Tractor Conversion Boom

The tractor conversion market exploded in the early 1920s but not everyone was enthusiastic.

| June 2017

Judging by the amount of information available on the Staude Mak-a-Tractor conversion, the Staude was perhaps the best-known of the dozen or so conversions manufactured in the years around 1920. It was produced by E.G. Staude Mfg. Co., St. Paul, Minnesota. In the Nov. 30, 1917, issue of Farm Implements, E.G. Staude claimed the company had 20,000 orders, with the capacity for 30,000 more.

The article described the Staude conversion kit as an attachment designed to convert any car into a farm tractor, and, the writer noted, “The sale of 7,000 machines in 1917 demonstrated the practical value of the device.”

The key, Staude noted, was in the old vehicle found abandoned on most farmsteads. “The power plant, any automobile, is in the farmer’s yard,” he said, “and his daughter or his son under draft age can operate the machine.”

Putting its reputation on the line

The Smith Form-a-Tractor, manufactured by a Chicago company of the same name, was another popular conversion of the era. In its April 30, 1917, debut in Farm Implements magazine, the Smith was described as being a 15-minute installation.

“The tractor attachment designed for Ford cars … consists merely of a channel section frame which attaches to the Ford front axle, extends under the Ford chassis beyond the Ford rear axle, and is connected with a dead tractor axle made of 2-inch cold rolled steel designed to receive two unusually sturdy tractor wheels. The entire attachment can be made in 15 minutes without boring a hole or changing the mechanical construction of the car in any way.”

The writer noted that the wheels needed to be removed, replaced with driving pinions that fit over the brake band and the brake drums, and that the 10-inch-wide tractor wheels “afford exceptional traction,” giving a “big gear reduction” to pull two 14-inch plow bottoms at 7 inches deep “in virgin sod.”