Motorists driving through the bucolic farms and ranch lands south of Buellton most likely have encountered a curious sight — a World War II-era M5 high-speed tractor with a for-sale sign propped in front of it.

The incongruous vehicle belongs to Dick Agin, who said he has had a love of all things military-related for as long as he could remember.

A few years ago, when the opportunity came along to buy the infantry machine, he couldn’t pass it by.

“I have always loved the Army, and even though I never was in the military, I have a deep respect for what those men go through,” Agin said. “I can’t imagine what riding one of these must have been like during an actual war. It’s made of tin, and offers little to no protection.”

Agin and two of his friends — Martin Johnson of Santa Ynez and Greg Burback of Morgan Hill — are partners in the 1944 M5 A4 high-speed tractor.

The machine was used by the military until 1960, and after as a way to haul equipment and a nine-man crew. It originally was armed with a Browning M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

Agin built a replica of the gun, and added a custom canopy for shade since the seats are open on the top.

“An actual tank would have cost upward of $200,000, and obviously we couldn’t afford that,” Johnson said. “But to own this tank-like machine was just as thrilling for us.”

This particular machine was never used in combat, and the three bought it from a man who lived near a military base in Spokane, Wash.

The trio thought it would be fun for parades and unique parties, but the cost of hauling it around became prohibitive.

“It uses a tank of diesel a mile, so you can imagine how that adds up,” Agin said.

As life got busier for the three partners, they decided to sell the machine, and it has sat near the Pork Palace turnoff on Highway 101, just south of Buellton.

“We still take it out once in awhile, but maybe someone else would love it as much as we do and be able to actually use it,” said Agin, who by day runs Agin Brothers Fencing. “I think it would be a perfect winery tour vehicle, in my opinion.”

Burback manages his ranch, which doesn’t allow much time to leave, and Johnson is looking forward to his daughter’s wedding and retirement.

“We aren’t looking to make a killing on it, just for how much work we have put into it,” Johnson said.

Until it sells — the asking price is $23,000 — Agin and Johnson are more than willing to haul it for parties and events. Call 805.688.3069 for more information.

Reporter’s Sidenote

As a Santa Ynez Valley resident for many years, I have seen this particular machine for sale outside the Pork Palace on Highway 101, and always wondered what it would be like to ride in it.

When my editor asked me to do this assignment, I jumped at the chance, and quickly found out it belonged to Agin, whom I’ve known for years through his Christmas tree farm during the holidays.

He invited me to come take a ride for the story, and I could hardly contain my excitement. My husband, who is a former Marine, was sad he couldn’t come along.

Agin fired up the M5 A4 High Speed Tractor, and we took off at maybe 5 mph down the dirt road behind his house. I thought he was kidding when he said I could drive it.

As a ranch wife, I’ve driven tractors before, but this one tops all those experiences combined. To know I was driving a machine that had once held soldiers and supplies during World War II, even though it was never in combat, I felt proud.

It was a very bumpy ride, as the suspension isn’t up to date, and the controls were just levers to either steer right or left — essentially just a brake system on each side. It definitely doesn’t turn on a dime.

It was thrilling to say the least, and I am glad my parents taught me how to drive a clutch.

— Raiza Giorgi is a Noozhawk contributing writer from the Santa Ynez Valley. She can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.