A Showcase of Classic Small Tractors

These machines showcase collectible tractors on a smaller scale.

Caterpillar tracked

The 1932 Caterpillar Ten. The Cat Ten was made from 1928 to 1933 and was the smallest Caterpillar made. It had a tread width of 37.5 inches. The one shown has rubber track pads installed.

Photo by Ralph W. Sanders

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The Tractor Factor (Voyageur Press, 2015) is a richly illustrated book that reveals what makes a tractor collectible, showcases the rarest models, gives a history of the marque, and details specific finds. Author Robert N. Pripps, a leading tractor historian, covers models from the United States, the UK, Germany, Holland, France, and other countries. Pripps' expertise, paired with the stunning photography of Ralph W. Sanders and Andrew Morland, makes The Tractor Factor a book no fan of these paradigm-changing machines will want to miss. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4 “The Little Guys.”

You can purchase this book from the Capper's Farmer store: Tractor Factor.

There was a New Yorker magazine cartoon some years ago showing a guy wearing a straw hat driving a riding lawn mower. Above his head was a “thought balloon” that pictured him driving a huge John Deere. But not all tractor owners dream big—small tractors have their charms. Everything about them costs less than for the big boys. Tire prices, for example, go up exponentially with size. Then there is storage space, hauling problems, and special-equipment requirements for lifting parts, such as an 800-pound rear wheel and tire. Standard eight-foot high garage doors are sometimes not adequate for bigger tractors with vertical exhaust stacks. And if you want to work your oversize tractor, you need big jobs for it to do, as well as big implements. Big is nice for shows, parades, and tractor rides, but there are downsides.

The following machines showcase collectible tractors on a smaller scale.

1932 Caterpillar Ten

The Cat Ten is the smallest Caterpillar ever built, and there were only about 5,000 of them made. The Ten weighed in at less than 5,000 pounds, which makes it easily hauled behind a 3/4-ton pickup truck. There were high-clearance and wide-track models, as well as versions with electrical systems and rear belt pulleys. Unique among Caterpillars, along with its sibling, the Cat Fifteen, is the use of an L-head engine; all others have overhead valves. Fuel for the Ten was gasoline.

The Cat Ten was about the same size as its predecessor, the Holt T-35 cum Caterpillar 2 Ton but was otherwise completely different. Its engine was smaller: 143 ci versus 251 for the 2 Ton. Also, the Ten used dry clutches while those of the 2 Ton were wet. Both the Ten and the 2 Ton were rated for two 12-inch plow bottoms.

Correct paint can be either gray with red letters or yellow with black letters.

1934 McCormick-Deering W-12

The W-12 is a standard-tread version of the row-crop Farmall F-12. It is essentially the same, except for conversion to the lower, fixed-tread configuration. It was popular where crop cultivation was not a requirement. The W-12 was not only available as a standard small plowing tractor, but it could be ordered as an O-12 Orchard tractor with sweeping fenders, a Fairway-12 for golf courses and airports, or an I-12 Industrial with hard rubber tires. All versions are considered rare since there were only about 4,000 of the standard W-12 made, plus 4,000 of the O-12s, 600 Fairway-12s, and 1,600 I-12s.

An overhead-valve four-cylinder engine of 113 cid powered the W-12. It had a three-speed transmission, allowing for a top speed of just under 4 mph. The W-12 was rated for one 16-inch plow or two 12 inch plows. Production ran from 1934 to 1938. The standard tractor on steel wheels weighed about 3,400 pounds. Fuel could be either kerosene or gasoline. Rubber tires were available as an option on later-year models.

1936 Case RC

In 1935, International Harvester announced its smaller general-purpose tractor, the F-12. Tractor makers were realizing that the under-100-acre farmer could not afford, and did not need, the larger and more expensive models. Not to be outdone, Case jumped in in 1936 with its diminutive RC.

The birth of the RC was not an easy one. By 1934 Harvester dealers were eating Case salespeoples’ lunch with their F-12. Leon Clausen, general manager of Case, resisted efforts by Case marketing and branch people who were urging rapid development of a counterpunch small tractor. His point was that such a tractor would just take sales from the more profitable Case CC. He finally acceded on the condition that the new small tractor would be, in his words, an orphan, so as not to cut into sale of larger tractors. The new RC would be painted a lighter shade of gray, and there would be no advertising, only a brochure. He continued to drag his feet, refusing to develop an engine for the RC, instead buying one from Waukesha. He called the RC a “half-tractor” and threatened “weak-kneed salesmen if they sold the RC for jobs ‘over its head.’ ”

The row-crop, or general purpose, Case RC was a one- to two-plow tractor suited to the needs of smaller farms. It was in Case’s inventory from 1935 to 1940, after which it was replaced by the SC. The four-cylinder Waukesha L-head engine displaced 133 ci. It had a three-speed transmission at first, giving a top speed of 5 mph. Early RCs, which weighed about 3,400 pounds, had over-the-engine steering, but in 1937, because of complaints, it was changed to Case’s trademark “chicken-roost” steering. In 1939, the RC was restyled with new sheet metal, a cast “Sun Burst” grille, and the new Flambeau Red paint. It also got a four-speed transmission at that time. A standard-tread R was also offered.

In the six years of production, only about 17,000 Rs and RCs were built, making them fairly rare, especially the early overhead-steering types.

1938 Allis-Chalmers B

The company named after Edwin P. Allis and William J. Chalmers was founded in 1901. Allis was the largest builder of industrial steam engines in the United States. Chalmers was president of Fraser and Chalmers, manufacturers of mining equipment. Allis had died a few years before the merger of the two firms into the Allis-Chalmers Company, but he was well represented by his two sons, Will and Charles, and by his nephew Edwin Reynolds, who held the title of chief engineer in the new company. Headquarters were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In response to the success of the small Farmalls, John Deeres, and the Case RC, Allis-Chalmers decided to enter the small-tractor field with its own version, the B, in 1938. The B was a one-plow machine weighing less than a ton and featuring a wide front with a high-arched axle. It was built on a torque-tube frame, and every effort was made to keep costs down. The initial selling price was just under $500. Later versions, with rubber tires and an electrical system, were around $600.

It was designed as a replacement for a team of horses, which still provided most of the motive power for pre–World War II farms. The Allis B was the first GP tractor to offer a bench seat. A foot clutch was used with hand brakes on each fender. The 125-ci four-cylinder engine operated on gasoline. A four-speed transmission gave a top speed of 11 mph.

It is interesting to note that it was a $600 Allis-Chalmers B that Henry Ford used for comparison to the Ferguson-Brown tractor on his Fair Lane Estate in 1938. Besides comparing the Allis tractor’s performance, Ford came to understand that $600 was his target price.

1939 Cletrac General GG

Cleveland Tractor Company (Cletrac) brought out its only wheeled tractor, a small, lightweight unit called the General GG. It was built by B. F. Avery & Co. of Louisville, Kentucky, for Cletrac and produced in small quantities until 1946, when B. F. Avery bought the rights and renamed it the Avery A. The A, like the General GG, had only a single front wheel, but in 1946, Avery added a wide-front version called the V. In 1951 Minneapolis-Moline took over Avery and kept producing the little tractors as the M-M BF.

Other than the front-end configuration, little was changed on the tractor over the years. It was built on a conventional rail frame. Like the Allis-Chalmers B, it had a driveshaft in a tunnel to the three-speed transmission with the shift lever between the driver’s knees and individual brake levers on the fenders. The steering shaft was slightly angled to the left to pass the engine. A Hercules four-cylinder L-head engine, with 132.7 cid was used throughout. It produced about 20 horsepower. A self-starter and lights were optional. The tractor weighed 2,800 pounds in working trim.

1948 Allis-Chalmers G

Known as the “hoe-on-wheels,” the Allis G was just what the nurseryman dreamed of. For delicate crop cultivation, it had no peer. Besides the rear-engine configuration opening up unobstructed crop visibility, foot pedals shifted the hoes for minor corrections. Even the steering wheel was segmented like an aircraft control wheel, so as not to block the view. Unlike aircraft, the G’s steering wheel was positioned 90 degrees to the right for straight ahead.

The 10-horsepower four-cylinder L-head Continental AN-62 engine displaced 62 ci. This is the same engine that was used in the Massey- Harris Pony. A three-speed transmission provided a top speed of 7 mph. A “special-low” gave 1.6 mph at rated engine speed. An electrical system and hydraulics were options. The engine starter was activated by a pull-cable on the right side of the engine that directly pushed the switch on the starter. One-bottom 10- or 12-inch plows were available. Only about 30,000 Gs were made in the production run from 1948 to 1955.

1948 Massey-Harris 11 Pony

Introduced in 1948, the Pony was one of several competing ultra-small tractors of the time. They were popular with truck gardeners and around estates, golf courses, and large farms. Counting all of its variations, the Pony was the most popular of all the Massey-Harris tractors. The Pony was built between 1947 and 1954. It weighed less than 2,000 pounds and cost less than $1,000. It used a tiny four-cylinder Continental L-head engine of 62 ci, the same engine that was used in the Allis- Chalmers G. The Pony was capable of 11 horsepower on the belt and 10 on the drawbar. A three-speed transmission provided a top speed of 7 mph. Electric starting was standard, but hydraulics was an option. About 29,000 model 11 Ponys were built in North America plus more in France. French versions had more power and even diesel engines.

A 14 Pony came out in 1951 that was the same as the 11, except for the inclusion of a fluid coupling ahead of the clutch. Fewer than 100 of the 14 were built.

A 16 Pacer came out in 1953. It was a Pony on steroids. It looked like the Pony but was 6 inches longer and weighed 400 pounds more (it also cost $400 more). The Pacer had a 91-ci Continental four-cylinder engine, which gave a maximum belt horsepower of 18. The three-speed transmission of the Pony was continued. Approximately 2,800 Pacers were built between 1953 and 1955.

1949 Farmall Cub

The name “Cub,” a departure from the naming norms at IH, had been used quite successfully by Piper and Taylor for their small utilitarian airplanes. It had a friendly ring to it, and it connoted small, cute, and tough. Assembly of the Farmall Cub began in 1947 in the Louisville, Kentucky, plant. Target production was set at 50,000 units per year, although this number was never reached.

The Cub weighed in at about 1,500 pounds without additional ballast and 2,700 pounds as tested at the University of Nebraska. Its initial selling price was $600. The price was not as much of a problem for IH as originally anticipated, since the price of the new Ford 8N had risen to more than $1,000 following the Ford company’s split with Harry Ferguson.

The configuration of the Cub was virtually identical to the Farmall A, but was approximately an 80 percent scale model of the A. Unless seen together, they are difficult to tell apart. The easiest way to tell is by the shape of the fuel tank: the Cub’s is rounded off, while the A’s is more teardrop shaped.

Gasoline was the standard fuel, but a distillate configuration was an option, as was electric starting. The four-cylinder L-head engine (unique to Farmalls) displaced 59.8 ci and produced 10 horsepower. The Cub was equipped with a three-speed transmission throughout its life, which gave it a top speed of 6 mph.

The Cub’s life as a Farmall ended in 1958; however, some Cub Lo-Boys were labeled “Farmall” into 1964. Most Cub Lo-Boys were Internationals, as were regular Cubs after 1958. Production of these International Cubs continued through 1975.

1953 Massey-Harris 21 Colt

The M-H 21 Colt (1952–53) was the old 20 (1946–48) revived with updated styling. The 20 itself was new in number only, for it was identical to the 81 (1941–46). If there was a difference, it was only in the price, which jumped from $500 to $1,200. The number 81 was changed to 20 to line up with a new numbering system inaugurated at the company’s 100th anniversary.

For the 21 Colt, the same 124-ci L-head Continental engine was installed in the same basic chassis but with updated sheet metal. A four-speed transmission was retained offering a top speed of 16 mph. Electric starting was standard, but hydraulics was optional. Distillate fuel and standard-tread versions of the Colt were not offered. Row-crop and utility front ends were available. The Colt weighed about 2,600 pounds.

1954 Massey-Harris 23 Mustang

The Massey-Harris 23 Mustang was updated styling on the same chassis as the previous Massey-Harris 22 (which did not have a name). The same 140-ci L-head four-cylinder Continental engine was used. The Mustang K offered the option of burning distillate fuel. Dual-tricycle, single front wheel, and utility front ends were offered. The 23 Mustang was built between 1952 and 1956. Hydraulics and electric starting were standard, but a three-point lift was optional. A four-speed transmission gave a top speed of 13 mph. Weight was about 3,000 pounds.

1955 Oliver Super 66 (Half-Scale)

This half-scale version of the nifty Oliver Super 66 is the product of the Richardson Brothers’ garage in Marengo, Illinois. The brothers, Ray and Ron, build these half-scale tractors as a hobby and also sell them to people who take them to shows and fairs. The Richardsons keep some of their work for custom gardening.

The real Oliver Super 66 was produced from 1954 to 1958. It used the same 144-ci four-cylinder engine as the Oliver Super 55 along with the six-speed transmission. This half-scale version uses a three-speed Farmall Cub transmission and differential and a 12-horsepower Kohler engine. Measurements for their half-scale version were copied from a 1/20 scale toy tractor, which was a very accurate rendition of the full-size Oliver.

The frame is designed to accommodate two different half-scale cultivators, which the brothers also made.

The challenge in a half-scale version, according to Ray Richardson, is getting all the components necessary to fit under the half-scale sheet metal. Their tractor features a full-sized seat, along with a full-sized clutch and brake pedals, smaller steering wheels are used.

1955 Allis-Chalmers WD-45 (Half-Scale)

The “real” WD-45 Allis-Chalmers came out in 1953 and was produced through 1957, configured for LP, gasoline, or distillate fuels. The diesel version came out in 1955. This half-scale model is the product of Ron and Ray Richardson’s “Life-of-Riley Garage” in Marengo, Illinois. The two brothers have been making one or two scale models every year for several years: mostly they are sold to folks wanting to display them at shows, but the brothers have kept some for their own yard work and for custom garden plowing.

They started this project with photos of the actual tractor and a small-scale toy. They also got a parts manual for the real tractor. For the half-scale WD-45, an 18-horsepower Kohler engine was used along with a Farmall Cub transmission and differential. Actual Allis-Chalmers sheet metal was sectioned and re-welded to scale. Brother Ray drove this machine on a 35-mile Tractor Trek. It tops out at 8 mph.


This excerpt has been republished with permission from The Tractor Factor by Robert N. Pripps and published by Voyageur Press, 2015.