The tractor that put horses to pasture
This week’s Interesting Iron takes us to Liberty Center, Iowa, about an hour(ish) south of the Des Moines. This beautiful little 1946 Allis Chalmers B lived down there until it was sold last Monday, October 19.
This auction was a fundraiser for the Southeast Warren County FFA chapter, and some of the proceeds will end up funding their operating budget.
This little Allis Chalmers was a tractor that a local farmer picked up at auction some years back, mainly because:
- He needed a small tractor on the farm.
- His wife had a thing for Persian Orange.
Over the years, though, it saw less and less use. Eventually, Luke Wickett, the Southeast Warren County FFA president got his hands on it. (I think it was his SAE project.)
When he got it, the Allis B was a bit of a basket case. The sheet metal was in pretty bad shape, and the little four-banger engine was seized.
Over the next six months, Luke pretty much tore it down to the frame to restore it. He fixed the sheet metal (I’m pretty sure it’s all original to the tractor), broke the motor free and rebuilt it, converted it to 12-volt power, fixed the wiring, added a few lights, and then repainted this beauty!
Luke tells me that his stepdad helped out with a few things here and there. But for the most part, this was his deal from start to finish! It’s sporting new rubber and a comfy new seat, too!
The Allis Chalmers B was a success for a number of reasons. One of the biggest ones was that Harry Merritt (Allis Chalmer’s tractor division manager) was a data nerd. While America was stumbling out of the Great Depression, Harry was looking at numbers in the census. Through some data analysis, he reached three conclusions:
- The majority of American farmers worked less than 100 acres, and they used horses to do it.
- Horses are spendy to own and definitely less efficient.
- Tractors being sold at the time were bigger units and working on bigger farms.
Merrit recognized there was an emerging market for a small tractor that could replace the horse.
So, armed with this information, AC set out to build a tractor to meet that need! In 1937, it released the Allis Chalmers B, a 17-hp. tractor that got the job done, and at a cost cheaper than for those who owned horses. It was released at a price point that farmers could handle (less than $500 out the door), and eventually it did end up putting the horses out to pasture!
All in all, Allis Chalmers built nearly 121,000 of these handy little tractors over 20 years! It was a handsome tractor, too! In an era when tractors were typically painted dark and drab colors, the Persian Orange paint really stood out!
One of AC’s goals for the B was that it had to be a good looking tractor, and it needed to stand out. Brooks Stevens, the designer, delivered on the promise, too. The lines looked good then, and they still look good now as far as I’m concerned!
Our good friend Mark Putney of Putney Auction in Indianola, Iowa, hosted the auction for the FFA chapter.
When the online bidding finished up, the tractor brought $3,025 – a very strong showing for Allis B’s. But then, this was a special tractor revived by a great FFA’er.
If you end up winning the bid on this tractor, I’d really like to chat with you about it. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi! I’m Ryan, and I love tractors. It doesn’t matter if it’s a showpiece, an oddball, or seen its share of life . . . if it’s unique and it’s listed by one of our auctioneer partners at Tractor Zoom (tractorzoom.com), I’m going to show it off a little bit! This equipment is all up for auction RIGHT NOW so you can make bids! I think they’re cool, and I hope you will, too. This is Interesting Iron!