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A Cletrac CO-OP?

Author Photo
By Sam Moore | Sep 22, 2020

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Above: 1934 or 1935 narrow-front CO-OP tractor built by Huber Manufacturing, Marion, Ohio. All photos by Sam Moore.
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Far left: A 1941 CO-OP B-2 Jr. tractor with the Silver King rear end and transmission.
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Above: A 1937 CO-OP No. 1, built by Duplex Printing Press Co., Battle Creek, Mich.
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Above: A 1944 CO-OP Model C built in Shelbyville, Ind.
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Left: 1934 or 1935 wide-front CO-OP tractor built by Huber Manufacturing, Marion, Ohio.

Tracing the history of CO-OP tractors

Someone asked me if I’d ever seen a CO-OP
crawler tractor that looked just like a Cletrac HG crawler. I had
to admit that I never had, and seriously doubted that any such
machine ever existed, even though I knew the CO-OP name was put on
tractors from several different manufacturers. However, I’ve
learned in almost 20 years of studying this stuff to “never say
never,” as in: “They never made one of those!”

By way of background, in 1867 the Grange was started by a
Minnesota farmer named Oliver Hudson Kelley, who believed that
farmers, because of their independence and the way they were
scattered, needed a national organization to represent them, like
unions were beginning to do for industrial workers. Farmers were at
the mercy of merchants for farm supplies and marketing their crops,
while the railroads and grain companies were taking advantage of
farmers as well.

From this beginning, a number of local farmer cooperatives
(Co-ops) evolved, with many carrying the Farm Bureau name. These
organizations attempted, through the power of group purchasing, to
get the farmer a better deal on prices for seed, fertilizer, feed
and other essential supplies, including farm machinery.

Probably the first tractor to carry the name CO-OP appeared in
1934. Huber Manufacturing, in Marion, Ohio, took some of its Modern
Farmer series tractors, cast the CO-OP name into the radiator tank,
and painted the machines red. A couple of years later, Huber was
out, and a tractor designed by Dent Parrett and built by Duplex
Printing Press Co., Battle Creek, Mich., was being sold by the
cooperatives. Three models were made: the 1-plow CO-OP No. 1, with
a 4-cylinder Waukesha engine; the 2-plow No. 2, with a 6-cylinder
Chrysler engine; and the 3-plow No. 3, with a larger Chrysler power
plant.

In 1938, trouble developed with Duplex, and another change was
made, resulting in the formation of the National Farm Machinery
Cooperative. NFMC seems to have built some of the No. 2 and No. 3
CO-OP tractors in Shelbyville, Ind., as well as a few in
Minneapolis, and some in Arthurdale, W.Va.

About 1940, a new CO-OP B-2 tractor started rolling off the
Shelbyville assembly line. Considered a replacement for the old No.
2, the B-2 had a Chrysler 201 cubic inch displacement (cid),
6-cylinder engine, 38-inch tires, a streamlined and tapered hood,
and clamshell fenders. Soon, the CO-OP B-3 followed with a bigger,
242 cid Chrysler engine, followed by the smaller CO-OP B-2 Jr. The
B-2 Jr. had a 4-cylinder Continental, 162 cid engine, and used a
transmission and rear end supplied by the Silver King factory at
Plymouth, Ohio.

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 Co., as well as that firm’s
Cletrac HG crawler tractors. I don’t know if they were painted red,
but at least some had COOP decals on the hoods. The Indiana Farm
Bureau Cooperative Association sold the General in 1941 and 1942,
first as a CO-OP Model G, and later as a Model B-1.

In 1942, the Shelbyville plant was converted to war work, and
Model B tractor production stopped in 1942. Engineers had been busy
designing the Model C, which was to be a light, modern, 2-plow
tractor, weighing less than 3,000 pounds and powered by a 124 cid,
4-cylinder, Continental Red Seal engine. The Model C tractors were
built during the last years of the war, although no one knows how
many, with production probably ceasing early in 1945.

Although records are pretty sketchy, it appears a couple other
CO-OP tractors were built by NFMC right after the war, as examples
have been found and restored. In 1945, the Shelbyville plant turned
out 200 Model D-3 tractors. A somewhat updated version of the old
CO-OP No. 3, the D-3 was built to power threshing machines in the
wheat belt and production was tied to special permits from the War
Emergency Farm Machinery Board.

Starting in 1948, and continuing for two or three years, the
Farmers Union Central Exchange of St. Paul, Minn., built the CO-OP
No. 3S. The 3S was another update of the old No. 3, with a 250 cid
Chrysler engine, and streamlined sheet metal, although the old
crowned fenders were retained. The postwar demand for tractors was
waning by the end of 1949, and only some 1,500 CO-OP 3S tractors
were built.

Meanwhile, in 1946, NFMC signed an agreement with Cockshutt Farm
Equipment Limited of Canada, allowing Cockshutt tractors to be sold
in the U.S. by the cooperatives. Cockshutt had introduced its new
Cockshutt 30 tractor in 1946, and had agreed to paint U.S. models
orange with black CO-OP lettering. Called the CO-OP E-3, the new
tractor was powered by a Buda, 153 cid, 4-cylinder engine, and had
a 4-speed transmission and rear end from Wisconsin Axle Co. that
provided a live PTO. Thus, the Cockshutt 30, and its twin CO-OP
E-3, were the first tractors with a fully independent, live PTO.
With their fresh, sleek styling, they were miles ahead of models
from the larger manufacturers, who were still building tractors of
pre-war design.

As Cockshutt developed different tractor models, their CO-OP
equivalents were introduced in the United States to supplement the
E-3. The larger E-4 came out in 1949, while the smaller E-2 and the
much larger E-5 hit the cooperative’s showrooms in 1952.

Even though the CO-OP E-series tractors sold well, the NFMC was
badly over-extended and filed for voluntary bankruptcy in 1952.
Cockshutt bought the NFMC plants at Shelbyville and Bellevue, Ohio,
sold the Shelbyville facility, and closed Bellevue in 1955, after
transferring some of the Famous Ohio machinery lines to Brantford,
Ontario. After 1953, all tractors and machinery sold by the
cooperatives bore the Cockshutt name.

So, there could have been a CO-OP crawler tractor that looked
like a Cletrac, although I have yet to see one.


Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He
now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements
and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail at
letstalkrustyiron@yahoo.com

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