Another Case story for this 175th anniversary year of the founding of the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company.
The International Harvester Company came out with a motorized 2-row cultivator about 1916. The machine wasn’t a success, but it began a long period of experimentation by IHC that led to the introduction of the Farmall in 1924. Generally acknowledged to be the first true row-crop tractor in America, the popularity of the revolutionary Farmall soon had other tractor manufacturers scrambling to build a row-crop tractor of their own.
At the time the Farmall came out, Case was still selling cross motor tractors, a design that was not only outdated, but totally incompatible with row-crop design. Case badly needed a new tractor and the 3 to 4-plow Model L, introduced in February of 1929, was an immediate success. At the same time as the Model L was being developed, Case was thinking about a smaller row-crop machine.
A smaller 2 to 3-plow version of the Model L, designated the Model C, was introduced to the public in August 1929, and this was to be the basis for Case’s row-crop tractor as well. A prototype was built with a single front wheel and rear wheels that slid in and out on the exposed rear axles. Dubbed the Model CC, the tractors were ready for testing in March, 1929.
There were problems. The front of the CC was light and would rare up during a hard pull. When the front came crashing back to the ground, the front gooseneck casting and the cast iron front wheels would often break. There were oiling and steering troubles as well. Finally, early in 1930, Case announced the new CC tractor.
The Models C and CC were powered by a 4-cylinder overhead valve engine with 3 7/8 by 5 1/2 inch bore and stroke, that turned 22.7 HP on the drawbar and nearly 29 on the belt. On steel wheels, the CC weighed about 3,600 pounds and had a 3-speed transmission with speeds of 2.63, 3.75 and 5.14 MPH.
Described by Case as “two tractors in one,” the Model CC’s rear wheel tread could be adjusted from a narrow 48 inches for plowing to a wide 84 inches for cultivating. Wheel tread adjustments were accomplished by the use of 2, 10 and 12-inch spool-type spacers and reversible wheels.
Leon Clausen, who was president of Case at the time, insisted that purpose built implements be designed to go with the new Model CC tractor. He wrote to his engineering manager in 1929: “It is obvious that the Case Company is going into the general purpose tractor field and that they must be able to supply the attachments that go along with the CC tractor, so the farmer can do the things he wants to do and so we will be on a competitive basis with International and John Deere. We can’t do this by furnishing the tractor alone or by having one or two attachments.”
1936 Case CC and a mounted lister-planter owned by Lyle E. Lannon of Sydney, Illinois. (Photo by Sam Moore at the Half Century of Progress Show, Rantoul, Illinois, in 2009)
The Case engineers designed two and four-row planters and cultivators, listers, middle busters and a rear-mounted mower to fit the CC. These implements were lifted by either the “armstrong” method, or an optional power lift. At first the power lift was chain driven from a sprocket on the right rear axle, but about 1933, a PTO-driven lift was mounted on the differential housing.
Leon Clausen was vice president of manufacturing for Deere & Company in 1924, when he was made president of the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company. When he first came to Case, he seemed to have a vision for the future and was responsible for many improvements. He recognized that Case’s automobile line wasn’t adding to the bottom line and got rid of it. He said later: “When I came to Racine, Case’s tractor line was obsolete, both in appearance and performance.” He pushed for a new tractor line and the Models L and C were the happy result.
The Case L, C and CC tractors sold well. During their ten-year run, 1929 to 1939, Case built 34,000 Model Ls, and almost 53,000 series C tractors, of which nearly 30,000 were row-crop Model CCs. They were up to date machines in their day and were powerful, reliable and difficult to break.
However, it seemed that once he had pushed through these successful models, Clausen thought nothing could be improved upon and he became very resistant to change. Although the gray Case tractors were modernized in 1939 and 1940 with new sheet metal and flambeau red paint, underneath they retained the 1929 design. No tractor development was undertaken at Case until well after World War II, putting them far behind the competition. When his branch managers and salesmen complained about the lack of updated equipment, Clausen would retort: “Don’t listen to what they want! Just tell ’em what you have to sell.”
Clausen stepped down as president in 1948, but by that time it was too late. During the early 1930s, Case had sold about one third of all tractors sold in the U.S. By 1950, that figure was less than ten percent.
So, it appears that, like their competitor International Harvester, Case was the victim of bad management and poor business decisions. It’s ironic that the remnants of both companies are now married as Case-IH under the vast umbrella of CNH Global.
– Sam Moore