The Hart-Parr Little Devil

Let's Talk Rusty Iron: With only 725 made, the Hart-Part Little Devil tractor is a rare collector's item today, but farmer's weren't impressed when it was introduced.

| April 2007

More than 10 years ago, the Donald Sell estate sold a large collection of tractors at auction in Perryton, Texas. One of those machines was a super-rare Hart-Parr Little Devil that brought $33,000, a big price for an antique tractor in those days, but not so much today, when such a tractor would probably bring six figures.

The Floyd County Historical Society in Charles City, Iowa (where Hart-Parr, Oliver and White tractors were built from 1901 to 1993), started raising money as soon as members heard about the auction, and managed to accumulate enough to buy the Little Devil and another rare Hart-Parr, a circa-1914 Model 20-40.

The Floyd County Museum's Little Devil, which was restored by Mr. Sell, is one of three known surviving examples of the tractor. There is (or was 10 years ago) a fairly complete but unrestored Little Devil at the Western Development Museum at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada. The late Harold Ottaway, Wichita, Kan., spent more than 12 years tracking down enough parts to restore another that is now owned by John Tysse of Crosby, N.D. Mr. Tysse's Hart-Parr Little Devil is exhibited every year at the Divide County Pioneer Threshing Bee in Crosby, S.D. (The 2007 show will be held July 20-22.)

Introduced in 1914, the Little Devil tractor was Hart-Parr's answer to the demand for a light, inexpensive tractor. A total of 725 Little Devils were built over the following two years. At the time Hart-Parr was probably the most respected tractor builder in the country, but the new offering was a technical disaster, and the company spent a lot of money recalling the tractor that came to be known as Hart-Parr's biggest embarrassment.

Weighing slightly more than 3 tons, light for the time, the Little Devil rode on three wheels: a single, centered rear drive wheel, 64 inches in diameter and 26 inches wide with open, v-shaped lugs, and two smaller front wheels set far enough apart to straddle two corn rows for cultivating.

The Hart-Parr-built engine was a 2-cylinder, 2-cycle design that ran at 600 rpm. The horizontal cylinders had a 5.5-by-7-inch bore and stroke, and were cooled by an "automatic, anti-freezing (oil), cooling system."