The Model T That Wanted To Be A Tractor

Depression tractor

This depression tractor is owned and was restored by Orville Schmidt, 2140 Hwy DD, Campbellsport, WI 53010. Below, the tractor with half scale Rumely and JD GP.

Content Tools

2986 Ridge Road, West Bend, Wisconsin 53095

Let me start this story with a little history of my father. Like many of us in our 40s and early 50s, many of our fathers were in either W.W.II or the Korean War. My father was in W.W.II in the Philippines flying in B-25 bombers. It must have been a hoot listening to those two 1500-plus horsepower engines starting up! But, even before this, when he was a teenager he was already building tractors from old car parts.

When I was a kid growing up on the farm in the '50s, my dad was always building things, either for me or for around the farm. I was the first on the block to have a small tractor which Dad built from lawnmower parts and a Power Products engine. I was also the first on the block to have a motorized bicycle. It was Dad's old Schwinn with an old Power Products engine bolted to the front fork. You just peddled to start it and hit the brakes to stop it, or at least that was the theory.

I could tell you stories of that bike that would really make you laugh! There was one time when I really took a flip and hurt my frakas, it took about two weeks to heal.

Dad has been building things as long as I can remember, and is never satisfied with just a plain old average restoration. He always has to add a little something to make it different.

We had a doodle-bug on the farm and I guess he just had to have another one, 40 years later. He placed an ad in the paper looking for a depression tractor. A man by the name of Junior Holden from Berlin, Wisconsin, called and said he had one, so Dad went out to take a look.

We have all seen this before. When Dad got there, Junior took him out in back, and there, under a pile of other iron, was what looked like a Model T with a large beam resting on the radiator and rear wheel. Just gotta have it! Right! Because, at the time, I was living 90 miles away, Dad had to find some other suckers ( er I mean guys) who were willing to go help pick it up. A guy by the name of Don Jamison and his quite large friend, built like a brick sheep shed, piled into Dad's J-10 Jeep. Talk about 10 lbs. of manure in a five pound sack! It was a good thing they had this big guy along because, when they were loading the tractor, the front wheels fell off the ramps and he just grabbed the crank and lifted it up while they adjusted the ramps. After it was home, it stood in the yard for about a year. You know the feeling; why did I buy this junk? But eventually you get the urge to start working on it and then it's 'Don't get in my way!' Then the usual things get done, like removing all that grease and dirt, seeing what needs to be replaced, and freeing up all those rusted parts.

Now, like I said earlier, Dad is not content to have just a depression tractor. One day at a show we met a friend of Dad's by the name of Vic Mac-Daniels, who sells things, and there right on his trailer was a right angle drive that was made for the Model T. Just have to have that right? Now, just have to find a sucker (er I mean someone) to drag it two miles back to the car. This person shall remain nameless. Dad also found a Warford transmission for it. But this just wasn't enough! You could see those wheels turning in his head. He said, 'You know, maybe I should add an external oil pump for the main bearings and it should really have a governor on it, also.' After months of ciphering and trial and error, it had both. I remember the first time I saw all of this, and Dad trying to explain to me, a guy who doesn't know the difference between a box wrench and a Kanutin [sic] valve.

It all works pretty well and someday, if you're lucky, you may see it at some of the shows around the state, like Beaver Dam, Chilton or Kewaskum.

Isn't it great for many of us who have dads who like working with their hands, willing to share their knowledge with us and others. P.S. If anyone out there knows what a Knuton {sic} valve is, please write in and explain.