Building an Empire: The Empire Tractor Corporation

Built for the international market, Empire Tractors were designed for Marshall Plan and never intended to be sold in the United States.

| November 2008

Empire building is a real challenge. Great Britain may have been the greatest empire builder of all time. With at least one colony in every continent, England could, at one time, rightfully claim that the sun never set on the British Empire. 

But not all builders of empires were so successful. Take the builders of the Empire tractor, for instance. Empire Tractor Corp., established in 1946 in New York City, may have been inspired by the moniker "The Empire State" in naming the line. More to the point, the company’s manufacturing facility was in Philadelphia, and the company was incorporated in the state of Delaware. So, before the first tractor came off the line, the company’s “empire” was already established in three states.

In the years immediately following World War II and the Lend-Lease Program, Empire Tractor Corp. intended to build tractors for the Marshall Plan, a plan developed by the U.S. to help European allies recover from the devastation of war.

Carl Hering, publisher of the Empire Tractor Newsletter, says Empire planned to export production to Poland, France and other European countries, as well as South Africa and South America. However, other than South Africa and South America, no one is sure where the tractors actually went. In any case, the company never intended to sell Empire tractors in the U.S. or Canada.

Empire built a small, general purpose, light duty, 2-bottom-plow tractor using primarily the same drive train components as those used in the famous World War II Willys-Overland jeep. It was built on conventional lines of an earlier period when channel iron and companion construction were common.

Hering says the Model 88 tractor used rebuilt military power components from World War II-era jeeps. It had a 4-cylinder, 40 hp Willys-Overland engine, a Model T-84 Spicer 3-speed transmission, Spicer transfer case with high and low speeds, Willys rear end, steering column and gearbox. It also had PTO, individual clutch-type rear brakes with a stop provided for parking and a rear belt pulley. The fuel tank and an Empire-style seat were mounted on a large operator’s platform. Its simple, basic gauges (ammeter, oil pressure and temperature), ignition switch and starter button also came from the jeep.

mac davenport
3/22/2009 10:05:30 PM

hi everyone I am in the process of restoring a 1947 empire tractor that my son Kenny just got.and would like some closeup pictures from all sides and ends of the tractors you all might have. kenny's tractor has some things on it I don't think came with it from the factory.and a couple things missing but all in all a very nice tractor any help would be appreciated.just a note many of you were probly watching this tractor on ebay the same way kenny was and I asked the seller through ebay if he had a buy it now price for the tractor and left my phone #as I thought many others would surely have done the same thing well the next morning we looked at ebay and the auction was cancelled and kenny thought someone had already bought it with a buy it now sale price or something but later in the day my phone rang and it was the guy with the tractor and said he would take 700 cash for it well kenny gave me cash for the tractor and gas money and I was on my way 740miles and 2 hours loading time and I was on my way back with the tractor in the back of my E350 box van the guy that had the tractor said he stoped the auction because there was only 8 bids and it was only up to 185.00 and he was afraid he was going to have to give it away.(kenny would have bid it up much much more than the 700. if he had to on ebay)and since we were the first ones to email him he gave use the first chance and we took it because I know the next person in line would have took the deal.anyhow I just thought I would let you all know what happened to the tractor on ebay. if anyone has some pitures and info please send them to cheers mac


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