In the course of the 25 years I’ve been involved in the old iron hobby, I thought I’d heard of every brand of tractor ever made in this country and plenty of foreign ones, as well. But not so!
While leafing through a long forgotten box of Implement & Tractor magazines from the 1960s and ’70s, I stumbled upon a full-page ad for the Lundell 2020 self-propelling tractor in the February 1967 issue. This was a new one on me, so I set about researching this tractor and manufacturer.
Lundell Mfg. Co. was founded in 1945 by Vernon Lundell in Meriden, Iowa. About 26 years old at the time, Vernon had nothing but an eighth grade education, $141 in cash and a lot of ideas, one of which was for a wagon hoist to make it easier for farmers to unload wagons without shoveling.
Vernon built a number of the hoists in a two-car garage on his parents’ farm. The hoists proved popular with local farmers, and the income from their sale gave him the capital to finance an expansion of his manufacturing facilities (he added on to the garage and included a nearby chicken coop) and begin making a field forage harvester. In three or four years, the factory had again been expanded and Lundell wagon hoists and two models of forage harvesters were selling well.
In 1951 forage harvester production was moved to a small plant in nearby Cherokee, Iowa, a city of about 7,700 people, as opposed to the 164 who lived in Meriden in 1950, and where labor and other services were more readily available.
Expansion followed expansion and more products came from the drawing board of Vernon Lundell. An article in a 1970 issue of the Des Moines Register notes that by then, the Lundell plant had a manufacturing area of 200,000 square feet and employed between 100 and 200 full-time employees.
Over the years Lundell made tandem discs, field forage choppers, 6- to 20-foot shredders (some with chisel plows and others with disc tillers), wagon gears and hoists, gravity boxes and sunshades for tractor cabs.
In the mid-1960s, Lundell patented a power unit (the Lundell 2020 self-propelling tractor) to which an array of interchangeable implements could be easily attached. Period advertising listed these as a feed roll and flywheel-type forage chopper with a 2-row cutter bar or pickup head, flail mower/conditioner, 4-row stalk chopper, hydraulic loader, snow blower, dozer blade, field sprayer, forklift with platform and 3-point hitch to which could be attached such 3-point implements as a post hole digger, log splitter or cement mixer. There was a PTO in the front and rear, as well as a rear hitch for pulled implements.
The photo of the Lundell 2020 tractor on the brochure cover was shot from a very low angle making the thing appear huge, but it really wasn’t. Weighing approximately 3,480 pounds, the tractor was 161 inches long and 94 wide, with two dual 7.50 x 18-inch drive wheels at the front and a single 5.90 x 15-inch caster wheel at the rear. The two heavy lift arms to which the implements were attached protruded above the center of each dual drive wheel set.
A choice of engines was offered, including air-cooled Wisconsin V4 gas engines (37 or 60 hp) and 60 hp Ford 172-cubic-inch engines (gas or diesel). The engines were mounted amidships atop the platform and were covered by a flat steel hood, upon the front of which was the operator’s seat. On the roomy operator’s platform were two steering levers and the foot-operated hydraulic lift controls. The variable speed (2 to 12 mph) and implement drive clutch control levers were close to the driver’s left hand, while the instrument panel and engine controls were at his right.
Drive was by heavy V-belt from the engine to a countershaft. On each end of the countershaft were a planetary gear unit and a sprocket, each of which drove a double reduction train of roller chains to a pair of drive wheels.
Implement hookup was described as easy – “drive in, pick up and go” – although no mention is made of connecting the PTO, which, being in the center between the implement and tractor, may not have been so simple.
Not much is heard about the Lundell 2020 self-propelling tractor and its related implements so it must not have caught on. Pull-behind forage choppers already on the market could be used with the tractor the farmer already had and all the other implements were available too. Farmers are a conservative lot and probably couldn’t see the sense in buying an additional tractor, plus the specialized attachments, especially one that couldn’t be used for plowing and other heavy draft jobs.
Meanwhile, Papec Machine Co., Shortsville, New York, a longtime maker of silo filling machines and field forage harvesters, found itself in serious financial difficulties in the late 1960s. Probably in a desperate attempt to recover, the company announced the Lundell as the Papec S.P. Power-Mate and claimed development of it. A photo of the Papec S.P. Power-Mate chopping corn with the 2-row head is identical to the photo used in the Lundell brochure except for the name on the machine.
Vernon’s son, Steve (who was a teenager at the time), remembers driving the 2020. He believes his father bought Papec forage harvesters to modify for use with the Lundell tractor, and is fairly confident that the Papec Power-Mates were built in the Lundell factory. He doesn’t remember how many Lundell or Papec tractors were built, but doesn’t think there were very many.
Papec S.P. ran into the same resistance from farmers that Lundell did. The firm was sold in 1972 and out of business by 1979. Vernon Lundell, however, saw the future and invented and began making machinery to recycle waste material to keep it out of landfills. With today’s emphasis on recycling, Lundell Mfg. is still going strong in Cherokee, Iowa, although it is out of the farm equipment business.
Has anyone out there in reader land seen either a Lundell or Papec tractor? Do any still exist? FC
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 email at email@example.com.