10060 Lewis Ct., Broomfield, Colorado 80020
The following article is the result of many years intermittent research undertaken by Dave Baas, a member of the Front Range Antique Power Association of Denver, Colorado. Sources of information included newspaper articles, company ads and literature, and interviews with the former company employees including Mrs. Gladys Gibson, widow of the founder.
Dave undertook the research in part because he was given a Gibson model 'D' by his late grandfather, Thomas Baas, who worked a few acres with it at Falmouth, Michigan. The restored 'D' is seen on this month's cover, and on these pages.
The Gibson Manufacturing Corporation, Longmont, Colorado, was founded in March, 1946 by Wilber Gibson. This company was an offshoot of the original company which had been formed by Wilber's father, Harry Gibson, at Seattle, Washington. The Seattle plant had made specially built rail cars and had begun experimentation with tractors. The decision to produce tractors at Longmont was, at least, partially motivated by the desire to escape a setting where pressure to unionize was great. Longmont, located 40 miles northwest of Denver, was a small agricultural community with little or no industry at the time. The millions of dollars invested in the land, plants, and equipment coupled with the job opportunities for hundreds of local residents meant that the company was welcomed with open arms.
The first production tractor was a model 'A' which, along with the latter models 'D', 'SD', and Super D, was powered with a six horsepower Wisconsin air cooled model AEH engine (some early 'Ds' had a nine HP AHH engine). The 'A' had 7.50 x 16 rear tires and 4.00 x 12 fronts. It came with a three speed transmission and had two independent rear wheel brakes. Its wheelbase was 42' and it weighed 875 pounds. It came with a full range of implements and was touted as being able to operate a 13' plow and handle two to three acres per 10 hour day. Under maximum load, the fuel consumption was one and one half quarts per hour.
Next came the model 'D' which began with 22' rear tires and ended up with 24' tires on rims that were adjustable, enabling a 33' minimum tread and a maximum 53' width. The 'D' had 4.00 x 12 front tires and its wheelbase was 46'. It weighed 955 pounds.
The model 'SD' followed and was distinguished by having a hood, grill and fenders (fenders were optional for the 'D'). The 'SD' tipped the scales at 1065 pounds.
All three of theses models had the distinctive characteristic of being steered with a lever. Mounted on the right side of the frame, by pushing it forward, the tractor turned left. Pulling it back was necessary to turn right. This design was probably chosen for a combination of reasons including uniqueness, simplicity, quickness, and cost effective production rates.
The Super D introduced the steering wheel design but kept most of the other features of the 'SD' including the AEH engine, hood, grill, and fenders. Electrical and hydrolic systems were optional and added to its 1105 pound weight.
The Super D2 was also a steering wheel model and boasted a two cylinder, 12 horsepower model TF Wisconsin air cooled engine. On a 52' wheelbase, it weighed 1375 pounds. It rolled on 4.00 x 12 fronts and 7, 8 or 9.00 x 24 rears.
The model 'E' series consisted of an 'E', 'EF', 'EW' and an 'EWF. The 'E' and 'EW' were row crop types whereas the 'EF' was a wide front, and the 'EWF' was listed as a wide tread (84 inch) four wheel cultivating tractor. The same tire options as the Super D2 were offered.
Production of full sized models began in 1948 with the model 'H', a 25 belt horsepower unit equipped with a four cylinder 1XB Hercules engine. The 'H' was rated as a two plow unit and weighed in at 3650 pounds. On an 86' wheelbase, it had 5.00 x 15 front tires and 10 x 38 rears. The 'H' was tested by the University of Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory in May, 1949, test #407.
The model T was a 40 belt horsepower six cylinder ZXD Hercules engine model. Rated as a two to three plow unit, it had a 94' wheelbase and sat on 5.50 x 16 fronts and 10 x 38 rears. Its weight was 4,000 pounds and was also tested in May, 1949, under test #408.
Production of A's, D's, and E's resulted in an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 total units, whereas there were probably less than 500 each of the H's and I's made.
In addition to tractors, the Gibson company was also engaged in the production of forklifts under Government contract for the Navy during the late 1940's and early 1950's. Stories conflict somewhat and there was probably no one single reason for the company's demise. A combination of factors including competition, and pressure to meet production quotas of forklifts at the expense of turning out tractors were probably chief ingredients in the company's downfall as it was originally known. Wilber Gibson died in 1959 at the age of 44 from a heart attack.
Tractor production had already ceased in 1952 when the company was sold to Helene Curtis Industries, Chicago, Illinois, which, in turn organized it as a division of Fox Metal Company, Denver, Colorado. The intent was to reestablish tractor production in Denver. Instead, for approximately seven months in 1953, tractor parts were sold out of the Denver plant but no tractors were made. Production interests were then 'leased' to a newly formed company known as Western American Industries, Longmont, Colorado. This new company made approximately 1,000 model D's, SD's, and Super D's before being competed out of the marketplace in 1958. A Western American Industries ad dated 3-25-57 listed the following prices: 'D':$760.00; 'SD':$810.00; Super D:$845.00.
Serial numbers were located on the frame rail, usually on the right side. They were stamped into the metal and started with the model letter, followed by production sequence numbers which were assumed to start with number one.
Model A's were painted yellow or Ford tractor gray. Early D's with 22' rear wheels were also a Ford tractor gray. Later model D's were painted Wisconsin engine gray with steel colored outer and red inner rims (front wheel hubcaps were red). All of the remaining models were red with steel colored rims (some Super D's had yellow inner rims on the rears).
Gibsons were sold throughout the United States and in 26 foreign countries. Many are still in use with no thought being given to semi-retiring them to shows.