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Four-wheel-drive pioneers

02/22/2011 @ 3:03pm

The concept of a four-wheel drive tractor, even one that was articulated, is certainly not a new concept. Olmstead and Nelson introduced the first four wheel drive tractors in 1912 followed by Morton (1920), Wilson (1922), Wizard (1929), Fitch Four Drive (1929) and Massey-Harris (1930).

In the mid-1930’s Albert Bonham started building four-wheel-drive tractors in Clinton, Utah. Later that tractor was built Eimco Corporation which was later acquired by Harris Manufacturing which built its first Power Horse to be tested in 1954.

The Power Horse steered like a crawler tractor skidding to the side. Two control levers pulled back about halfway would stop the tractor. Pulling the levers further back cause the tractor to reverse. If one lever was used the tractor could be turned by releasing the power on that side.

Look at photos of the four-wheel-drive pioneers!

However, if you were farming in 1950 and needed serious pulling power, the best you could do was a rumbling 93 horsepower Cat D8 crawler. In comparison, wheel-type tractors rarely exceeded 50 hp. The 1950s would change all of that and with lightning speed. The catalyst for this transformation was farmers’ desire to lug larger and wider implements

The stage was now set for the 4WD to come into its own!

The modern four-wheel-drive age truly began with some experimental work conducted by the Wagner Brothers of Portland, Oregon. After 16 years of development they announced their first four-wheel drive tractor, featuring a unique center-pivoting articulated steering, in 1953.

While the Wagner was being evaluated, a farm family in Northwest Minnesota decided they could build a four-wheel-drive. Using available parts from various sources, the Steiger family fashioned the Model 1, a 15,000-pound machine that turned out a whopping 238 horsepower!

Major tractor manufacturers took note of the Steiger development. By 1959 John Deere responded with the 8010 Diesel, a four-wheel-drive tractor built for them by Wagner Tractor with an estimated 215 horsepower.

IHC responded to Deere’s challenge in 1961 with their 214-hp. Model 4300 Diesel. Soon Case, Minneapolis-Moline, and Oliver brought out 4WD models. And an entirely new name in the industry would appear. Versatile began building 4WD machines in 1966.

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