The Elusive Haas Tractor

Collectors search for clues to the short-run Haas tractor line

| November 2009

Of the dozens of vintage tractor makes and models manufactured in the U.S., one of the most elusive is the Haas tractor.

It is believed only a few hundred Haas Model A, B and D tractors were produced in the years between 1949 and 1951, and today, just over three dozen are known to be in the hands of collectors.

The story of the Haas tractor begins in the late 1930s. As the world prepared for war, American manufacturers converted their factories to the production of war materials. In New Orleans, Andrew Higgins began converting his boat-building business to produce the famed Higgins landing craft. In Buffalo and Seattle, Fort Worth and Burbank, Wichita and Kansas City, aircraft manufacturers began producing bombers and fighter planes. In Detroit, Chrysler began producing tanks instead of automobiles. And in Racine, Wis., Ed Haas, the owner of Metal Parts Corp., a machine shop and foundry, began manufacturing aluminum aircraft cylinder heads for Warner Aircraft and Continental Motors for use in the P-51 Mustang fighter.

As World War II came to an end, Haas kept his plant busy by subcontracting to Chicago-area firms. He also began producing a line of bacon griddles, electric mixers, aluminum skillets, deep fryers and other cookware under the Star Glow brand. With the experience he’d gained manufacturing aircraft engines, as well as parts for International Harvester, Allis-Chalmers, Case and Massey-Harris, Haas saw an opportunity to manufacture his own line of tractors.

Acquiring design rights

Bob Haas (no relation to Ed Haas) is a collector from Roanoke, Ill., and founder of the Haas Tractor Club. According to Bob, Ed Haas acquired rights to manufacture what would become the Haas Atomic A and B tractors from a Kansas City, Kan., man in December 1947. Haas subsequently purchased rights to what he would call the Haas D in Buchanan, Mich., and by 1949, the first Haas tractors began coming off the production line.

Bob, author of several articles on Haas tractors, says no information has been found regarding the number of Model A and B tractors produced. Only one Haas Model A is known to exist; that A and just 12 B’s are represented in the Haas Tractor Club, along with 18 Model D tractors. Ed Haas reportedly said he produced a total of 301 Model D tractors between 1949 and 1951, many of which he claimed were exported to overseas markets.

“I have a sale bill for our Haas D dated September 1949 with a serial number of 1014 – number 14,” Bob says. “In a 1949 trade magazine, the Haas Atomic A was introduced as a new model. The Model B was also mentioned as the same tractor with an additional transmission, thus giving it twice the speeds. Those two facts strongly suggest that 1949 was the first year of production on both tractors.”

War surplus components

Bob says Model A and B tractors were powered by a Haas Model 6-12 air-cooled engine claimed to produce 12-1/2 hp at 2,400 rpm. The tractor weight is shown at 1,600 and 1,700 pounds, respectively. A Borg-Warner T-96 transmission similar to those used in wartime jeeps, Fords and Studebakers indicated that the transmissions, like the tractor’s jeep wheels, were war surplus. A considerable amount of brass was used in the steering arms, final drive gears and the hand crank, suggesting use of war surplus (brass shell casings) for those parts as well.

According to product literature, the engine used in Model A and B tractors was produced in both kerosene and gasoline versions, although no kerosene burners have been found. Bob says Haas club member Ellsworth Olson, Viroqua, Wis., was likely the first to discover that internal parts of that engine were identical to Ford Model A parts still available today.

Ross steering, adjustable axles, pulley drive and a swinging drawbar were standard, and starter, generator and the pulley were factory options. Haas made the rear axle and housing, Bob notes, except for what appears to be a generic ring gear and pinion.