Old Deardorff Crawler Salvaged
Family ties lead to rescue of a basket case Deardorff Kushion Tread Kat.
Car parts were repurposed for use in Deardorff crawlers. This one features a 1937 Ford rear end and two Chevrolet transmissions.
Photo By Dick Tombrink
I first saw a restored
Deardorff crawler in Grants Pass,
Ore., in September 2010. Designed
for cultivating, that crawler had a rear hitch and manual lift lever to raise
and lower implements. The Deardorff name caught my attention, since my mother’s
maiden name was Deardorff, and I made it my goal to add a Deardorff to my
The one I found — I traded
some old tractor parts with Alan Schurman, near Vancouver, Wash., for it — had
been designed for use in the timber industry in western Washington. It was
equipped with a winch, roll cage and dozer blade to snake logs out of the
These crawlers were built by
Earl I. Deardorff & Sons, Portland,
Ore., probably just after the end
of World War II. The company apparently produced many of these units, although
only a few are known to exist today. The Deardorff was made using car parts.
Mine, for instance, has a 1937 Ford rear end that was made narrower and used
for the steering brakes. Two Chevrolet transmissions from the late 1930s and
early 1940s were incorporated: one for the winch and one to propel the crawler.
The Wisconsin Model AHH engine, built in January 1951, replaced an earlier
engine of the same model. The engine is rated at 9.2 hp at 2,200 rpm.
When I got my Deardorff, it
was pretty much a basket case. In fact, several people suggested I take it to
the recycling center. I spent the winter of 2011-’12 restoring it. One
transmission had been open to the Washington
climate and rain and needed extensive repair. An axle shaft in the rear end was
twisted and needed repair, and several bearings had to be replaced. A brake
drum was cracked and had to be welded. The small aluminum rear wheel rims were
broken and unusable. I made a pattern from a good one and sent it to a foundry
to have them recast. The tracks were completely worn out, so I made new ones.
From the looks of the old
tracks, which had seen a lot of use, the basic design was successful. Earl
Deardorff received a patent for this track design on Nov. 14, 1939 (no.2,179,587). Deardorff died in 1959; the last of his sons, Merle, died in 2011
at age 92. I was able to connect with Merle’s daughter, who was helpful in
providing me with more pictures of Deardorff crawlers.
I researched the Deardorff
genealogy and found that my great-great-great-grandfather, John Deardorff (born
April 26, 1779), was Earl Deardorff’s great-great-grandfather. So there is a
family connection with the people who built this crawler. FC
Know more about the
Deardorff line? Contact Dick Tombrink, Worden,
Mont., (406) 690-4080; email: email@example.com.