A Peerless Pedal Tractor

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Above: Gene Gregory with his customized Ford Model 8N. Custom features include a Comfort Cab, half-track, lowered profile, lights and grille.
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Left: This beautifully appointed Ford Model 8N features a half-track with floating front track wheel and molded top secured to the sides.
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Right: Note the Comfort Cab’s custom features: steering wheel spinner, gauges on the panel, gear shift knob and plastic covering the front windshield. The original Ertl pedal tractor was equipped with a plastic steering wheel and seat. Gene Gregory replaced each with steel versions. The rear opening is designed like that on the original. The curtain, fastened in the “up” position with straps and buckles, could be released in bad weather.

Craftsman extraordinaire is the phrase
that best describes Gene Gregory. His distinct craft of customizing
pedal tractors has blossomed over the years. Today, Gene’s pedal
tractors have been acclaimed by the most avid collectors as
peerless. A Ford 8N is the most recent addition to his fleet
of uniquely customized pedals.

Gene lives in farm country in north-central Ohio. While he has
no practical farm experience, he’s gained an appreciation for field
machinery while observing farmers working the land. Inspired, he
began restoring and collecting antique tractors years ago, before
the hobby became popular. Then came a passion for pedal tractors.
He subsequently liquidated the antique tractor collection.

One-of-a-kind Ford 8N

While attending an antique tractor show in Portland, Ind., Gene
saw a photo of a unique 1948 Ford 8N: an original factory-built
tractor, with several after-market features. The tractor was
equipped with a V-shaped snow blade on the front, and was
traction-assisted by half-tracks.

On the drive home from the show, Gene pondered the photograph.
“That was a uniquely equipped tractor,” he recalls. “I began
visualizing how it would look as a pedal tractor. It inspired a
challenge, and the creative juices kicked in. I just started
tinkering, and this is what resulted.”

When Gene tinkers, it is an art form. He does not customize
something without considerable forethought and planning. The
thoroughness of Gene’s craftsmanship shows through in his
beautifully customized pedal tractors.

Details under the paint

The first challenge was to find a pedal tractor that resembled
the Ford 8N. Ertl manufactured a nice Ford Model 8N, but it had a
higher profile than the real tractor. Gene made do. “With Ertl
having the only available pedal tractor, I had to work with it,” he
says. “I began to cut and shave to accomplish the lower
profile.”

He started by trimming about 2 inches off under the chassis.
That allowed the axle to be raised, which then meant the sprocket
and chain clearance had to be adjusted. Gene altered the housing
under the seat, accommodating the raised axle. The front end was
lowered and retrofitted as a standard 8N. Front wheels were changed
to accommodate 7-by-1.25 tires. By then he was on the right track
to a scaled-down Ford 8N.

The plastic steering wheel and seat were replaced with steel
versions. A miniature steering wheel spinner adds an extraordinary
touch. A front grille was added to more closely resemble the real
thing.

Added traction

On the original 8N, after-market halftracks provided additional
traction in mud or snow. As he designed his pedal tractor, Gene had
little to go on. “I had only seen the half-track from a picture,”
he says. “So I went from memory when I built these. The webbing was
not too difficult, but I wrestled with the cleats a little
longer.”

The tracks were made with 3/4-inch belting. Gene’s
custom-designed cleats, each stamped from aluminum, were riveted to
the belting. Each track is 52 inches long, with belting clips
securing the ends. The front wheel of the track is attached to an
arm that pivots off the rear axle. The front track wheel and track
hold firm to the ground, but float depending on terrain. The design
and track emulate the original perfectly.

The Comfort Cab is made from aluminum sheet metal to minimize
weight. The top is molded and welded, providing a finished look.
Side panels are fastened together with 6-32 bolts. The top is
secured to the side panels using the same style of bolts. The rear
opening of the cab features a canvas curtain that can be rolled up
and held by straps and buckles at the top. The piece is not quite
complete. “I hope to add doors in the future to finish off the
cab,” Gene says.

Finishing touches

A coat of red and gray paint duplicates the authentic Ford color
scheme. Front lights were installed on both sides, and Ford Motor
Co. logos round out the project. For some people, it’d be work. For
Gene, it’s a labor of love. “I enjoy this kind of a challenge,” he
says. “And it’s fun to share it with other people.”

Fred Hendricks is an avid “toy farmer” and freelance
writer living in Longmont, Colo.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment