THE LITTLE RED MACHINE

David Bradley garden tractor

Doug Johnson of PO Box 397, Cadillac, Michigan 49601, is the owner of the David Bradley garden tractor on the cover. The fine photograph was taken by Ken Cole, a freelance photographer, of 243 E. M-115, Boon, Michigan 49618.

Ken Cole

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I guess to get to the story of my little red machine, we should start about three years ago. I had taken my big John Deere to the N.W. Michigan 'Steam and Thresher Show' at Buckley, Michigan in August, 1979. It was a lot of fun but it took a big pick-up truck and a large trailer to get it there, with gas at $1.30 a gallon. I spent three days at the show and $30.00 for gas to feed the old 412 cu. in. tractor.

A few days later, I was discussing this with a friend and he suggested I get a small, unique tractor that could be pulled with a small truck and trailer and could run all day for just pennies.

Well, I remembered seeing this old garden tractor parked in a back yard in Cadillac, MI and decided that I would ask the owner if he would be at all interested in selling it. To my surprise, he said 'Sure! It won't do no pulling anyhow. $125.00 and haul it away...' I grinned all the way to my friend's house. (I just had to show it to him, and he turned green with envy!)

Upon looking it over, it was apparent why it wouldn't 'do no pulling'. There was 70 pounds of air in the back tire and the clutch slipped terribly. I let all but 8 pounds of air out of the tire and adjusted the clutch and 'wow!' this little jewel would pull a 14' 1 bottom plow through hard ground, hardly popping the governor at all.

After seeing how much work this little David Bradley would do, I began to wonder why there weren't more of these around; this was the only one that I had ever seen! So, I personally contacted David Bradley and here's what I got:

It seems that back in about 1953, someone at David Bradley thought that folks with gardens shouldn't have to walk behind their garden tractors. Well, everyone knows how simple David Bradley has always kept their tractors and they did it again! But, it seems that it didn't look 'just right' to the American farmer, so no. sale!

How about a riding tractor with high crop clearance, higher than some large tractors, adjustable front wheels 48'-72' at 4' intervals, so it could accommodate different width rows...no differential to worry about, only one drive wheel to worry about or replace, all this propelled by an efficient 7 HP Wisconsin engine, 18 different attachments to take care of all lawn work and a full complement of tillage tools, one rear drive wheel (7:50 16) low pressure to get a wider face on the ground, rider and transmission weight over the tractor wheel and this little baby would pull more than you could believe!!!

David Bradley started building the tri-track in the fall of 1953 and sold it through Sears, both retail and through the catalog in 1954, '55, '56, and '57. It was then discontinued because the sales volume was not great enough to warrant it continued. It seems the reason for the low sales was because the general public could not accept the one wheel tractor and the styling also had an effect on sales, as it was not the model with the most 'eye appeal' even though it was streamlined as much as possible.

The price in the 1954 catalog was $598.00, and in 1955 it was offered at $495.00 and in 1956 and '57 for $395.00. Sears reduced the price to try to generate more sales; it didn't work, sooblivion!! And for probably the best and most versatile little garden tractor to ever come down the pike.

If the average customer, for this size tractor, could have test driven it under the actual field and lawn conditions, I am sure they would have changed their minds about the one-wheel tractor feature.

Thanks to David Bradley and Mr. Leo Williamson for the material they contributed.