A River Bottom Allis

Erwin Kretzschmar and the rare Allis Chalmers

Erwin Kretzschmar and the rare Allis Chalmers.

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Rt. 3, Box 157, Floresville, Texas 78114

Our son Melvin and his wife Carol came home late one Sunday after noon and immediately told me what they had found. Melvin said they were out driving around and had met their cousin, Calvin Bibert. Calvin in turn said that his cousin, who works cattle on large ranches, had seen a tractor in the San Antonio River bottom near Karnes City on the Helena Highway. He didn't have anything to do, so they decided to track it down. They found the ranch belonged to a bachelor who lived in Karnes City.

When Melvin came over and tried to explain what they had found, I couldn't believe there was anything like that in the country. The only way I could find out what it was, was to get out a book on old tractors and let him see if he could find anything which resembled what they saw. When I came to a picture of an Allis Chalmers 10-18 he said, 'Whoa, that's it!'

That night it was hard to sleep because I couldn't wait till Monday morning to see it in person. Our first step was to get the ranch owner's name so we would know on whose place the tractor was located, and then take it from there. That morning we didn't have to set an alarm, as we were waiting for daylight. My wife Tillie and I covered the forty miles quickly, and arrived at the ranch gate early. It was a good thing we arrived early, because the ranch owner was coming out of the gate. How lucky can one be!

After our introduction and a little weather talk, I asked if we were at the right place, and then we got down to business. Well, I didn't want to make an offer without seeing the tractor, so we asked permission to take a look at it. He said it would be okay to look at it, while he fed his cattle. Even though the tractor had 'grown up' in a cluster of mesquite trees, we were thrilled as we got our first glimpse. As we got closer, I noted the radiator and magneto were gone. I figured I could find a magneto for it and use a radiator from another tractor. After making up my mind, I decided to offer the owner $100.00. So, I went to the pens where he was feeding the cattle and made the $100.00 offer. He hesitated a little and asked if I couldn't make it $150.00. Well I figured it was worth it, so I made him out a check and said I would pick it up the next day, as it might take a while to load it.

That afternoon we checked over the old truck and gathered all the tools we might need to load the tractor. It may sound silly to take along a chain saw, but the trees had grown through the wheels and this was a quick way to cut them out. As we pulled it out of the thicket into a clearing, the front wheel collapsed. The frame that held the front wheel on, had rusted through. The broken frame caused more trouble in loading, but we had enough railroad jacks, a come along, chains and blocks to get it loaded.

By late afternoon my wife and I had it loaded and were on our way home. We unloaded it by the welder, so I could repair the front and it would be on all three wheels again. Now came the task of restoring it. Instead of lugs on the wheels, it had knobs, and quite a few were missing. I decided to remove them all.

One problem we had was that the engine was full of wood ants. We worked in our spare time for a few weeks before we got the pistons loose, ground the valves and had the engine turning freely. I made a square radiator from a car radiator to make the tractor look more original. Since the carburetor was missing, I took one off an old tractor and got it to work. The biggest trouble was the magneto. I first tried a Fairbanks Morse, which wouldn't work, as it had to run counter clockwise instead of clockwise. I heard of a magneto shop about 150 miles away that could change the winding. I made the trip and found they would do it for seventy-five dollars, which I thought was too much. Back home I thought I would take apart an old American Bosch magneto, and to my surprise I saw the letters L and R on the cog wheels, which meant you could run it either way. That solved my problem and it didn't take too long to get it running like a clock.

The tractor is a three wheeler, two large wheels in the rear and one small one in front. The tractor weighs 4800 lbs. and is rated 10 horsepower on the drawbar and eighteen on the pulley. It has a two cylinder opposed engine.

There are two fuel tanks on the left side of the operator. The small one is used for starting on gasoline and the large one for running on kerosene. It is rated to pull a three bottom mold board plow. The front wheel is on one side, but runs in line with the rear wheel so it follows the furrow.

Each cylinder has a separate exhaust. This is one of the only tractors of its kind that I've ever seen run. The only other one I saw was at the Miller Auction in Iowa, and I would say it was about in as bad shape as this one I have restored. I drove it in local parades and I must say this is one of my favorite tractors. To hear two cylinders firing separately is music to my ears!

Quite a few years have gone by since we did all of the above. We have also traveled lots of miles showing it at engine tractor shows around the states. What I regret most is that we never took a camera along to all those shows and recorded the original condition of the engine. What I didn't realize, until recently, is that a lot of years have gone by since then. I checked back to see how old my beard is, and I found that I started it back in 1985 when we had a big snow storm, the largest ever in this area. San Antonio had fourteen inches. The years have been flying by. This past year, the Texas engine show at Temple had a T-shirt made of this tractor; but since they only had a few hundred made, they were sold out by noon of the first day.

This will be 84 years that I have been on this earth, and in another year, it will be 60 years with the same woman, quite an experience. If reincarnation is right, maybe I will arrive as a collector in another world.