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Lawn and garden tractors
Lawn and garden tractors lurk in the shadows of their bigger brothers. But these little machines contributed greatly both to the productivity of American agriculture as well as the advancement of mechanical power to the acreage owners. From its beginnings in the 1920s, the lawn and garden tractor also was a force in the manufacturing might of America.
Designs like the Centaur tractor were created to fulfill demands for horsepower by truck farms and orchards. The Greenwich, Ohio-based firm, Centaur Tractor Company, rolled out their Model 6-10 in 1932 for the modest sum of $548. For that amount you not only received a two-cylinder LeRoi engine but also got front-wheel drive and articulated steering.
Motor cultivators like the Continental Cultor provide excellent visibility with implements hung under the driver’s seat. The Springfield, Ohio-based Continental Cultor Co. introduced its motor cultivator in 1927. This four-cylinder, L-head, 33⁄4x4-in. bore-and-stroke engine, featuring a Holley carburetor, generated a rated 4.9 horsepower.
David Bradley Tri-Trac (Sears)
The unique Tri-Trac was one of six garden tractors produced by David Bradley for Sears, Roebuck and Company. The Tri-Trac was unique in many ways featuring a “three-wheel steering” design that used a center articulating action which provided for an 8-foot turning radius.
David Bradley Handiman R-T (Sears)
Built by David Bradley Manufacturing and sold by Sears from 1938 until the 1950s, the Handiman was sold in three different 2-wheel models, which include the B38 (2 hp.), C38 (3 hp.) and Z38 (4 hp.). The tractor was sold in a crate at the Sears outlet and the owners had to attach such items to the main frame as the front axles and rear wheels.
Gard’n Mast’r GB35D
The maker of the Gard’N Mast’R, Garden-All Tractor Inc., was a serious force in the garden tractor market. The Liberty, Indiana-based Garden-All Tractor group, Gard’n Mast’r was the big brother of the Garden-All line utilizing either an 8-hp. Briggs & Stratton or Wisconsin engine.
Gibson Super DII
In the early 1950s Gibson updated their garden tractor line with a new one-bottom plow models. The Model D was sold for two years starting in 1948. Gibson Mfg., Corp. opted to dress up the Model D creating the Super D in the early 1950s. However, that tractor kept the previously employed 5-hp.
While designed for gardening and grounds keeping chores, the Hefty model G was anything but light duty packing a Continental four-cylinder, water-cooled engine that generated 27 PTO hp. The tractor’s six-gear transmission had speeds of .8 to 8 mph plus an optional creeper gear.
Lennox Kittytrack 600
Lennox Industries’ main business was furnaces. But in the early 1960s the Marshalltown, Iowa-based firm sought ways to expand business and so created the Kittytrack 660 and such attachments as a three-blade mower, snow blower and snowblade. Lennox equipped the Kittytrack with a Briggs & Stratton 8-hp. engine.
The “Plain Jane” Lincoln Garden Tractor provided acreage owners a cheap form of horsepower. Huge demand by returning soldiers for modern conveniences like garden tractors caught the attention of such firms as National Steel & Shipbuilding Corp.
Kansas-based Mayrath Incorporated entered the tractor market for a short time starting in 1949. Mayrath had high hopes that its Mobile Tractor would capture a share of the acreage and truck farm tractor market. Weighing in at a lithe 525 lbs., the tractor developed 7 hp. thanks to a Briggs & Stratton Model 23 engine rated at 2,200 rpm.
Serious gardeners and “after supper” farmers were the target market of Ottawa Manufacturing Company’s Mule Team tractors. Unlike most garden tractors sold in the early 1950s, the Mule Team line offered unique features such as adjustable wheel widths, individually operating rear brakes, a plow lift, and 16 inches of underframe clearance, making it a market leader.
Though small, the Perrin Terra-Trac-Tor was anything but a weakling. The unique crawler was popular on the West Coast, and it turned out enough power to pull a one-bottom, 14-inch plow. It offered brakes, a PTO (coming off the left side of the chassis), and those distinctive 51⁄2-inch-wide steel tracks with deep cleats.
Garden tractors in the early days of its development lack an operator’s seat let along a rear axle. Instead, power was delivered to a single axle. The Standard Twin, one of the earliest examples of garden tractors in existence, was no lightweight when it came to delivering power for tillage.
Wheel Horse RJ58
Wheel Horse offered a full range of garden tractors equipped with an array of implements. Attachments offered with the Wheel Horse tractor line included a 12-in. plow, 4-ft. tandem disk, spike tooth drag and scraper blade. The South Bend, Indiana-based Wheel Horse Products Co. sold both “Junior” and “Senior” versions.
Traction was never a problem for the Windolph Chain-Tred Deluxe garden tractor. Built in the early 1950s, the Chain-Tred employed tracks featuring spade-like treads that bit into the soil. The tractor was powered by a Wisconsin single-cylinder, air-cooled, 17.8-cubic-inch engine that turned out 6 hp. at 3,600 rpm.
Here is a diversity of examples of these Lilliputian machines. (text by Dave Mowitz)