Unanswered Questions for Ford Model B

Lester F. Larsen Tractor Museum's Ford Model B has a puzzling build date.

  • Ford Model B Museum
    The Ford Model B on display at the Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum.
    Photo Courtesy Lester F. Larson Tractor Test and Power Museum

  • Ford Model B Museum

Ironically, a Ford Model B tractor produced by charlatan W. Baer Ewing survived and is today displayed at the Lester F. Larsen Tractor Museum, Lincoln, Neb. But it is no surprise to anyone familiar with the Ford tractor and W. Baer Ewing that the rare tractor is shrouded in mystery.

An enlarged version of a vintage advertisement for the Ford Model B, complete with a drawing of the machine, is displayed next to the tractor at the Larsen museum. But a former curator at the museum, Dr. Louis I. Leviticus, assigned a curious date to the tractor, based on information he received at the time it was donated. “The material which arrived with the tractor tends to show that the year of its manufacture was 1909,” Leviticus wrote.

Roland Spenst, who donated the tractor to the museum, said at the time of the donation that he had purchased the tractor in 1912 from Howard Erlendson, who said he bought the tractor new in 1909. Erlendson had actually purchased three Ford Model B tractors, two of which were used for parts.

Dating by design

In a December 1990 letter, Spenst included detail about the Model B’s design. He noted that, “the 1909 tractor model didn’t have brakes on the differential to help steer the tractor. A later 1912 Ford Model B included the brakes. The 1909 model ignition system had a battery coil design. The 1912 model was a Kingston magneto. I changed the magneto on my 1909 model for an International Harvester magneto.

“The 1909 model Ford B also had no cover on the gears, whereas the 1912 model included a cast iron cover. The 1909 model had a cone-type clutch; the 1912 model had an expanding clutch in the flywheel. I replaced the cone-clutch on my 1909 model for an expanding flywheel clutch.”

Spenst’s letter also described the drawbar of the 1909 model as triangular; the 1912 model’s drawbar was U-shaped. The 1909 model had a thermo-siphon cooling system, he wrote; the 1912 model came with a water pump.


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