Small but Mighty: The Ransomes M.G. Crawler

The M.G. crawler remains popular with British collectors, despite production ceasing in the 1960s.

| January 2017

  • A Ransomes M.G.6 crawler tractor with hydraulic lift.
    Farm Collector archives
  • A nice Ransomes M.G.5 at the Great Whelnetham Classic Tractor & Car Show in Suffolk, U.K. 
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • A Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies advertising poster dating to about 1875.
    Farm Collector archives
  • This Ransomes M.G.2 crawler is one of those used by the Royal Air Force during World War II to tow planes and bomb carts at airports.
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • A Ransomes M.G.6 at work with a mounted 2-way plow.
    Farm Collector archives
  • A front-mounted blade turned the M.G.6 into a capable small bulldozer.
    Farm Collector archives
  • An M.G.6 equipped with the front toolbar and cultivator shovels at work doing close cultivation of young plants.
    Farm Collector archives


In 1789, a British brass and iron founder, Robert Ransome, began to cast iron plowshares in Ipswich. Cast iron shares wore quickly and required sharpening by heating and hammering the edge, a process that could be repeated only a few times.

An accidental spill of molten iron on a cold surface resulted in Ransome’s discovery of chilled iron, which made much tougher shares that retained their edge longer. Ransome parlayed this into the Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies Co. By 1900, the company was making a variety of agricultural machinery, such as plows, harrows, hay tools, threshing machines and cultivators, as well as stationary, portable and traction steam engines. Other products included iron bridges and a range of railroad products.

In 1832, the firm began building lawn mowers under the 1830 Edwin Beard Budding patent and soon was making lawn mowers of every size, including horse-drawn models. During the late 1800s, a steam-powered lawn mower was developed and, in 1902, Ransomes produced the first commercially available gas-powered mower, and lawn and estate mowers became an important part of their business.

Smaller turns out to be better

After failed attempts to make a heavy gas tractor in 1903 and 1919, Ransomes hit pay dirt in 1936 with the tiny, tracked motor garden cultivator. The Ransomes M.G. (motor garden) cultivator, later called the M.G.2, was powered by a 600cc air-cooled, 1-cylinder Sturmey Archer “T” engine that put out 6 hp, had a dry sump with a separate tank for the lubricating oil, and cost £135 in 1936.

Sturmey Archer was, and still is (although the firm is now owned by Chinese interests) well known for their bicycle gear change sets, but also built engines and gearboxes for motorcycles during the 1920s. The Great Depression hit the company hard, and engine manufacture ceased around 1930. It’s unclear who made the S-A badged engines used by Ransomes; perhaps they built them under license.


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $34.95.

Facebook Pinterest YouTube