Reviving an Oliver 500

Family ties wrap tightly around rare Oliver 500 tractor and implements

| May 2011

On Feb. 24, 1962, my dad, Victor McGuire, purchased an Oliver 500 gasoline tractor with four Oliver implements: a 356 sickle mower, 330 disc, 3240 2-bottom plow and 5024 wagon running gear. He still has all but the original tractor and the disc. We still use those original implements from time to time. Dad purchased the remaining implements in 1963 and still has most of them. This is how this story gets started. 

Partners across the pond

In 1960, Oliver Corp. and David Brown worked out a deal in which David Brown of England would manufacture a small economical tractor to add to Oliver’s American line. No one at the time really understood this because Oliver already had a small utility tractor with the Oliver 550, which had been in production since 1958 and was a very dependable tractor.

Oliver apparently decided that it would be less expensive to rebadge a David Brown Model 850 tractor than to build the new model itself. For David Brown, it was a way to get a foothold in the U.S. market.

The David Brown 850 was a dependable model but less powerful than the 950, the company’s bestseller at the time. With the addition of meadow green and clover white paint, an Oliver checkerboard grille and decals, the 850 was transformed into the Oliver 500. All David Brown 850s were diesel models. Crop Master gasoline engines were used in the rebadged tractors exported to the U.S., where gasoline tractors remained popular.

The first tractor built by David Brown for export to the U.S., Oliver 500 tractors were shipped to several East Coast ports. The 500 was priced less than American-built 550 models and had a rear differential lock, which the American-made tractors lacked.

The Camargo connection

In Mt. Sterling, Ky., Lonnie Amburgey ran a very successful Oliver farm equipment dealership at Camargo Tractor Sales. Respected by area farmers, he was responsible for introducing Oliver tractors into the surrounding area. I am sad to say he died in 1979 at the age of 58.