Let's Talk Rusty Iron: Sam Moore finishes the tale of the Graham-Paige Frazer Farm Equipment company's ventures into tractors and answers a reader's questions about other rare tractors.
During late 1947, Graham-Paige's Frazer Farm Equipment subsidiary was building some 300 Rototillers daily, and the company was making money. However, after Mr. Frazer sold his auto interests to Henry Kaiser, Kaiser-Frazer dealers stopped handling the tillers and sales plummeted. By 1948, it was obvious something had to be done to save the company, which had by now moved from Willow Run, Mich., to York, Pa. To save the firm, G-P decided to build a small tractor and designed the Frazer Model T, so named because Joe Frazer said the new machine would be the "agricultural equivalent to the Model T Ford." The tractor chassis would be built by a Dennison, Texas concern, the Jaques Power Saw Company, hence the name Jaques-Frazer. The completed chassis were shipped to York, where Frazer Farm Equipment installed the engines, which were built by Bell Aircraft to G-P specifications, and the hoods, which were supposedly made from parts left over from the manufacture of B-24 bombers at Willow Run during the war.
Rated to pull one 14-inch plow, the Model T was powered by a one-cylinder, 2-cycle engine, like the Simar-Swiss designed power plant on the Rototiller. The engine displaced only 22.97 cubic inches. Some accounts credit it with five horsepower, and some say six; in either case, a 14-inch plow would be a load. The machine had individual, foot-operated turning brakes, a recoil-type pull-starter, a hand clutch, and a three-speed transmission with a high and low range.
Fraser Farm Equip. Corp., York Pa.
Air Cleaner: Donaldson, oil bath.
Brakes: Two; operated by foot pedal.
Carburetor: Tillotson, 1-in.
Clutch: Twin Disc, V 4-1/2.
Ignition: High tension magneto.
Magneto: Edison-Splitdorf or Fairbanks-Morse, gear driven-impulse starter.
Spark Plugs: One, Champion, 18 mm.
Starting: Cable and pulley (self rewind).
Data: H.P.-Neb. Test No. (not tested).Number of plows recommended: One,14-in.
Engine: Simar-Swiss; 3x3-1/4, 1,250-2,500 r.p.m., 1 cylinder; piston displacement22.97 cu. in.
Speeds: mph forward 0.532, 0.849, 1.385,1.835, 2.933, 4.781 and 0.391, 1.352 reverse at 2,000 engine rpm.
The little tractor weighed 1020 pounds, sold for $695, and was said to run as much as three hours on a gallon of gas, while kerosene could be used as fuel after the engine warmed up. Implements available were a 10-inch plow (apparently G-P didn't think a 14-inch plow was really practical), 5-ft mower, disc-harrow, bulldozer blade, and a rotary scraper, along with the same tiller that was used with the Rototiller.
The Model T went on the market in early 1948, but didn't sell well enough to be much help to the struggling company. Also about this time, the rights to the 'Rototiller' trademark expired, and other companies began to call their machines rototillers. Many of these competing machines were much cheaper and, although possibly not as well-built or powerful as the original Rototiller, the lower price attracted many home gardeners.
It seems that not many Jaques-Frazer Model T tractors were built in 1948, and only a few more Rototillers, while the company lost more than three million dollars. Half interest in the Rototiller line was sold to D.E. Winslow of Detroit in 1949, who went on to buy the rest of Frazer Farm Equipment Co. in 1950, and move the operation to Auburn, Indiana. The Jaques Power Saw Company continued to sell the tractor for a few years as the Jaques Mighty Mite after making a few changes. These modifications included dropping the 6-speed transmission in favor of a 3-speed, and substituting a 4-cycle Briggs & Stratton engine for the Simar-Swiss 2-cycle, along with slightly changing the sheet metal hood.
I recently received the following letter from a Farm Collector reader that read, in part:
Ever since I have been a subscriber to Farm Collector magazine, I have read with interest your articles on antique tractors and farm equipment. ... Can you tell me anything about B.F. Avery tractors being sold under the CO-OP name? I didn't know that until I saw a picture of one. By the way, old B.F. started his business about 40 miles from me in the next county.
Have you ever heard of an Allstate tractor? A friend told me about them. I've seen Allstate cars, but not tractors. Please set me straight on this.
I hope you can give me some help on the above questions. Thanks, much!
Samuel W. Rash, Kenbridge, Virginia
Starting about 1939, and continuing into 1942, the Ohio Farm Bureau Cooperative sold the small General GG, a three-wheeled tractor made by the Cleveland Tractor Company, as well as the firm's Cletrac HG crawler tractors, with CO-OP decals on the hoods. The Indiana Farm Bureau Cooperative Association sold the General in 1941 and 1942, at first as a CO-OP Model G, and later as a Model B-1.
The General GG was introduced in 1939, and was the only wheeled tractor built by Cleveland Tractor except for the very first models in 1911. Powered by a Hercules IXA engine, the orange painted Model GG had a Clark 3-speed transmission and was available with mounted implements built by B.F. Avery & Sons of Louisville, Kentucky. During the prewar years, the General GG was also available from Montgomery Ward, the huge mail-order firm. The Wards Twin-Row tractor, as it was called, was identical to the GG except for red paint and the name on the hood. Massey-Harris dealers in Canada also sold the General GG, although it probably didn't carry the M-H name.
Cleveland Tractor stopped production of the GG early in World War II, likely due to material shortages and demand for their crawlers. B.F. Avery & Sons acquired the rights to the tractor about 1942, and began building the GG, renamed the Avery Model A. In 1943, Avery redesigned the grill to set the machine apart from the GG. The Avery tractors were painted red with 'B.F. Avery' lettered in yellow on the hood sides, and were equipped with a hydraulic lift. In 1951, Minneapolis-Moline was looking for a small tractor and bought B.F. Avery & Sons. M-M redesigned the Avery A, and sold it as their Model BF until about 1954.
So, the little three wheeled tractor really got around during its fifteen-year lifespan, and can be found in several colors and wearing five or six different nameplates.
As for an Allstate tractor, that's a new one on me. I've heard of the Bradley, Graham-Bradley, David Bradley, Economy, and Handiman tractors, all sold by Sears, but not the Allstate. The Allstate car was built for Sears by Kaiser-Frazer starting in 1952, and was based on the Kaiser Henry J, a small, two-door model. The venture didn't last long; 1,566 Allstates were sold in 1952, and only 797 the next year, before Sears pulled the plug. People just didn't seem to want to buy a car by mail. If any reader has information about an Allstate tractor, please let me know.FC
Ever since his days as a boy on a farm in western Pennsylvania, Sam Moore has been interested in tractors, trucks, and machinery. Now as a resident of Salem, Ohio, he collects antique tractors, implements, and related items.