Sears' Mail-Order Tractor
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The 1938 model tractor was patterned after the Farmall F-12. It was a tricycle tractor with dual front wheels, large rear wheels, an over-the-hood steering shaft and front-mounted steering assembly. It used a foot clutch and mechanical handbrake on each rear wheel.
Sears marketed its New Economy tractor in 1938, but as with many new products, it had a few flaws. The major problem was that the over-the-hood steering shaft connected to open-gear steering located at the front of the tractor, quite like that on the Farmall F-12 – but the Farmall used a closed worm gear. Dave explains that the Economy’s front end gearing is very light duty, and dust and dirt collected in the grease in the open gears at the top, causing hard steering. Worse, he says, the front wheel steering stops were weak. If they broke off, the front wheels could turn a full 90 degrees, a less than satisfactory development.
By 1939, the entire steering mechanism had been changed. Instead of the over-the-hood steering rod, a different steering gear box was located near the transmission with a steering rod going forward to a steering box over the front wheel. The Economy used a hardened steel worm gear completely enclosed and running in oil. The new gearbox had adjustable roller bearings to allow for proper adjustment. Otherwise, the tractor was virtually the same.
Sears offered its Economy tractor without an engine and transmission (but with a radiator and 4-blade fan) for farmers who might have a suitable Ford Model A engine and transmission on hand. However, the company recommended the buyer purchase a governor, fan belt, carburetor and air cleaner. Sears also offered a complete belt pulley arrangement and PTO, as well as headlights for night work.
In a 1939 ad, Sears offered “a 2-plow tractor at 1-plow tractor cost.” The tractor sold for $495 (about $7,600 in today’s terms); the buyer paid freight from the factory near LaSalle, Ill. Dave says about 500 Economy tractors were built in 1938-39, most of which were sold in 1939. Not a bad deal for a not-half-bad tractor. FCFor more information: Dave Elmore, 15720 County Line Rd., Newark,IL 60541-9765; (815) 695-5935; e-mail: email@example.com. James N. Boblenz grew up on a farm near New Bloomington, Ohio. He now lives in Marion, Ohio, and is interested in antique farm equipment, particularly rare and lesser-known tractors, and related items. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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