Uncommon Garden Tractor Collection

A Minnesota man assembles a set of rare and unusual garden tractors.

| September 2015

  • 1953 Page ZA12FM
    The 1953 Page ZA12FM tractor bears a strong resemblance to the Allis-Chalmers Model G.
    Photo courtesy Ron Gittins
  • 1953 Bantam Model 5000
    The 1953 Bantam Model 5000 with a 5 hp Briggs & Stratton Model 14 engine is a rare tractor. Ron says he has yet to see another one.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • 1971 Wheel Horse Bronco
    The frame and hood on this 1971 Wheel Horse Bronco garden tractor have been extended.
    Photo courtesy Ron Gittins
  • Bolens Huski Ridemaster
    Set just 6 inches apart, the large front wheels on the 1947 Bolens Huski Ridemaster are the unit’s drive wheels.
    Photo courtesy Ron Gittins
  • COPAR Panzer Belts
    The 1954 COPAR Panzer Model A tractor uses three different belts to control speed, but the tractor must be turned off in order to change speed.
    Photo courtesy Ron Gittins
  • COPAR Panzer Front
    Front view of the 1954 COPAR Panzer.
    Photo courtesy Ron Gittins
  • COPAR Panzer Model A Tractor
    Ron’s 1954 COPAR Panzer Model A tractor.
    Photo courtesy Ron Gittins
  • Craftsman Mower
    The 1955 Craftsman mower sold by Sears, Robuck & Co.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • David Bradley Tri-Trac
    Marked by awkward design and an ungainly appearance, the David Bradley Tri-Trac met an unenthusiastic market. Retailer Sears, Roebuck & Co. cut prices for three consecutive years, but it still took seven years to unload the run of 3,000-4,000 tractors (exact number varies by source).
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Garden Tractor Engines
    With two 8 hp Kohler engines, Ron’s 1971 Wheel Horse Bronco garden tractor has “a very unique sound,” he says.
    Photo courtesy Ron Gittins
  • Lawn-Boy Loafer
    The 1958 Lawn-Boy Loafer with friction drive has a look all its own. The power is in the back, where the driver sits, and the mower is in front.
    Photo courtesy Ron Gittins
  • Moldboard Plow
    The moldboard plow for the 1955 David Bradley Tri-Trac cost $47.50 (about $418 today), “with $5 down.”
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Ron Gittins
    Collector Ron Gittins, on his 1953 Bantam Model 5000.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Shaw Du-All N8
    Ron says this 1954 Shaw Du-All N8 is his “most normal looking” tractor. The N8 has a Briggs & Stratton Model 23 engine and Ford flathead V-8 transmission and rear end; its rear wheels are adjustable for track width.
    Photo courtesy Ron Gittins
  • Speedex Model B
    A rear view of Ron’s 1942 Speedex Model B. “I’ve never seen another one at a show,” he says.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Speedex Model B Engine
    The 1942 Speedex Model B with a Briggs & Stratton Model Z engine is one of Ron Gittins’ favorites.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Wheel Horse Suburban
    Engine placement on Ron’s 1960 Wheel Horse Suburban 550 makes for hot work.
    Photo by Bill Vossler

  • 1953 Page ZA12FM
  • 1953 Bantam Model 5000
  • 1971 Wheel Horse Bronco
  • Bolens Huski Ridemaster
  • COPAR Panzer Belts
  • COPAR Panzer Front
  • COPAR Panzer Model A Tractor
  • Craftsman Mower
  • David Bradley Tri-Trac
  • Garden Tractor Engines
  • Lawn-Boy Loafer
  • Moldboard Plow
  • Ron Gittins
  • Shaw Du-All N8
  • Speedex Model B
  • Speedex Model B Engine
  • Wheel Horse Suburban

Ron Gittins’ goal in life is to procure unusual old iron. By most accounts, he’s achieved his goal. Between the garden tractors he uses and those he restores, he’s built a collection of 20 rigs – and there’s nothing common in the mix.

Ron, who lives in Buffalo, Minnesota, launched his collection innocently enough. While sifting through an online auction in April 2005, looking for parts for his 1994 Wheel Horse 520-H garden tractor, he saw something unusual. “I found a 1971 Wheel Horse Bronco garden tractor with two 8 hp Kohler engines,” he says. “I decided I had to have it, and that’s the one that started my collection.”

The out-of-the-ordinary Bronco (built by Wheel Horse Products Co., South Bend, Indiana) was a good fit for a man with a preference for what he refers to as “the odd stuff.” And having worked on a farm as a kid, Ron found that relics like the Bronco are a tangible link to days gone by.

The Bronco’s front engine has an electric start that powers a centrifugal clutch. “When that engages,” Ron says, “it starts the front engine, which runs the hydro transmission. You can have one or both engines running at any given time, but to move the tractor, the rear engine must be running.”



David Bradley Tri-Trac

Ron’s introduction to his 1955 David Bradley Tri-Trac also had a certain random quality. His first glimpse of the unit, which was built by David Bradley Equipment Co., Bradley, Illinois, for Sears, Roebuck & Co., was in reprinted manuals he found online. “When I saw those line drawings,” he says, “I had to have one.” After finding one advertised online, he hooked a 16-foot enclosed trailer onto his Dodge 3/4-ton pickup and set out for California, Kentucky.

When Ron’s Tri-Trac was built in 1954, it was sold by Sears for $495 (about $4,320 today). “I heard it took them seven years to sell all of them, because the Tri-Trac was a 3-wheeled machine, and the people they were intended for – small farmers mostly – felt that it was a little tippy. And because of the three wheels, it is. Otherwise, it drives very well and is easy to turn. I use mine just for shows, although it does run.”



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