Model T Fords Converted Into Tractors

Aftermarket kits for Model T Fords, like the Knickerbocker Forma-Tractor, gave farmers a cheap alternative to buying tractors.

  • Front cover of a 1917 Forma-Tractor brochure showing a satisfied farmer washing up with his plowing finished — thanks to his trusty Model T roadster and Forma-Tractor attachment.
    Illustration Courtesy Sam Moore
  • A Knickerbocker-equipped Ford pulling a 6-foot single disc harrow and 2-section spike-tooth smoothing harrow.
    Illustration Courtesy Sam Moore
  • Rear view of the Forma-Tractor on a Ford roadster.
    Illustration Courtesy Sam Moore
  • A cut-down Model T Ford with an unknown make of tractor conversion, maybe Sears or Montgomery Ward.
    Photo Courtesy Sam Moore
  • This “simple one-man control” was touted as a way for one man to control both the Forma-Tractor and a horse-drawn implement.
    Photo Courtesy Sam Moore

Henry Ford made more than 15 million Model T Fords from 1908 to 1927; the things were everywhere. It’s no wonder some folks dubbed the sturdy little car the “mechanical cockroach,” or that there were lots and lots of them available for converting into all sorts of uses besides basic transportation. (For more, see Ford Model A on Snowshoes by Bill Vossler.)

Lots of Model T Ford cars were converted into trucks, often by using aftermarket kits that provided extended frames and heavier duty rear ends. It didn’t take long for inventors and tinkerers to see the possibilities of adapting the Tin Lizzie into a more or less serviceable farm engine for pulling the horse-drawn implements that every farmer then had, even though some experts said the Ford was entirely unsuitable.

As Bascom B. Clarke, editor of Gas Review magazine, wrote in the June 1917 issue: “No Hiram, you can’t make a real tractor out of an automobile any easier than you can make a draft horse out of a jack rabbit.” And: “Can the leopard change his spots or the Ethiopian his skin? Well, then, why should anyone expect to make a real tractor out of an automobile unless, to quote scripture again, he has first looked upon the wine when it was red?” In the July 1917 issue, he observed: “Take it from me, Hiram, a tractor is something different yet from a tin Henry with tractor wheels on the hind end.” And: “Those people who think they can turn a Tin Lizzie into a real tractor with a few gears and a yard of hay wire are going to wake up one of these days and wish they had their money back.”


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