen’s name, including a U.S. Custom Harvesters recognition plaque for his 1995 contributions for development of its “Safety is an Attitude II” training program and a plaque from Who's Who of American Inventors 1996 for patents on the Bi-Rotor and truck projects.
A windmill and wheat three-dimensional brass artwork with a plate honoring VanNahmen’s deceased father, Sylvester VanNahmen, for his 1921-2003 dedication as a Kansas wheat farmer and father was also among the stolen items.
“I'd like to have that back more than any others,” VanNahmen says.
“My hope out of this article is that some thief just needed the trailer for their tools, or motorcycles or hauling furniture. If so, maybe they will abandon the combines and contents at an auction or pawn shop. Perhaps one of the Toy Farmer readers will come across them. If so, I hope they recognize them and help recover them,” VanNahmen says.
He is offering a $1,000 reward for tips leading to the recovery of the trailer and/or toys.
VanNahmen can be reached at email@example.com or at Farm Buddy Co., P.O Box 647, Columbus, IN 47202.
For a full listing of the stolen models and memorabilia, click here.