Intercontinental C-26 Tractor

Cover of the Intercontinental C-26 Tractor Sales Brochure. Below, another view of the tractor from the same publication.

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3955 Parkhill Road, Santa Margarita, CA, 93453

A few summers back when I was in Grafton, California helping move the tool and die shop which Bob Yonash operates for his son's company, Empire West Plastics, a tractor appeared in the yard one day, and I asked about it. The tractor itself, although unusual, wasn't particularly fascinating, but the story behind it certainly was. It goes like this:

In May of 1948 Bob Yonash was called to a meeting in the offices of a Dallas lawyer. He had previously advised the lawyer on cases involving manufacturing, and this turned out to be such a meeting. Although the country's manufacturing was getting back on track following the diversion to wartime production, there was still a pent up demand, particularly in some export markets. Harold J. Silver, a New York business man with connections in Argentina, had identified an opportunity to sell tractors there. He returned to search for a supplier.

Silver learned that Nateco, a steel foundry in Marshall, Texas had been considering a tractor design (originally conceived as a copy of the International-Harvester Model H) but based on their own front end casting, a Continental engine, and a Timken transaxle assembly. Mr Silver pushed Nateco along and helped work the paper design into a sales brochure (complete with synthetic 'performance' specifications) which he took to Argentina. The good news was that he had returned with a firm order for 3000 tractors and a letter of credit guaranteeing payment as they were delivered to dockside! The bad news was that several months had slipped by with little progress for Nateco. It was now May, and the contract required delivery by January first. Any delay and the sales would probably be lost to the established manufacturers.

Bob, beginning the next day with a trip to Nateco and then to Detroit where working drawings were supposed to have been commissioned, confirmed the 'no progress' report. He returned to his own drawing board and long sessions of round-the-clock design finishing, casting, and cash flow estimating. He turned to Texas Manufacturing Company, TEMCO, (later the T in LTV) where he had recently served as chief production engineer. TEMCO had an aircraft engine overhaul production line recently idled, and he tried to get them to bid on the tractor assembly. While they were thinking about that he was off to Continental in an attempt to get an allocation of engines from their oversubscribed production. No luck. Then to Timken for axles. Same situation, but Timken did agree to allocate an axle assembly for each engine. Back to Continental, and with a little exaggerating concerning the axles in hand, he got the same promise-an engine for each axle.

Now for production. Back to Dallas, but no response yet from TEMCO. A call to a top executive there elicited the Texas type response, 'Bob, our guys aren't sure about this deal, but if you promise me we'll make money on it we'll go ahead'. 'If you let me set up the line and pick the production foreman I'll promise it.' Next came a delicate bit of negotiating with Silver and the lawyers. Bob thought it ought to be worth a pretty fat fee to pull this deal out of the fire and turn a phoney sales brochure into a finished product with fairly high volume in 7 months flat. The 'Intercontinental Manufacturing Company', which at that point existed only in a briefcase didn't disagree, but their doubts that it could be done were apparent when they scaled back Bob' s salary request and offered him $5 for each tractor delivered on time instead.

Then came a scramble to set up the line. TEMCO facilities were able to produce various minor components such as hood and instrument panel stampings. A local foundry came up with an adequate cast iron front frame component. Bob remembers various problems and setbacks such as carloads of paint arriving with short weight and not usable. The radiator manufacturer ran out of materials, but good relations with the purchasing agent at Timken solved that when a carload of materials awaiting COD pickup in Phoenix went unclaimed so was re-routed to Dallas. The TEMCO company news-letter of July 1948 shows pictures of the tractor line, and proudly notes that it is a suspended monorail. 'The tractors don't touch the floor until they are ready to be wheeled out'. Good thing, too, because the biggest problem Bob remembers is the strike at the wheel manufacturer's which left them shuttling a dozen or more tractors per day out to an old runway, jacking them up and bringing the wheels back to put on the next tractor off the line.

The Nebraska test, number 400, was performed in September with no problems in confirming the C-26 horsepower designation the contract required. Bob hadn't been worried about that because the engine was well known and several others (Cockshutt he remembers) were using Timken's axle assembly with good results. By October, when the wheels finally arrived, production was flowing smoothly and another 1500 tractors had been sold to Brazil. Bob did a redesign with a Buda diesel, Nebraska test number 420, and about 200 of those were produced. He believes that all 200 were shipped to India as part of the last substantial order of 500 tractors sold there.

Intercontinental went on to buy a production plant in Garland and produce buses for delivery to Cuba. Token tractor production continued at the new plant. The Nebraska test summaries through 1959 report both models as still being available, but it is doubtful that many more were actually produced.

Bob Yonash and the C-26 he used towing others around went on too. They both accumulated a few dents and a little rust through the years. The tractor got a rebuilt engine once and a homemade ROPS one accident too late. Neither of them has been restored.