c/o s.m.h., Box 4000 Alliston, Ontario, Canada LoM 1A0
Harry C. Merrit, president of the Allis Chalmers Corporation in the mid-thirty's studied the farm census to find to his surprise that 58.8% of all farms in the USA were under 100 acres in size. Most of the tractors made then were for the larger farms, 41.2%. This left, an untouched market wide open for development. Tractors then were too large and far too expensive for these small farmers to bother buying.
Walter Strehlow was commissioned by Merrit to design a small tractor to fill this gap. He drafted up the WC and the B. 100 experimental model B tractors were built all powered by a Waukesha engine, made by the Waukesha Motor Company of Waukesha, Wisconsin.
In 1938 the model B went into mass production with the BE engine, a 4 cylinder, 3 bore, 3 stroke power plant governed at 1400 rpm. This gave the B a 1400 pound pull in first, over 1000 pound pull in second, the plowing gear, and a road speed of 7.22 in third.
The Prussian Orange Princess, destined to replace the horse, in 1938 wound up in the dealers' hands ready for the sale to the small farmer of North America.
The most unusual of all the sales promotions was one brain child of C. C. Gross, manager of the Columbus office. Four girls and four boys were trained to drive 8 model B tractors to perform a full square dance routine complete with music and caller, for the Ohio State Fair in 1939.
At the selling price of $495 a farmer could afford to buy the All-Crop harvester for $345, a #116 Moldboard plow at $85, and a cultivator for $50.25, yet still be under the investment of 10 dollars per acre to mechanize his 100 acres like the big boys.
Sales hit 11,700 tractors in 1938. In 1939 sales hit 21,600. 1940 held its own at 16,300.
All this time the B was perfected further. The Zenith carburetor was changed many times, it ended up with 3 kinds of venturies, 2 sizes of idle jets, 4 main jet changes, 3 throttle plate varieties, and 3 different fuel bowls, all to maximize performance.
After all that, BE engine #51353 got its own Marvel-Scheblercarb, with only 2 changes up to 1943. Tractor #B-64501 in '43 was built with the first CE engine, a 33/8 bore version of the BE governed 100 rpm faster. The only major change later was the aluminum pistons in CE-15 3962 engine.
The clutch changed frequently from the Rockford Model T-99, to the Atwood 8, to the Rockford Model RM-8', and later to the RM-9'.
The transmission had only minor changes. The final drive had its housing modified. The belt pulley shaft was altered. The PTO spline was made first without the oil pump cams, then with them, later the 11/8' size changed to 13/8'.
The brakes went through a redesign as well. Hand brakes were standard equipment. Faults showed up when the owner tried to drive down a hill, both hands on the wheelthe grade is steep, he applies one hand brake, the tractor veers, he applies both hand brakes, now he drives no hands, control is lostscratch one farmer.
Tractor #B-52718 has foot brakes in mid 1941. The owner now can apply left and right together, or he can work them separately by shifting his foot, a safer way.
The driver's seat went to a raised position near the time the brakes were added to give the driver a new view of his operation.
With the advent of foot brakes came the fender angles, notching was necessary to align the brake rods with the band toggles.
The characteristic wishbone front axle came in a fixed and adjustable variety until 1940. After that an adjustable tubular axle was introduced for a greater range of adjustment.
The steering gear evolved as time went on as well. Before B-101 in 1938, the 'Ross' steering was installed. The mass market saw the 'Gemmer' exclusively in 1939 and 1940. 'Ross' and 'Gemmer' were alternated until 1941, when with tractor B-46120 the 'Ross' won out to stay.
Front wheels too had their design altered. The first wheel hubs had a large 6 bolt flange demountable hub, which was traded for a demountable rim type, much like the rear wheels in 1938. Tractor B9019 sawasmallhub held on with 6 rivets. Later with tractor B-26525 came the 5 bolt hub. It arrived and stayed.
Since the 'B' was one of the first tractors to be equipped with rubber tires, steel was also available.
Rear steel came with a hub mount the same as the rubber for easy installation. Round spokes met a rolled steel rim, on which spade lugs were bolted. An extension rim was also available to bolt on with 12 clips.
Front steel came in two types, the 5 bolt hub, or the hub style requiring the spindle to be dismantled.
The sales figures for 1941 dropped to half of the '40 figure mainly because the IH Farmall A hit the scene with a whopping 35,000. This tractor dominated the sales until 1947 when it was discontinued. At this time the John Deere H, Silver King, and Avery also bit into the market pulling sales away from the B.
Being the leader with this small tractor in '38, '39, and '40 created spin-off markets. Such applications as grass-cutting for golf courses, parks, and roads, were unexpected. Mail delivery was by far the most unusual. Yes, a few mail men (who also owned small farms) delivered mail to their neighbors with their Bs as they went to till their fields.
1948, '49 and '50 saw the post war boom in sales as the plants got back to peace-time production. AC sold in those three years 12,200, 10,600, and 12,100 model Bs respectively.
In 1951 the B came out with electric starting and lights. Its 'modern lines' were marred with these addons.
The Allis Chalmers CA caught on. Its lines mirrored the B's. Its features won it the sales. Such things as a 4 speed transmission, power adjustable rear wheels, live PTO, and bigger tires captured the hearts of the small farmer, and the B was doomed to fade away.
In 1957 the Allis B, the Prussian Orange Princess, was put to rest, the end of a mighty reign few tractors have come to match or exceed. She had produced 130,000 offspring over a period of 19 years. No other Allis Chalmers to date has matched her record.
The IHC TD-9 born in 1940, lasted 34 years (to 1974), sold only 16,000, but was on tracks, a different animal.
The David Brown 990 hatched in 1961 sold 10,600,000 but only lasted 18 years.
Ford's 2000/4000 arrived in 1962 passed on 20 years later making 681,000, 24 years after the 'B'.
Clearly the Allis Chalmers Model B was one successful tractor and deserves a place among the classics.
G. Burger restored his first gas engine in 1963, a 1909 Novo mounted on a London concrete mixer. He owns a 1925 Fordson, and a 1940 Allis Chalmers B. A special interest is the B's color changes over the years, original implements for the unit and accessories. He is also looking for someone who makes manifolds for the B and a source for its many decals. He would appreciate any information from other readers
The Model B planter attachment sowed such things as corn, peas, hickory king, bean, pinto bean, maize, feterita, kidney bean, peanuts, garbanza and soybean. Such a planter was quite versatile and is rarely found in good condition if found at all.
Allis Chalmers Model B
Serial # Listing and Sales Data
* 100 experimental tractors made before 1938.
**the rare tractor
***the last S/N on the last 'B' unknown to author.