King of the Road: Bringing a Twin City Tractor Back to Life

A 1928 Twin City 27-44 Road King that was used hard and left for dead undergoes a complete restoration.

| June 2018

As a kid, I was fascinated with fixing and modifying toys. I grew up buying, repairing and selling bicycles, lawn mowers and snowmobiles. Eventually I was consumed by the idea of collecting and restoring trucks, cars and tractors. My love of antique agricultural history fueled a passion for early hand-start steel-wheeled tractors. After enjoying some Minneapolis-Moline farm tractors, I began to explore their historical predecessors, the old gray machines labeled as Twin City tractors.

In my search, I uncovered some really amazing engineering. In 1916, Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co. was building a twin cam, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine. Several decades ahead of its time, this remarkable power plant was to be fitted into a brilliantly designed unit-frame casting that housed the transmission and final drive in a constant bath of heavy oil.

That idea came at a time when most tractors were built on simple channel frames with exposed pinion and bull gears that suffered from rapid wear. Minneapolis Steel’s Twin City line tractors were truly an engineering marvel: I had found my new passion! After a 2-1/2 year search, I located a rough 1928 Twin City 27-44 Road King. I made a deal to bring it home and start collecting and fabricating needed parts to bring this sleeping giant back to life.

Assessing a complete restoration

This abandoned old workhorse was used as a road builder in central Minnesota for nearly four decades. In time, I would learn that it was used hard and left for dead. As I took the machine apart, I discovered the need for extensive restoration. I was looking at a lot of worn and broken pieces; others were missing altogether.

If ever there was a low point in our quest to “fix and play,” that was it. Pieces of the 10,000-pound brute were scattered everywhere and the project at hand appeared rather overwhelming. But quitting was not an option.

Have any of you ever wished surviving machinery like this could speak to you? I always imagined a grand tale spun from hard times, operator errors and creative emergency repairs, if we could only know of them.

5/29/2018 9:05:46 AM

This is the best documented restoration that I have ever seen. thank you so much for bringing this old girl back to life and sharing it with us. H. Lane.