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Tractor Trendsetters: Minneapolis-Moline UDLX

Jan 03, 2012

Written By Larry Gay

Minneapolis-Moline introduced the standard-tread U tractor in the summer of 1938. It was rated as a 3-4 plow tractor and its 4-cylinder, high-compression Minneapolis-Moline engine for gasoline produced an estimated 47 belt horsepower. The maximum drawbar horsepower was estimated to be 38 with rubber tires and 33 with steel wheels. The 5-speed transmission enabled the tractor to travel at speeds up to 20 mph on rubber tires. The metal pan seat was supported by a compressed rubber mounting. The MM U tractor was controlled by a hand clutch and the two brake pedals were located behind the rear axle, with one on the left and one on the right. The U was painted the new MM colors of Prairie Gold with red wheels and grill. 

An exciting new tractor introduction occurred on September 23, 1938 when Minneapolis-Moline held a National Harvest Festival and Style Show at the Minneapolis Municipal Auditorium. With 12,000 people present, the curtains were opened to reveal five examples of the new UDLX Comfortractor, three with an enclosed steel cab and two without. This new approach to tractor design was based on the standard-tread U model, but featured a steel cab, fenders over all four wheels, and a front bumper. With a top speed of 40 mph and upholstered seating for two people, the UDLX was capable of working in the fields and then being driven to town.

The UDLX Comfortractor was powered by the engine from the standard-tread U and carried the same 3-4 plow rating. The 12.75-32 rear tires and the 5-speed transmission combined to provide speeds of 2.7, 3.5, 4.7, 10.2, and 20 mph. A variable speed governor controlled by a “foot-feed” enabled the UDLX to reach the 40 mph speed in fifth gear. The cab was equipped with a heater, radio, horn, windshield wipers, safety glass in the windows, rearview mirror with clock, sun visor, a clutch pedal, and a brake pedal. Starter and lights were standard equipment. The right fender could be quickly removed for belt work and a PTO was available. Magazine articles described the UDLX as the world’s most modern tractor, a cornfield limousine, and as a truck-tractor, replacing a truck by pulling a trailer. Minneapolis-Moline said an independent survey of farmers made before the UDLX was introduced revealed 50 percent of the farmers wanted a tractor with a cab. However, this didn’t happen in the marketplace as only 150 of the UDLX Comfortractors were produced. It would be the 1960s before cabs for tractors became popular.

Larry Gay is the author of four tractor books published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, including Farm Tractors 1975-1995 and Farm Tractors 1995-2005. These books may be obtained from ASABE at 800-695-2723 or asabe.org, click publications and then click book catalog. 

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