1920 Shelby Model D Tractor: Rare Antique Tractor One of Very Few Known to Exist

Ohio collector may own the only restored and operational Shelby tractor in existence


| June 2010



The 1920 Shelby Model 12-25. Working from the tractor's serial number tag and existing markings on the rear fenders, the late Jack Maples made decals for the Shelby restoration.

The 1920 Shelby Model 12-25. Working from the tractor's serial number tag and existing markings on the rear fenders, the late Jack Maples made decals for the Shelby restoration.

James N. Boblenz

Fred McCance, Lyons, Ohio, describes his 1920 Shelby Model D 12-25 tractor when it’s on display at an antique tractor show as a “lonely little petunia in an onion patch.”

It’s not so much that the other tractors are onions, he explains, but his Shelby is almost always the only one of its kind on display.

According to Fred, Shelby Truck & Tractor Co. produced three different tractor models: the Model C 9-18, Model D 12-25 and Model D 15-30. Fred owns two, a 1920 Model D 12-25 (serial no. 158) and a 1920 Model D 15-30 (serial no. 162). Completely restored, the 12-25 is the show tractor. The 15-30 is beyond restoration and is used as a donor tractor. Fred knows of only one more Shelby. Located in Pennsylvania, the tractor has been disassembled and many parts are missing. He doubts it will ever be restored.

Dawn of a new era

Early in the 20th century, a major transition swept through American agriculture as farmers began to make the move from farming with horses to mechanized farming. Early steam engines, expensive and enormous, were used primarily to provide power to threshing machines and other large pieces of equipment. By 1915, however, many companies began to manufacture smaller, more efficient, less expensive tractors: The horse’s days were numbered.

The Shelby tractor is a remnant of that early era of farm tractor history. Launched with high hopes in Shelby, Ohio, Shelby Truck & Tractor Co. was organized in 1918. The company operated out of a factory large enough to house simultaneous manufacturing operations for trucks and tractors. During the company’s first year, Shelby won a government contract to produce 150,000 shrapnel shells for the U.S. Army. That order helped Shelby get off the ground, but it delayed planned production of trucks and farm tractors.

Three models launched

The company’s first tractor was a 1919 Model C 9-18. One of the most streamlined tractors then available, the Shelby sported a full hood and sleek lines. It was powered by a 4-cylinder Waukesha engine with a 3-3/4- by 5-1/4-inch bore and stroke. The fledgling company did not set up a large distribution and service network. Instead, Shelby looked to Banting Co., Toledo, which sold the Shelby Model C as a power source for Banting threshing machines.

The second Shelby was the Model D 12-25. It featured a 4-cylinder Beaver engine coupled to a Foote Bros. (Chicago) transmission and differential. The driver’s platform was spacious and comfortable with all controls in easy reach, and there was good visibility for both fieldwork and belt power.