Building an Empire: The Empire Tractor Corporation
Built for the international market, Empire Tractors were designed for Marshall Plan and never intended to be sold in the United States.
Carl Hering's Model 88 Empire tractor (No. 4). Hering bought the tractor in South Africa and had it shipped to the U.S.
Empire building is a real challenge. Great Britain may have been the greatest empire builder of all time. With at least one colony in every continent, England could, at one time, rightfully claim that the sun never set on the British Empire.
But not all builders of empires were so successful. Take the builders of the Empire tractor, for instance. Empire Tractor Corp., established in 1946 in New York City, may have been inspired by the moniker "The Empire State" in naming the line. More to the point, the company’s manufacturing facility was in Philadelphia, and the company was incorporated in the state of Delaware. So, before the first tractor came off the line, the company’s “empire” was already established in three states.
In the years immediately following World War II and the Lend-Lease Program, Empire Tractor Corp. intended to build tractors for the Marshall Plan, a plan developed by the U.S. to help European allies recover from the devastation of war.
Carl Hering, publisher of the Empire Tractor Newsletter, says Empire planned to export production to Poland, France and other European countries, as well as South Africa and South America. However, other than South Africa and South America, no one is sure where the tractors actually went. In any case, the company never intended to sell Empire tractors in the U.S. or Canada.
Empire built a small, general purpose, light duty, 2-bottom-plow tractor using primarily the same drive train components as those used in the famous World War II Willys-Overland jeep. It was built on conventional lines of an earlier period when channel iron and companion construction were common.
Hering says the Model 88 tractor used rebuilt military power components from World War II-era jeeps. It had a 4-cylinder, 40 hp Willys-Overland engine, a Model T-84 Spicer 3-speed transmission, Spicer transfer case with high and low speeds, Willys rear end, steering column and gearbox. It also had PTO, individual clutch-type rear brakes with a stop provided for parking and a rear belt pulley. The fuel tank and an Empire-style seat were mounted on a large operator’s platform. Its simple, basic gauges (ammeter, oil pressure and temperature), ignition switch and starter button also came from the jeep.
The 3-speed transmission with high-low gearbox gave speeds of 2.3 mph in first gear, 3.63 mph in second gear, 5.80 mph in third gear and 1.66 mph in reverse (all in low range), and in high range, 4.46 mph in first gear, 7.20 mph in second gear, 11 mph in third gear and 3.60 in reverse. At governed engine speed of 2,000 rpm, the Empire had a road speed of 18.5 mph.
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