Bent on Perfection for Articulated Tractors

Read about the history and development of the articulated farm tractor.

| September 2019

articulated-tractor
Steiger No. 1 was born in the Steiger brothers’ barn in 1958. It is now on display in the Bonanzaville, USA museum, Fargo, N.D. 

Four-wheel drive tractors, as they used to say, were “slow a’bornin.’” Two-wheel drive was the norm until after World War II. Isolated attempts were made in the 1920s and ’30s, but steering difficulties (resulting from the fact that constant-velocity universal joints had not yet been invented) led to limited acceptance. More traction, in those days, came from tractors with crawler tracks.

Pivot steering, a type of articulation (or “bending in the middle”) was used on the 1915 Moline Universal, but with only two wheels driving. The back half had the seat and implement. It worked quite well, but it was a small, low-powered unit. Others of the time were two-wheel, front wheel drive, like the Universal, but used tail-wheel steering rather than the central-hinge articulation.

The real advantages of four-wheel drive became apparent in World War II, when front-wheel power could be engaged by the driver when needed. The terms “6x6” and “4x4” were coined, meaning all the wheels could be engaged, including the front (or steering) wheels.



articulated-tractor
The 1964 FWD/Wagner WA-4 was equipped with a GM/Detroit Diesel 4-53 engine that produced about 100hp.

Farming, construction, aviation and industry share common need

The first practical four-wheel drive farm “tractors” were post-war Willys Jeeps, Dodge Power Wagons and even the British Land Rover equipped at the factory with 3-point hitch and rear power take-off. While these rigs made important contributions to the idea of all-wheel drive, they really didn’t catch on with farmers, likely because of their limited maneuverability and visibility.



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