Aftermarket jeep loader attachments struggled to get off the ground and are rare collectibles today.
Rugged little Willys Jeep earned an outstanding reputation in World War II, so it was only natural the civilian version CJ model would be equally popular after the war. One of many applications for the Jeep was its use as a farm tractor. It was probably the first four-wheel drive tractor built since Massey-Harris’ rigid-frame, steel-wheel version produced in the late 1930s.
The CJ Jeep could be adapted for farm use by adding a hydraulic lift hitch for 3-point implements, a 30 hp capacity PTO shaft (which could also drive a belt pulley) and a drawbar, of course. In the late 1940s, it had a 60 hp engine and a 3-speed transmission with a high-low transfer case, giving six forward gears. But could it also be a loader tractor? One thing in its favor: The four-wheel drive feature would maintain traction during loading operations as the weight shifted to the front axle. A loader attached to the front of a Jeep does not seem like a very good combination, but at least five companies thought otherwise.
Manufactured in Wichita, Kansas, the Baldwin loader used a pivoting heavy-duty tire to help support the weight created by the loader. The wheel and tire assembly included a compression spring that worked with the Jeep’s front springs and it could be retracted when traveling on the road. A structure was added to reinforce the front of the Jeep’s frame and to provide an attachment point for the loader.
To raise the loader bucket, a cable went from the lift arms, over a pulley on the rod end of a long hydraulic cylinder and was then anchored to the loader frame. That arrangement doubled the lift arm travel for every increment of cylinder extension: The loader could lift 800 pounds to a height of 8-1/2 feet. Straps on each side of the pivot wheel provided the pushing force to load the bucket, which was dumped by manually pulling a trip rope.
The hydraulic system for the single-acting cylinder was supplied by a pump driven off the front of the engine crankshaft. The loader could be detached from the Jeep by removing just two bolts and disconnecting the hydraulic line. These two bolt locations also allowed the loader to pivot vertically to operate on uneven ground.
MAHL loaders also used front wheels to help support the weight from the loader. However, these were dual tires, and instead of pivoting, they were connected to the Jeep’s steering system.
Built in Minneapolis by Standard Iron & Wire Works, the MAHL’s bucket-pushing lift arms reached back to a structural member mounted across the rear of the Jeep. A cable over a pulley mounted at the top of the lift cylinder raised the lift arms.
The MAHL loader had a patented hydraulic connection between the lift cylinder and a cylinder incorporated into the dual support wheels. As hydraulic pressure increased in the lift cylinder to raise the load, increased downward pressure was also exerted on the support wheels, which took the added load off the Jeep’s front axle. Rated capacity was 1,100 pounds, and the bucket could be raised to 9 feet.
The MAHL was offered with a choice of buckets: one for sand and dirt, and one for snow and produce. The sand/dirt bucket measured 40 inches wide, had 1/3-cubic-yard capacity and became a manure fork when the bottom plate was removed. The snow/produce bucket (used for grain and other light materials) was 6 feet wide.
After approximately 70 years, do any of these loaders still exist? The answer is “yes,” thanks to Jeep collector Glenn Byron, whose keen eye spotted part of a MAHL loader in a New York salvage yard in 2007. As reported online by the Four-Wheeler Network, further searching in the yard produced a pile of parts for building a MAHL loader with the snow/produce bucket.
Glenn did not want to take on the reconstruction process himself, so he approached Standard Iron after he discovered the company was still in business. He reached company president Rich Demeules, grandson of one of the four Demeules brothers who founded Standard Iron in 1930. Excited by the project, Rich had the loader restored. Eventually, in 2016, the loader was installed on a nice 1948 Jeep.
The MAHL name came from the first letters of the four brothers’ wives: Martha, Ann, Helen and Lucy. A prototype loader had been built in 1947 with production following soon after as the Model JA. It first appeared in the Jeep Equipment Catalog in 1948 and remained in production until 1953; about 300 units were built. List price was $343 without a bucket. The snow/produce attachment sold for $81.50; the smaller sand/dirt bucket sold for $46.50. Dozer blades were available for $58.25, as well as a V-type snowplow ($120) and a hay stacker head ($225).
The Morton loader, built in Muskegon Heights, Michigan, attached only to the front of the Jeep’s reinforced frame. To raise the arms, it also used a cable over a pulley on the end of the single-acting lift cylinder. In addition, the pivot point for the lift arms slid upward as the bucket was elevated.
Two models were available: one with a 5-foot lift height and 1,500-pound capacity, and one with an 8-foot lift with 1,000-pound weight limit. A 1/3-cubic-yard bucket was available to handle either snow or sand, but with the 8-foot lift, a baffle was added to cut the capacity to 1/4 cubic yard when loading sand.
A late 1940s price list set the price for the smaller loader at $595; the 8-foot unit sold for $655. For this loader, the factory recommended front overload springs on the Jeep, a rear weight, increased tire pressures and 1,500 psi hydraulic pressure.
Options included extension arms to stretch a 5-foot lift to 8 feet ($95), a 250-pound rear drawbar weight ($75), and a double-acting (powered up and down) cylinder, four-way valve and 7 feet of hose ($53.50).
Even though it was more expensive than the MAHL, this loader appeared to be the lightest duty of the units because it was mounted entirely on the front of the Jeep’s frame with no extra support wheels. Yet the manufacturer claimed it was capable of lifting 1,500 pounds with the shorter frame. Even with the 250-pound rear weight, balancing 1,500 pounds in the bucket might have required a couple of sumo wrestlers in the back seat to keep the Jeep’s rear wheels on the ground.
Built in Buffalo, New York, this loader’s primary support was a cross member that attached to the Jeep’s frame right behind the front wheels, with additional braces going back to a cross member attached to the rear of the Jeep. A pushing structure attached to the front of the vehicle’s frame contacted the bucket during loading. A single-acting hydraulic cylinder on each side of the Jeep raised the directly connected lift arms to a height of 9 feet, 6 inches.
Hydraulic power was supplied by a pump driven off the front of the engine crankshaft, and the control valve was mounted on top of the oil reservoir, located between the front seats. The bucket was dumped by pulling on a lever connected to a rod that controlled a latch at the bucket. Attachments included dirt and snow buckets, manure fork and scraper blade.
Even though this loader was fairly well designed, the four-page brochure contained a warning: “No comparison should be made with heavy duty loaders.” The brochure also made clear that the 30-day warranty covered defects in material and workmanship only, and did not cover “improper installation, overloading, accident, neglect, or harmful alterations or repairs,” suggesting that there had been more than a few structural failures with this loader.
Not much is known about it, but a Jeep-A-Loader (also manufactured in Minneapolis) does exist. It is serial no. 1001, which indicates it might be the first (and maybe the only) one built. The Jeep-A-Loader attached to the front frame of the Jeep and had a structure going back almost to the windshield to support the pivot points for the lift arms. A single hydraulic cylinder was attached at the front frame to raise the arms.
The market for Jeep loader attachments could not have been very large in the first place. When that market was divided by several manufacturers, the shares of the pie were inevitably small. Baldwin and MAHL loaders were the only loader manufacturers ever listed in the Jeep Equipment Catalog, so the others probably had very low production numbers. If any of these loaders are still in existence after about 70 years, they would be a very rare farm collectible. FC
Jim Gay was raised on an Iowa farm and received a degree in Agricultural Engineering at Iowa State University. He is a lifelong collector of farm and construction equipment literature and information. Several years ago Jim began sharing his information and experiences by writing magazine articles. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.