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Novel tractor designs
Advance Rumely DoAll
The DoAll could convert from a standard tread to a “motor cultivator” tractor by moving the rear wheels ahead and removing the front axle. A large tail wheel on the back of a mounted cultivator then supported the rear end of the tractor. Power was supplied by a 4-cylinder Waukesha L-head engine rated at 1,400 rpm.
The Model G, with its unique rear-mounted engine, was the king of truck-garden tractors. During its production life from 1948 to 1955, nearly 30,000 Model G s were sold. Built at Allis-Chalmers’ Gadsden plant in Alabama, the model G featured a 68.5-in. wheelbase, 61⁄2 ft. turning radius, 4-speed transmission (1.5 to 7 mph), and hydraulic lift.
The Ro-Trak’s front wheels allowed it to convert from standard to row-crop tread. Avery introduced the Ro-Trak at the end of the company’s existence in hoping to boost tractor sales. But the start of World War II ended production. Still, the Ro-Trak enjoyed a four-year production run starting in 1938.
Baltes Steel Mule
Half-track crawlers first started to appear on the farm in the 1910s followed by appearances in World War 1. The advantages of this design caught the attention of the Joliet Oil Tractor Company. In 1919 Joliet Oil merged with Baltes Machinery & Tractor Company of Lansing, Michigan.
Bull Tractor Little Bull
Bull Tractor Co. upset the industry when it introduced its Little Bull model in 1914. Other manufacturers took notice and soon brought out their own lower-cost, small tractors. The Little Bull featured a single rear-drive wheel that made a differential unnecessary.
David Bradley Tri-Trac
This unique straddle-seated garden tractor was produced by David Bradley Mfg. Works for Sears in the 1950s. 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.
Emerson-Brantingham L 12-20
The stylish Model L reflected the trend toward three-wheeled tractors of the 1910s. At $1,040 cash or “$1,100 on terms” Emerson-Brantingham’s machine was a solid value capable of pulling a three-bottom plow. The Rockford, Illinois-based firm fitted the Model L 12-20 with a Big Four four-cylinder (41⁄2x5-in. bore-and-stroke) L-head engine rated at 800 rpm.
The Ford 8-16 is not only unique for its design but also famous in its poor engineering. Wilmot Crozier of Polk County, Nebraska, was one of many farmers swindled by purchasing a Ford tractor. It was so troublesome that it inspired Crozier to introduce legislation creating the Nebraska Tractor Test.
Gray B 15-25
The sleek styling of Gray’s “Drum-Drive” tractor reflects its original use for orchard farming. The tractor’s rear single-drum drive eliminated the need for a differential and provided great flotation. The Gray Tractor Company’s machine utilized a Waukesha four-cylinder (41⁄4x63⁄4-in. bore-and-stroke) engine rated at 800 rpm.
The later 1910s saw a great many “motor cultivator” tractors produced such as the Indiana. These machines placed the engine up front. But power was transferred to front-mounted drive wheels. The operator’s platform was placed over a “sulky” type carriage providing an attachment point for implements.
J.J. Case 40-72
The Model 40-72 was the largest of the Case cross-mounted motor design tractors. Innovations offered by the 40-72 included replaceable cylinder “barrels” or sleeves and cylinders cast in pairs. This 21,200 lbs. mammoth was first sold in 1922 for $5,200 and featured a Case-built, four-cylinder, valve-in-head engine.
John Deere All Wheel Drive
The All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) was a successful failure. Successful in that the tractor represented state-of-the-art advances. But its price of $1,500 when the tractor was introduced in 1918 was too steep for farmers. The All Wheel’s most unique feature was its two-speed transmission. Of the 100 AWDs built, only two are known to exist.
La Crosse 12-24 G
The la Crosse tried to make the transition from hoses to tractors easier by offering two models that utilized a line-drive system. The Model G, and smaller brother the model M7-12, used four lines leading from the tractor back to a sulky-seated implement. Two lines were used to steer the front wheels. The two other lines separately started and stopped the tractor.
Certainly one of the most successful, if not also unique, multipurpose tractors was the 1951 Alldog Implement Carrier. The innovative machine was built to work in the field as a tractor utilizing an array of tillage equipment. And when it came time to haul produce to town and even the family to church, the Alldog could be fitted with a wagon with fairly impressive capacity.
Nilson Junior 16-27
The Nilson featured a unique “Level Hitch” system that transferred draft over its single drive wheel. “Thus the Nilson obtains its traction by the pull of the plow, rather than by dead weight,” its manufacturer claimed. The 4,300-lb. tractor was rated to pull a three- to four-bottom plow. Nilson Tractor Co. first offered its Junior for $1,585 in 1917 dropping the price in half a few years later.
Power Horse 20A
The Power Horse’s rein-pull steering and clutch controls allowed it to be driven from sulky-seated implement left over from horse farming. EIMCO Corp. was aiming to convert the last of the die-hard horse and mule farmers to tractors with its introduction of the Power Horse. This four-wheel-drive marvel could turn in just a 3-foot radius.
The Square Turn offered the unique grip friction drive that allowed the tractor to make remarkably tight turns. The Model 18-35 featured a system of fiber-faced cones that allowed one wheel to drive forward while the other wheel ran in reverse. Combined with the tractor’s rear-steering wheel, the Square Turn could turn on a dime.
Farmers hungry for mechanical horsepower but short on cash found a solution in Thieman Harvester Company’s “economy” tractor. The Albert City, Iowa, firm sold its Thieman tractor with a Model A Ford engine for $500 starting in 1936.
Here are some novel tractors created over the years. Read more at Ageless Iron Almanac (text by Dave Mowitz)