Sep 23, 2014
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Your Favorite Tractor

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The Unique Avery Ro-Trak Tractor

Aug 22, 2014

 Written By Larry Gay


During the 1930s, most of the major tractor companies continued to offer a variety of sizes of standard-tread tractors. Usually there was a standard-tread version for each size of row-crop tractor plus one larger size that was available only in a standard-tread configuration.  In 1938, the Avery Farm Machinery Company of Peoria, Illinois, (the third organization of the company after being in bankruptcy in 1924 and again during the Great Depression) introduced the Avery Ro-Trak tractor which was a combination row-crop and standard-tread tractor. The ability to change configurations made the Ro-Trak unique.


The Avery Ro-Trak was a streamlined, 2-plow tractor with each front wheel mounted below a vertical cylinder. The cylinders were attached to swing arms which permitted the front wheels to be positioned on each side of the front of the tractor for a standard-tread configuration or together in front of the tractor for a row-crop configuration. The front position resulted in a longer 100-inch wheel base and provided space on the sides of the tractor for mounting a cultivator. The front wheel tread was 16 inches as a row-crop tractor and 56 inches as a standard-tread tractor. The rear wheel tread could be set at 56 inches which enabled two wheels to run in the furrow when plowing or at 84 inches for cultivating. Other intermediate settings were available for crops planted in 24- to 30-inch rows or in 14- to 18-inch rows.


Avery advertised that on most farms the position of the front wheels would need to be changed only twice a year.  The standard-tread position could be used for plowing, seed bed preparation, and planting.  Then the tractor would be changed to the row-crop position for cultivating. The second change would return the tractor to the standard-tread configuration for combining, corn picking, and highway hauling. The company said one man with wrenches and a jack could change the position of the front wheels in 30 minutes.


The Ro-Trak was powered by a 6-cylinder Hercules engine which was matched with a 3-speed transmission with a maximum speed of 18 mph. The vertical cylinders contained springs which enabled each front wheel to act independently when traveling over bumpy ground. Rubber tires were standard equipment and the PTO, belt pulley, fenders, and headlights were optional.  Unfortunately, the Ro-Trak tractor was short lived, because R. G. LeTourneau bought the company in 1941 and started using the factory to build earth moving equipment for the war effort.


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. The four books may be obtained from ASABE by calling 800-695-2723.

The Unique International 2 + 2 Tractors

Jul 01, 2014

 Written By Larry Gay


On my way home from work one evening in February 1979, I was passed by a semi-truck carrying a strange object as I pulled onto I-80. After catching up to the truck, I saw a "mystery tractor" with four equal-sized wheels, a long red hood, and a cab on the rear before I had to slow for my exit. A few days later, I attended the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville and there was my "mystery tractor" in the International Harvester display. The sign said it was the new International 2 + 2 tractor.


The unique International 2 + 2 tractor was an articulated, 4-wheel-drive tractor designed to be a row-crop tractor with the operator’s station located on the rear half. The front portion had the engine located ahead of the front axle to provide more weight for the front wheels. The engine compartment was fully enclosed to reduce the noise level. The fuel tank was located in the front portion, behind the engine and front axle. The rear half of the 2 +2 tractor, behind the articulated joint, was essentially the rear portion of the 86 series of 2-wheel-drive tractors.


The International 2 + 2 tractor was introduced as two models. The 3388 was rated at 130 PTO horsepower and the 3588 at 150 PTO horsepower. Both models were powered by 6-cylinder International turbocharged diesel engines with a 436-cubic-inch displacement for the 3388 and 466 cubic inches for the 3588. The Torque Amplifier transmission used a 2-range on-the-go shift with an 8-speed transmission to provide 16 forward speeds. The cab with an integral ROPS was equipped with a heater and air conditioning. The control console to the right side of the deluxe seat contained the hydraulic controls and the one on the left side provided the shift levers for the transmission. The wheels were mounted on bar axles which provided adjustable wheel treads of 60 to 104 inches. The 3-point hitch and independent PTO were standard equipment.


For the 1980 model year, International Harvester expanded its line of 2 +2 tractors with a third model, the 3788. It was rated at 170 PTO horsepower with the 6-cylinder, 466-cubic-inch International turbocharged diesel engine and provided 12 forward speeds. The 88 series of 2-wheel-drive tractors replaced the 86 series for 1982 with new cabs with a right-side control console, lower sound levels, and a choice of interiors. These changes carried over to the 2 + 2 models, along with a new electro-hydraulic brake for easier shifting, and the 3388, 3588, and 3788 became the 6388, 6588, and 6788, respectively. The power ratings remained at 130, 150, and 170 PTO horsepower. At the 1984 fall farm shows, IH introduced two models of the Super 70 series of 2 + 2 tractors. However, these never reached full production due to the purchase of International Harvester’s farm equipment division by Tenneco.


Larry Gay is the author of four tractor books and the "Machinery Milestones" articles in Heritage Iron magazine. To learn more about this magazine which focuses on the 1960-1985 era, go to or call 1-855-old iron. 

The Unique Allis-Chalmers G Tractor

May 13, 2014

 Written By Larry Gay


During the late 1930s, the tractor companies began to realize small farms needed a tractor smaller than the 2-plow, 2-row cultivating tractor. As a result, the Allis-Chalmers B, the John Deere L, and the Farmall A tractors were introduced. These were rated as 1-plow tractors which straddled one row when cultivating corn or cotton and were the size needed to replace the horses and mules on small farms. Each of these tractors utilized a minimum amount of frame between the engine and transmission to provide good visibility for the operator when cultivating.  In 1947, International Harvester introduced the Farmall Cub, a smaller version of the Farmall A, and Allis-Chalmers introduced its Model G tractor in 1948.


The Allis-Chalmers G tractor was unique as the engine was located at the rear of the tractor, behind the rear axle. The fuel tank was placed over the rear axle and the transmission and operator’s seat were located just ahead of the rear axle. The only structure between the operator and the front wheels was an arched frame consisting of two thin tubular members. The matching plow, planter, or cultivator was carried under the arched frame, ahead of the operator, for excellent visibility. A variety of planters and cultivators were available for planting and cultivating a single row of corn or cotton, two rows of large vegetables, or four rows of small vegetables.


The power plant for the Model G was a Continental 4-cylinder gasoline engine with a 2.38-inch bore and a 3.50-inch stroke which resulted in a 62-cubic-inch displacement. This provided 10.3 belt horsepower and about nine drawbar horsepower which enabled the Model G to "push" a 1-bottom, 12-inch moldboard plow. The unique configuration of the Model G with the weight of the engine, transmission, and operator over the rear axle provided excellent traction. The 4-speed transmission provided a special low speed of 1.6 mph at the rated engine speed of 1,800 rpm and even slower at partial throttle for close cultivation of small crops. The other three speeds were 2.2, 3.5, and 7.0 mph.


Both the front and rear wheel treads were adjustable in 4-inch increments from 36 to 64 inches. The 6.00-30 rear tires were narrow enough to fit between the rows of closely spaced crops. Although the Model G was a small, low-cost tractor, standard equipment included a starter, electric lights, a muffler, and a swinging drawbar. The belt pulley and a hydraulic lift for the implements were optional.


The Allis-Chalmers G tractor was produced from 1948 through 1955 and is still being used by some growers of specialty crops. Also its unique design makes it is very popular with tractor collectors.


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. The four books may be obtained from ASABE by calling 800-695-2723.   

Tractor Trendsetter: Case 70 Series

Apr 09, 2014

Tractor Trendsetter: Case 70 Series
Written By Larry Gay

Cabs for farm tractors began to become popular during the 1960s. However, these were built by aftermarket suppliers and sold as attachments. Although these early cabs provided the operator protection from the weather, they often increased the noise level for the operator, collected dust, and offered no protection in case of a tractor roll-over. In 1966, John Deere introduced its Roll-Gard, a 2-post roll-over protective structure (ROPS). Later, John Deere offered a Roll-Gard Cab which consisted of the Roll-Gard and a purchased cab which was large enough to fit around the Roll-Gard. For the 1970 model year, J. I. Case introduced four models of the 70 series of row-crop tractors with a new cab which incorporated a 4-post ROPS in the basic structure of the cab. This cab made the Case 70 series a tractor trendsetter.

The Case 770, 870, 970, and 1070 Agri King tractors were introduced to the Case dealers at the "Intro 70" meeting in August 1969. The new models replaced the 30 series tractors and were rated as 4-5 plow, 5-plow, 6-plow, and 7-plow tractors, respectively. At Nebraska, the four tractors developed 56, 71, 85, and 100 PTO horsepower. The 770 and 870 were powered by 4-cylinder Case engines and the 970 and 1070 were equipped with 6-cylinder Case engines. The 1070 was available with only a 451-cubic-inch diesel engine and the others offered a choice of gasoline or diesel engines. All the engines were new with a 5-inch stroke and bore sizes ranging from 4 to 4.62 inches. An 8-speed dual-range transmission was standard and a new partial powershift transmission with three powershift speeds in each of four ranges was optional.

Operator comfort and safety were featured on these new tractors with rubber mountings under the platform, a choice of three seats, a control console beside the seat, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel column, and the new cab with the ROPS built into the frame of the cab. The cab featured tight seals, two pressurizing fans, and optional heat and air conditioning. The 70 series tractors could be equipped with a 2-post ROPS instead of the cab and a seat belt was standard with either the cab or the ROPS. After the cab was designed by Case engineers, extensive testing was conducted by rolling the tractor over to insure the glass exploded outward and there was an adequate space for the operator if the cab partially crushed.

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. The four books may be obtained from ASABE by calling 800-695-2723.


Tractor Trendsetter: Farmall A

Mar 05, 2014

Tractor Trendsetter: Farmall A
Written By Larry Gay

International Harvester introduced the Farmall tractor in 1924 which was a new type of tractor that could perform the regular tractor functions and also cultivate row crops. The high rear axles provided the clearance needed to straddle two rows when cultivating and the closely-spaced front wheels ran between the two rows. By 1933, the Farmall line had been expanded to three sizes, but all three had the same basic configuration for cultivating two rows as the original Farmall. In 1939, International Harvester introduced the Farmall A with an offset design which provided maximum visibility when cultivating one-row. This new configuration made the Farmall A a tractor trendsetter.

The Farmall A positioned the engine and transmission to the left of the tractor’s centerline and the operator’s seat was located to the right, next to the right rear fender. The steering wheel, clutch pedal, and two brake pedals were directly in front of the operator. The operator’s unobstructed view was advertised as Culti-Vision. The small Farmall A was a 1-plow tractor with a wide front axle which placed the front wheels in line with the rear wheels. It was powered by a 4-cylinder, 113-cubic-inch International gasoline engine with a 3-inch bore and a 4-inch stroke. The transmission provided four-forward speeds and one in reverse.

The Farmall B tractor was introduced shortly after the Farmall A and featured the same engine and offset operator’s station. However, it was built with a longer left rear axle and a single front wheel which enabled it to cultivate two rows. Dual front wheels were optional for the model B. The Farmall Cub, introduced for 1947, was a smaller version of the Farmall A and featured the offset design and a three-speed transmission. In 1948, the Super A replaced the A and the C replaced the B. The C had a conventional configuration for a 2-row cultivating tractor with the engine, transmission, and operator’s station on the centerline of the tractor, but the Super A and the Cub continued with the unique offset design.

The Farmall 100 replaced the Super A for 1955 and became the 130 for 1957, followed by the 140 for 1959. The Cub didn’t change its name, but did receive updates. However, the offset design was retained for all the variations, with the Cub remaining in production through 1979. The 140 was replaced by the International 274 Offset built by Kimco of Japan for the 1981 model year. The offset operator’s station was adopted by Oliver for its Super 44 tractor in 1957. Ford entered the 1-row cultivating tractor market in 1959 with its 541 model. It had the engine and transmission offset to the left of the tractor’s centerline, but the operator’s station was centered between the rear wheels.

Larry Gay is the author of four farm tractor books published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, including Farm Tractors 1975-1995 and Farm Tractors 1995-2005. The four books may be obtained from ASABE by calling 800-695-2723.

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