David Bradley’s Tri-Trac

Remembering the Tri-Trac, a popular three-wheel, small-acreage farm tractor.

| August 2018

  • “I live in a subdivision and the Tri-Trac is really popular there,” Kenny says. “get it out and the neighbor kids hook their wagons to it.”
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • This 1954 David Bradley Tri-Trac, owned by Kenny Wilson, Carl Junction, Mo., was among the displays at a 2013 show in Pittsburg, Kan. In 1954, the Tri-Trac sold for $598 ($5,178 today).
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Illustration from the Tri-Trac operator’s manual showing the unit’s key controls.
    Illustration by Farm Collector Archives
  • This photo of the David Bradley Tri-Trac sickle bar mower shows use of the tractor’s belt drive.
    Illustration by Farm Collector archives
  • Left-hand front view of the Tri-Trac.
    Illustration by Farm Collector archives
  • Right-hand side view of the Tri-Trac.
    Illustration by Farm Collector archives
  • This illustration of the Tri-Trac shows how the unit is hinged in the middle.
    Illustration by Farm Collector archives

Three-wheel tractor with a single front wheel is not so unusual, but the Tri-Trac by David Bradley had a single drive wheel in the rear with a wide front axle. The tractor was built from 1953 to 1957 and about 4,000 were produced. Let’s start this discussion by taking a brief look at the David Bradley Mfg. Co.

David Bradley was born in Groton, New York, in 1811. After working for his brother in Syracuse, New York, he moved to the Midwest in his early 20s. He was involved with the first foundry built in Chicago, bought a plow company and, by forming a partnership with Conrad Furst in 1854, established Furst & Bradley Co. to manufacture farm implements.

During that time, Bradley also developed a chilled cast iron plow reported to scour in the heavy, sticky Midwestern soils. This prompts an interesting question (but one with no clear answer): Was this plow developed before John Deere invented his steel plow in 1837?

Bradley and his sons bought out Furst’s share of the partnership in 1884 and renamed the business David Bradley Mfg. Co. The business was moved to North Kankakee, Illinois, in 1895. City leaders later changed the community’s name to Bradley in honor of the man (who died in 1899) and the company.



Proud addition to the Sears line

In 1910, the Bradley factory was purchased by Sears, Roebuck & Co. Sears continued manufacture of implements that were sold through the company’s mail-order operation. A large number of items were added to the David Bradley product line. Some, such as farm wagons, were built by other companies, but were sold under the David Bradley name.

One of the most popular models built by David Bradley was the two-wheel walk-behind garden tractor introduced in 1946 and built into the early 60s. Four-wheel lawn tractors made their debut in the 1950s and were also a huge commercial success.