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

  • This 1928 Twin City 27-44 Road King (serial no. 250417) is one of 839 Road Kings built by Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • My daughter, Paige, and I out for the first test drive.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • A total of 839 Twin City 27-44 twin-cam tractors were built.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • The Road King on its arrival at the shop. Many parts were missing and all of the sheet metal was either missing or unusable.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • The radiator shroud, hood, gas tank, fenders and canopy irons were fabricated from new metal.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • Teeth on the pinion shaft bevel gear were chipped. This shaft was machined out of a large round blank to ensure strength from one-piece construction.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • Clutch components were cracked and rusted, requiring re-machined and new parts.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • The engine was badly worn, requiring a complete rebuild.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • The engine was badly worn, requiring a complete rebuild.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • The engine was badly worn, requiring a complete rebuild.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • I am shown here holding up what was left of the right front corner of the hood.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • With assembly complete, chassis paint begins.
    Photo by Tony Thompson
  • This 1928 Twin City calendar is the perfect companion piece for my restored 1928 Twin City 27-44 Twin-Cam tractor. The tractor shown on the calendar is also a 27-44.
    Image courtesy Tony Thompson
  • The Road King made easy work of this plowing demonstration in Albert City, Iowa.
    Photo by Tony Thompson

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.

Howard
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.




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