Three post-war bonanza tractor makers


| September 2004



Earthmaster tractor

Earthmaster tractor

With firm ties to the southern California aircraft industry, the Earthmaster tractor first appeared on the scene in the late 1940s with an association to the Aerco Corp. at Van Owen St., Burbank, CA. Aerco advertised two- and four-wheeled tractors with the name Earthmaster for about a year before the Earthmaster Farm Equipment Co. was formed in 1948 as a division of Adel Precision Products Corp.

Adel was a highly successful aviation contractor during World War II, innovating among other things hydraulic valves and control systems to prevent tail gunners from shooting off the tails of their aircraft. In a 1944 advertisement in Fortune Magazine, Adel claimed its eventual peacetime manufacturing would bring innovative products to home and industry to make work lighter. Certainly with the country's hunger for post-war agricultural machinery, taking on a line of farm equipment must have seemed quite prudent at the time.

Initially, Earthmaster Farm Equipment's address was the same as that advertised by Aerco. The company manufactured several different tractors using high-quality components such as Briggs & Stratton or Continental engines and Timken bearings. Different models of walking tractors typically had different engines or drive trains, while different models of the larger four-wheel tractors had different axles, tires and front-end dimensions. For example, the C Series four-wheel tractors included at least five variants such as the general purpose Model C and the high-crop version Model CH. All of the four-wheel tractors had Continental N-62 four-cylinder engines, three-speed transmissions, disc brakes and were available with live hydraulics, belt pulley, rear PTO, wheel weights and several other options.

Through 1949, Earthmaster Farm Equipment continued to offer dozer and scraper blades, belt pulleys, cultivators, sickle-bar mowers, shredders, mounted plows, planters and many other attachments for its tractors from the Burbank, Calif., location. Most traces of the Burbank-based Earthmaster disappeared by the early 1950s, however. According to some enthusiasts, S.L. Allen & Co., makers of Planet Jr. implements, was the first owner of Earthmaster after Adel. S.L. Allen is credited with producing many of the Earthmaster tractor attachments, however, no record exists of any tractors being produced by that Pennsylvania company.

Earthmaster surfaced again in the mid-1950s in North Carolina where a line of four-wheel tractors, virtually identical to those made originally in California, was produced by C.F. Latham & Co. By the end of the 1950s, manufacturing of new Earthmaster machines had ceased, although parts were still available into the 1980s from Latham.

Custom Mfg. Corp

The Custom Mfg. Corp. was formed late in 1944 by several former employees of the Co-Op tractor plant in Shelbyville, Ind. Although its initial effort was aimed at producing war supplies for the United States government, it wasn't long before the firm began producing tractors for machinery-starved American farmers. The company produced both standard and row-crop models from readily available components. Engines were supplied by Chrysler industrial; heavy-duty, five-speed truck transmissions were sourced from New Process (now New Venture Gear Inc.); and axle makers like Eaton and Timken supplied the final drives. Custom's initial offering was the 25-hp Model B row crop, and a Wheatland-style Model C shortly followed.