Collectible Garden Tractor Implements

Brinly-Hardy's little implements are still in big demand.

| September 2006

When John Brinly set up his Simpsonville, Ky., blacksmith shop around 1800, he couldn't have imagined that his legacy would include highly sought-after garden tractor collectibles 200 years later. Nor could his son, Thomas E.C. Brinly, have imagined that the steel plow he fashioned from an old saw blade in 1837 would set the stage for a 165-year-long plow-making run. And neither man could have imagined a business in 2006 devoted almost exclusively to building implements and attachments designed for the suburban homeowner's lawn and garden. But that's exactly what the Brinly-Hardy Co. (which remains privately held) excels at today.

According to Bill Doering, retired vice president of engineering at Brinly-Hardy, the company first became interested in making implements for garden tractors in the mid- to late 1940s. "They wanted to find a use for their product line of mule- or horse-drawn small garden plows, cultivators and the like," Bill recalls. "They also had a line of larger tools for smaller tractors, such as the Ferguson, at that time."

Brinly's line-up of modern-day garden tractor implements trace their roots (and, in some cases, their model numbers) to the early 1960s, when Bill was first hired as chief engineer. It's the company's interesting array of attachments (some quite short-lived) from those years that really captivate collectors. "We weren't in the business of creating collectibles," Bill says. "We wanted to help people get the most they possibly could out of their garden tractors."

Setting the standard

As a company devoted to making garden tractors more useful, Brinly-Hardy focused on a niche that tractor manufacturers appreciated, especially since production numbers for specialized implements were often quite low. Low production numbers translate to low profits. Even worse, costs associated with a garden tractor implement's development might never be recovered. Brinly's solution to that problem was to make common attachments that could fit on all brands of garden tractors.

The company's early efforts were frustrated by variations in hitches. "We could use standard parts at the working end of the attachments, but we had to accommodate all of the different hitches," Bill explains. "As an implement manufacturer, our goal was to benefit owners, tractor manufacturers and ourselves by developing hitch and drawbar standards for garden tractors."

In the early 1960s, Bill's engineering team put together a proposal for the first-ever lawn and garden tractor standards by submitting drawings and measurements to the appropriate American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) committees, which were made up of the tractor manufacturers' representatives. After only minor changes, standards for drawbar, tubular sleeve hitch and Category "0" three-point hitch were adopted by the ASAE for lawn and garden tractors.