Saving a Sears Economy Tractor

A Minnesota man does his part to preserve a little-known Sears Economy tractor.

| June 2017

  • John Morley drives his 1938 Sears Economy tractor in the daily parade at the Almelund (Minnesota) Threshing Show.
    Photo courtesy John Morley
  • The front wheels on the 1938 Sears Economy tractor could be adjusted wider, depending on specific crop needs.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • John’s 1938 Sears Economy is equipped with fenders, but they were optional equipment.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • PTO was optional on Sears Economy tractors.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Some references call the Sears Economy tractor the “Sears New Economy,” but all the decals simply say “Economy,” as this one shows on John’s tractor.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Ford Model A engine was the engine of choice for most Economy tractors.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • John Morley’s granddaughter Kathryn sitting in a Model A race car from his collection.
    Photo courtesy John Morley
  • A line-up of John’s Model A- and Model T-related vehicles.
    Photo courtesy John Morley
  • Another of John’s conversions.
    Photo courtesy John Morley
  • John Morley at the wheel of a Model T conversion in the parade at the Almelund (Minn.) Threshing Show.
    Photo courtesy John Morley

Draw a straight line from Henry Ford’s Model T automobiles down the years through Model A’s to the Sears Economy tractor, and in the middle of it all you will find the fingerprints of John Morley, Forest Lake, Minnesota. “I had a couple of Model A and Model T automobiles, Model T grain trucks and Model T farm trucks at the time I heard about the Model T conversions,” he says. “Later, I learned about the Sears Economy tractor.”

John started collecting Model T conversion kits until he had five of them. “The idea was to use any old car, although mainly they were for the Model T,” he says. “The kit had two big wheels and the axle, so you could convert your car to a tractor in a day.”

Sears, Roebuck & Co. was one of the companies that sold conversion attachments, as C.H. Wendel notes in Farm Tractors 1890-1980, “whereby any Ford Model T or Model A could be converted into a small utility tractor. Priced at $100, this conversion was capable of ground speeds up to 2-1/2 mph. Various tillage equipment was also available for this unit.”

With the conversions, John says a dummy axle was attached either behind the Model T or A axle with the big “tractor“ wheel on it. A large cog was on the inside; a small cog was placed on the true axle, and when the two meshed, they moved the vehicle.

Kit manufacturers worked the versatility angle hard. Literature produced in about 1920 by Staude-Mak-A-Tractor Co. said, “With a Staude Mak-a-Tractor, you can plow in the morning, you can do your heavy hauling in the afternoon, and you can drive for pleasure in the evening.“ All bases covered!

The inside scoop on Sears

John got involved with old iron in the late 1960s when he was in the mini-storage business in Forest Lake. At that point, he had a couple of warehouses available. “I started picking up old tractors and putting them in those warehouses,” he says. “Then I began to see a few of those old conversion kits, which were rare and hard to find. I was interested in them because they were connected to the Model A’s and Model T’s.”


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