1918 Wisconsin Tractor Gets Second Wind

A rare and unique Wisconsin tractor is brought back to life after sitting for more than 40 years

| April 2000

The word "rare" gets plenty of use when vintage tractors are discussed. But Frank Wurth's fully restored 1918 Wisconsin lives up to that billing. 

The Wisconsin Tractor Company started out in 1917 in Sauk City, Wis., as the McFarland and Westmont Tractor Company. When production ended six years later, the result of stiff competition and a challenging economy, about 600 tractors had been produced. Survivors are few and far between.

"I talked to some guys at the Badger, Wis., show, and they estimated that there were 22 Wisconsins they knew of. There could possibly be 25," Frank says. "And of those 25, there's probably just three or four restored."

"It's a unique tractor, very well made," Frank says. "But Henry Ford put 'em all out of business. Wisconsin couldn't compete at $2,000-$2,200 per tractor. But in '53, this Wisconsin was still used on a daily basis, while those Fordsons were long gone. It's really a very well made machine.

"It was so far ahead of its time for 1918: It had a full pressure motor; it used gas; it was lightweight but it could pull four or five plows," Frank says. "John Deere was not even out of the gate yet. And Henry Ford built a cheap tractor. If he'd gone $500 better, there'd be no other tractor today."

The Wisconsin's biggest downfall? "There was no parking brake," Frank says, "just a pulley brake on the clutch. The theory was that, with the iron wheels and lugs, it wouldn't roll. But that seems kind of short-sighted, for a tractor designed for use in the hill country in Wisconsin."