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Pre-1920 Lesser-known Classics
Most manufacturers in the early part of the century purchased their engines, transmissions, clutches and final drives from other firms. The 5,000 lb. model 14-28 packed an L-head cross-mounted engine rated at 900 rpm. Introduced in 1917 it generated 28 belt horsepower and could pull a three-bottom plow.
The two-cylinder engine in the Avery 12-25 featured reversible cylinder walls. Built between 1916 to 1922, the 7,500 lb. model 12-25 offered a two-range transmission with speeds of 13⁄4 and 23⁄4 mph and sold for $1,280 FOB.
Those spade-tips were distinctive of Fageol tractors and were designed so they wouldn’t sink into the sandy soils prevalent in California farmland, the target market for these machines. The Fageol brothers, Frank and William, started in manufacturing by building cars in Iowa.
These tractors were traditional in every sense except for their trademark “spudded” drive wheels. Fageol Motors Co. went on to build trucks and buses that sold worldwide. Today, the Fageol name lives on in an equally interesting name – Peterbilt truck.
Frick C 15-28
The Wayneboro, Pennsylvania-based Frick Company began business in 1853 building steam engines and grain threshers. The model 15-28 and its little brother, the model 12-20, weren’t introduced until 1921 and were the only tractors Frick manufactured.
Grain Belt 18-36
Grain Belt Tractor Company got its start in 1917 in Fessenden, North Dakota, selling plow and thresher tractors like the Model 18-36. Grain Belt rated the tractor to pull a four-bottom plow. Grain Belt sold the 18-36 for $2,500 in 1918.
Three-wheeled tractors like the Happy Farmer attracted farmers with their simple design and low cost. This lightweight machine generated 16 belt horsepower and ran smooth as silk. The Happy Farmer Tractor Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, started building this tricycle tractor in 1916.
Minneapolis Threshing 22-44
Weighing in at 6 tons, the Minneapolis Threshing Model 22-44 is a giant by today’s tractor standards. But it was the smallest tractor in this manufacturer’s line. Its big brother, the 35-70, weighed over 11 tons!
Russell American 12-24
The Massillon, Ohio- based Russell & Company was a major contributor to steam power in North American before the turn of the century. Russell engines were sold far and wide thanks to such innovations as a shifting eccentric valve gear.
Recognizing the need for lithe horsepower, Russell came out with a smaller tractor with the introduction of the Model 12-24 (shown here). Powered by a four-cylinder Waukesha engine, the tractor 12-24 delivered 24 belt and 12 drawbar horsepower. The 4,650-pound tractor provided two speeds of 21/2 and 33/4 mph.
The Sampson Model M was launched by General Motors in 1918 in an effort to compete with the success Ford Motor Company was enjoying with their Fordson. The Model M was powered by a four-cylinder, L-head engine rated at 1,100 rpm which produced a maximum of 111/2 drawbar horsepower.
GMC would later introduce the Samson Model D Iron Horse, a unique motor cultivator, in 1919. But that tractor was plagues by mechanical problems and was promptly withdrawn from the market. GMC discontinued making tractors in 1922.
Toro is a household name, no doubt, with hundreds of thousands of garden tractors and lawn mowers bearing testimony to the brand’s popularity. But a short time in the early 1900s Toro built full-sized farm tractors. Actually, the Minneapolis-Minnesota-based company got its start in manufacturing building farm tractors.
But after production ceased on Bull tractors, Toro decided to get into the tractor business in 1918 by building this simple but affordable machine, the Model A, assembled mostly by utilizing purchased components. Toro would later sell their name and factory to Advance Rumely.
Minneapolis Steel Twin City 17-29
This Minneapolis, Minnesota-based firm was organized in 1902 and would make its mark on horsepower by building the famed Corliss steam engine. The company would later go into internal combustion engine manufacturing at which time it took to building tractors for J.I. Case and Bull Tractor Company.
Wallis Cub Junior 13-25
The Cub Junior was the successor to the Wallis Cub which was the first to use a one-piece frame. The unit frame design was improved upon in the Cub Junior by enclosing the final drives. First built in 1918, the 13-25 was powered by a Wallis-built engine.
Check out the explosion of tractor development of the late 1910's here (text by Dave Mowitz)