Model A Ford Turned Tractor: The Sears Thrifty Farmer Tractor Conversion Kit

Found and restored tractor conversion kit turns a 1930 Model A Ford into a Sears Thrifty Farmer tractor.

Ronnie Kitts installed a restored conversion kit on his 1930 Ford Model A, creating a crossover between his hobbies: vintage Fords and vintage tractors.

Ronnie Kitts installed a restored conversion kit on his 1930 Ford Model A, creating a crossover between his hobbies: vintage Fords and vintage tractors.

Courtesy Ronnie Kitts

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This conversion kit was built by Peru (Ill.) Plow Works, and sold by Sears, Roebuck & Co. for $92.50 plus shipping.

It was named the Sears Thrifty Farmer tractor. The kit could be ordered with adapters to fit a Ford Model A or Model T, or an early Chevrolet. It is said that as many as 80 companies manufactured similar kits.

Peru Plow was in operation from 1851 to 1941, and built turning plows, wheels for varied types of machinery and tractor kits. The kits were made at a time when ready-made tractors were scarce and expensive. The kit tractor was said to be capable of replacing two or three horses on the farm.

These were factory-made kits and should not be confused with homemade Model A doodlebugs. Steel front wheels could be ordered; rear wheels could be on rubber, steel lugs or angle cleats. This tractor had angle cleats, but I removed them and instead used old cut-down tractor tires for treads so it could be operated on the road (and cause less damage to grass).

Installation of the kit was not complicated. It just required removing part of the body, rear spring and rear hub and brake housing, and installation of the pinion gear. Also, the rear differential had to be turned over, since the ring gear’s teeth are on the outside, to avoid having only one forward speed and three in reverse.

My Thrifty Farmer kit is attached to a 1930 Model A Ford chassis I’ve owned for about 20 years and restored while trying to locate a kit. I own three restored Model A Fords and wanted one of these as a crossover to my other hobby, vintage tractors. The collection my sons and I have built includes a John Deere 760, John Deere D, Ford 8N, Ford 700, Farmall Cub, John Deere MT and a 1923 Fordson.

The kit (which I found in a field in northern Ohio) was originally attached to a Model T. The differential was the only part remaining of the car. All the bolts came loose with only an adjustable wrench, which is a statement on the quality of old iron.

Back in the day, horse-drawn implements were modified to use with these conversions. But the conversions did not work out too well as tractors, and most found their way to World War II scrap drives. FC 

pete hill
3/11/2013 2:39:58 AM

Great resto! I have a Thrifty Farmer kit on a 28 Ford A. Anyone guess how many were sold, or are still around?


don thomason
5/5/2010 10:43:33 AM

I had a neighbor, Duward Scott (Wauconda, WA (Bonaparte Meadows), who used to convert Model A Fords to reversed hay collectors to use on his spongy Peatmoss meadowlands that he harvested his hay from. He reversed the transmissions so that he had three speeds forward (reverse) and one back (forward). He built hay loaders on what was once the back end and bolted on outside wheels, giving "duals' so the load would not sink through the meadow/peat moss sod. The loaded rear would balance out the heavier original front engine's weight. He once tried using dual-tired John Deere Model A tractors but they were too heavy and would sink through the peat moss/sod. He used to joke that he had the only 70 mph tractors around! Duward is now dead from old age but his daughter is Gerry Beeman of Tonasket, WA (509)486-4297.