The Buried Tractor

Sidney Bunnell
July/August 1995
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2265 Lincoln Farm Road, Hodgenville, Kentucky 42748

Over the past twenty years or so, I have read some short history and stories of Cletrac's General, Twin Row and B.F. Avery tractors. Much of it was inaccurate according to what little factual literature is to be found covering these tractors. Having lived in Central Kentucky most of my life, I have firsthand knowledge of some of the things relevant to these tractors. This writing, most of which will be based on firsthand or ownership of the Avery tractor, I wish to pass on to all tractor collectors, especially, B.F. Avery owners so that they can enjoy the thrills of collecting as I have enjoyed it, as well as the collecting of information.

Sometime in the late 1930s, some say as early as 1937, the General tractor made its appearance; I believe 1939. To be more accurate, all I've learned about this, B.F. Avery Company developed tools for their tractors that they called True Draft Implements. As Avery was making a lot of tillage tools for the tractor industry, I don't have serial numbers to know how many of the Generals were made. My understanding is Cleveland Tractor Company, makers of the General, entered a sales agreement with Montgomery Ward in late 1939 to sell the General as a Ward's Twin Row. They also made a few for Ward's that are called High Crop because of their height and clearance over row crops.

However, in 1941 B.F. Avery acquired the General Tractor from Cleveland Tractor. For many reasons, I believe that most of the casting for Generals were being made by Avery. Prior to this time, B.F. Avery continued to assemble the same tractor and painted it red instead of yellow. They called it a B.F. Avery. In 1943, Avery made some changes, in wheels especially, and some additions. Then it became a full fledged B.F. Avery. Most of this information was obtained from conversation with a former dealer who began selling Generals in 1939 and continued until the sale of B.F. Avery Company to Minneapolis Moline in 1951.

I learned the following about B.F. Avery tractors from ownership, others I had seen, been around and who worked with Averys. I had not owned an Avery until about ten years ago. First, we will discuss the 'As.' The early ones had cast wheels with bolt-on rims on the rear. Later models had pressed steel, two piece rims, cast spoked, solid or pressed steel, single front wheels. Some had steel wheels both front and rear. They could be bought with single front, wide front, or dual fronts. The ones that came from the factory with dual fronts had a 'D' after the serial number. I understand that many were changed to duals after sale by dealers. 'As' began to be bought with hydraulics very soon, probably in 1945. I have owned 'As' with serial number in 6A Series that still had hand brakes. I would assume the change to foot brakes was made close to that time, late 1945 or 1946. I have had 'As' with hydraulic pump mounted on the drive shaft with brackets. I'm not sure when the change was made to distributors. I'm assuming about 1945 after World War II. The many variations and changes make them a challenge, as does the lack of information in printed form. Service manuals and operators manuals are available but not a lot more. Collecting and restoring is less difficult in many instances because they had Hercules engines and used standard bearings and seals, most of which can be bought at a bearing house or auto supply.

The model 'V,' 1946 to 1952, is my favorite because of the short time of manufacturing and many variations. I first thought they were all alike. Having bought five at various places, one of my sons and I were looking at them. He asked, 'Dad, why five, they are all alike.' I said, 'I just like them.' Then, I began to really look. I had five 'Vs' all right. Alike? No. All of them had different front wheels to really add to the fun. Some had hand brakes, others front brakes, four different rear wheels, four different front axles, all wide fronts and other items. A real challenge if you enjoy something different. They even became Minneapolis Molines after Avery was purchased by them for at least 1951 and '52.

In 1950, the 'A' was replaced by the Model 'R' with larger wheels, four speed transmission and different brakes. After purchase of B.F. Avery by Minneapolis Moline, then these tractors became an M.M.B.F. They made it with three front ends. It was dropped by Minneapolis Moline because they already had an 'R' tractor of their own.

There is a lot of other information I could have used in this writing. More detail, more specification and even some odd humor. I thought this would be informative as well, arousing your curiosity. When Minneapolis Moline closed the B.F. Avery plant in Louisville, Kentucky, according to those who worked there, they simply took parts, tools and machinery and even the records out in the bottoms behind the plant and buried them, the reason for lack of positive information.

I am including a serial number list which I found corresponds with a list printed by Minneapolis Moline. The serial numbers on the 'A' are found on the right hand side of the frame, next to the gear shift lever. On Avery 'Vs' the number is found on the right side of the frame where the engine bolts to the frame at the flywheel cover. There was other equipment built on Avery and more crawlers, loaders, backhoes and other equipment. Serial numbers follow:

Model 'A'

1943

1A845-1A1497

1944

1A1498-4A785

1945

4A786-7A304

1946

7A305-9A865

1947

9A866-13A246

1948

13A247-17A455

1949

17A456-19A365

1950

19A366-20A114

Model 'V'

1946

1V05-1V143

1947

1V144-2V276

1948

2V277-4V276

1948

2V277-4V489

1949

4V490-5V500

1950

5V501-6V206

1951

6V207-6V421

1952

6V422-7V271

Model 'R'

1950

R500-R1838

1951

R1839-R4459

MM-BF

1952

R-4460-R6537

1953

(BFW)R6538-R7571

1953

(BFD) 57700001-577000358

1953

(BFS) 57600001-576000047

1953

(BFH) 58000001-58000150


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