The Littlest Oliver

Oliver's huge 990GM

Content Tools

Rt 2, Tamarack Road, Whitewater, Wisconsin 53190

This story starts about 1959. My father, a farmer by trade, and a builder by desire, had just become interested in a new product called Fiberglass, and was looking for a project to experiment with. At the time, he milked cows, and farmed a few hundred acres in LaGrange, Wisconsin, mostly with Oliver equipment. He had an 88RC and a 77RC and, at one time, even had them hooked together pulling a 6-26 plow. But that's another story.

He was evidently impressed with Oliver's huge 990GM, because while visiting a neighbor one day, he spotted an old walk-behind mower in the junk pile. It had cast 12 inch wheels with tractor lug tires, and immediately he saw a miniature Oliver 990GM. He brought that mower home and started building.

The rear end was a worm gear drive, and ideally suited for a kids tractor because it won't coast when power is removed from the input shaft, so no brakes were necessary. The frame was built by stacking two 2' channels atop each other, then adding the flat mounting plates and filling in the cast shape with Bondo. It sounds kind of crude, but the original Bondo is still tightly attached after 30-plus years.

Next was to find a small transmission. A trip to the local salvage yard produced a neat little three-speed manual transmission from an English Ford car. He said he chose it because it was the smallest one he could find. (I hope it never needs a centrifugal clutch and belt drive to the transmission!) The front axle is a piece of 2' channel, arched and king pin type steering, all built from scratch. The steering gear is a small worm gear unit off the knotter on a grain binder.

Now that all the mechanical work was finished, it was time to form the hood and fenders from fiberglass. He started by making a wooden pattern, exactly the shape he wanted the finished product to look like. When he was satisfied with that, he waxed it up real well and covered it with fiberglass resin and cloth, forming a mold. Then he removed the wood pattern, waxed the inside to form the finished product. A finish paint job, and a wagon to match, and our little 990 was ready to roll!

We had untold hours of fun with it as kids over the next ten years or so, since I was the youngest of five children, I rode the wagon more often than not.

From about 1970 to 1990, it sat sadly in the old corn crib on flat tires. When my oldest son was six years old, I got it out, put new tires, new paint, and a new 3 HP Briggs on it. When I finished with it I told my son that if he could pull the starting rope, he could drive it. He put both feet against the front tire and pulled for all he was worth, and he hasn't stopped riding it since! He has two younger brothers who spend most of their time in the wagon. I know how they feel!