Written by Larry Gay
By the early 1930s, all the major tractor companies were manufacturing row-crop tractors. These were usually 2- or 3-plow tractors which were designed to cultivate two or four rows. The year 1937 presented an improving farm economy after the Great Depression and the majority of new row-crop tractors were being ordered with the more expensive rubber tires. At the same time, many farmers were converting their old steel-wheeled tractors to rubber tires. However, the small farmer could not justify buying a 2- or 3-plow row crop tractor, even if it was equipped with the lower-cost steel wheels.
Harry Merritt, the general manager of the Allis-Chalmers Tractor Division, decided there was a large market for a row-crop tractor that could replace the horses being used on small farms. The popular Allis-Chalmers WC tractor, a 2-plow, 2-row cultivating tractor, was the ideal size for most family farms, but was too large for the smaller farms. Therefore, Allis-Chalmers introduced the Model B, a 1-plow, 1-row cultivating tractor, for the 1938 model year. The Model B featured a single tubular frame member between the engine and transmission which provided good visibility for the operator while cultivating a single row of crop.
The Allis-Chalmers B tractor was powered by a 4-cylinder, 116-cubic-inch Allis-Chalmers engine which was connected to a 3-speed transmission. It produced 15.6 belt horsepower at its first Nebraska test. The B was the first Allis-Chalmers tractor to be styled with a curved grill and a rounded fuel tank. The operator’s station included a wide cushioned seat which enabled the operator to sit slightly to one side when cultivating. The hand-operated turning brakes were replaced by foot pedals in 1941. Rubber tires and a gasoline engine were standard equipment. Optional equipment included a distillate engine and a combination PTO and rear-mounted belt pulley.
Allis-Chalmers provided a wide variety of implements for the Model B which made it a versatile performer. One of the more unique implements was the 40 All-Crop combine. This PTO-driven combine with a straight-through design had a 40-inch cutterbar, a 36-inch wide cylinder, and a gigantic 11-bushel grain bin.
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 asbe.org, click publications and then click book catalog.