Yankee Doodle(bug) Dandy: A Homemade Tractor From Ford Model A Parts

Restoration of a doodlebug made of Ford Model A parts takes on patriotic theme.

Doodlebug Before Restoration

The tractor before restoration.

Content Tools

Being National Director of the Fordson Tractor Club for 25 years, I usually deal with Fordson and Ford tractors. But at an annual Father’s Day weekend antique tractor show at Pottsville, Ore., I was the lucky winner of a silent auction for an unusual homemade tractor assembled mostly from Ford Model A parts.

This wasn’t the usual “doodlebug” made from a kit using a Ford or Chevrolet, but a tractor built totally from scratch. The plans were published by Popular Mechanics Press, Chicago, in 1939. They were reprinted in 1941, at the height of World War II, when new farm tractors were all but impossible to obtain. The designer claimed the tractor could be built for $60 ($936 today) using only a wrench, hacksaw and some minor welding (but a drill press and bits were necessary).

The homemade tractor was made from two steel I-beams, spaced evenly, with a Ford Model A radiator, engine and transmission at the front, followed by a truck transmission and rear end. In this case, a Model T worm gear rear end was substituted for the one specified in the plan.

Using other parts he had on hand, the farmer/builder installed a smaller gas tank and reversed the seat spring. Apart from those deviations, he followed the plans pretty close, especially for the row-crop steering, using parts from a 1928 Chevrolet. This was a tricky operation but it turned out well. He also used the Chevy’s disc wheels (converted to rubber). The big rear wheels are from an old rubber-tired tractor.

When restoration is complete, this “Ford” tractor will be painted a patriotic red, white and blue, with a Ford blue engine and wheels, red body and white trim. Black paint will be used for the seat and controls. A sheet metal hood will be installed to protect the engine and the drawbar arms will be beefed up. Since it’s always handy to have a toolbox onboard, this tractor will be outfitted with a Fordson toolbox — quite appropriate for this collector. Truly, a homemade Ford tractor! FC 

Jack Heald is the longtime director of the National Fordson Club. 

Read more about “doodlebug” tractors in The Fix-It Men Kept Farm Communities in Business and The Doodlebug: A Homemade Tractor.