Moline Plow’s Universal D appears an ungainly anachronism. The motor cultivator design – which was all the rage in the 1910s but quickly faded in popularity – appears clunky compared to tractors from nearly any other era.
At best, the Universal earns points as a historical oddity.
But look beyond its outward appearance and you’ll discover a tractor that was decades, not just years, ahead of its time.
Allis-Chalmers’ Model U was not a particularly advanced tractor. Nor did the U make such a huge impact for Allis-Chalmers or on agriculture that it was considered great.
Instead, it was a component of the U – the pneumatic tires – that helped the tractor make history.
Historically, the Farmall Model H was the overlooked little brother. As part of IHC’s new generation of Farmall tractors in 1939, the H lived in the shadow of its big brother, the Model M.
The M was the beefy big boy of the Farmall line. It stood out in the field of horsepower at the time because it was powerful and very attractive with streamlined styling. So strong was the M’s presence that several antique tractor historians have identified the M as one of the best-known tractors of all time.
Although John Deere had introduced a successor to its 1960 New Generation of tractors, appropriately called the Generation II, it was the late 1978 “Iron Horses” which helped established the firm as a world leader in horsepower.
In the early 1910s, car manufacturer Roland White saw an opportunity to participate in the ever-expanding tractor market.
But White wasn’t satisfied with building just another tractor. He’d experimented with a wheeled tractor when it occurred to him that what farmers needed – particularly Midwestern farmers – was a crawler tractor, powerful but light, advanced but affordable. Those criteria were met – and then some – when he introduced the first Cleveland Tractor Company crawler in 1916.
Contrary to popular belief, Hart-Parr did not coin the term “tractor,” although it was one of the first manufacturers to effectively use the word in its promotions.
And while we’re setting the record straight, neither was Hart-Parr the first company to build a gasoline tractor since such machines first began to appear on the market in 1889.
That the Fordson would become the most popular tractor ever built in the world was inevitable. After all its creator, former farm boy Henry Ford, built one the most popular cars of all time – the Model T.
So it was only a matter of time before Ford would apply assembly-line manufacturing –
a technique he had mastered on a grand scale – to tractors and dominate the market.
To be frank, the UDLX Comfortractor was a miserable failure when it came to sales. But the blame for this lies not so much with the tractor’s revolutionary design, but with the economy when the UDLX was introduced.
Farmers were still recovering from the Great Depression, so they weren’t chomping at the bit to plunk down $2,155 for a tractor that had more creature comforts than most of their cars.
As early as 1981 Caterpillar was looking to created a rubber-tracked crawler to add to its extensive line of steel-track tractors. The aim was to create a machine that could run down the highway and not tear up the road.
The concept of utilizing rubber tracks in lieu of steel was by no means new. Cleveland Tractor Company had experimented and then sold a crawler, the Model HGR, equipped with rubber tracks between 1945 to 1948. That concept had its drawbacks including a propensity for the rubber track to crawl off track assembly.
Much has been made of Benjamin Holt’s contributions to the development of the crawler tractor. And for good reason since Holt pioneered the many advances that made his Caterpillars some of the most popular crawlers of their time.