Garden tractor

Content Tools

39443 N. Green Bay Rd., Zion, IL 60099

The other night I was writing a letter to a fellow CHALLENGE collector and I told him about a new toy I got this year. When I finished and reread the letter, it occurred to me that maybe some of you GEM's out there might enjoy it also.

Now you are probably asking, what is a 'World War II Miller Special'?

Well, Walt Miller has been a good friend of my Dad's for the past 60 years or there about. Dad was 77 on the 4th of July, so Walt must be about the same. Anyway, during the war gas was rationed and we had a victory garden and if you had a tractor to work your garden you could get extra gas stamps to run it. So Walt, being an inventor and builder of everything under the sun, dug into the scrap pile and came up with a two wheel walk behind garden tractor. Originally he built three, one being my Dad's. After the war Dad graduated to a David Bradley two wheel walker from Sears, so us boys got old 'Nellie Bell' as we called her. That was our first set of wheels. We gathered up beer bottles along the road and turned them in for gas money.

So, 40 years later, I'm interested in old iron and no one in the family has any idea what ever became of old Nellie Bell. I think she would make an interesting addition to my collection. So I make up a drawing as best I can remember and I ask Walt if that is correct and he says 'Oh ya, that's about as close as you're gonna get it!'. Seems that no two were alike anyway.

How it turns out mostly depends on which transmission you use. They come from old wringer washing machines Maytag, E-Z, or several others will work. The one in the photo is a Maytag. He turns it over on its side so the wringer shaft and the pulley shaft are horizontal. Open the case and drill the back out so the wringer shaft can be pushed clear through. If the wringer shaft is tapered it has to be replaced with bar stock. Then mount a steel wheelbarrow wheel on the axle on each side of the trany using pins (not weld) you might need to get back in the case some day. It took me three years to find a matched set of wheels. I found several tranies, but when I opened them up, they could not be made to work. Finally one night Walt called me and said he found the Maytag in his junk. He had it years ago on some old homemade shop machine. Anyway, using the taped holes in the case and some angle iron strap iron he frames up a platform on top of the trany so the engine sets up straight and the engine pulley lines up with the trany pulley. The supports for the engine platform have to be arranged so that if you take the bolts out it can be lifted off the trany. (Again, you might need to get in the case.) Next the water pipe gets formed up and welded to the engine mount so it forms the handle bars and put in a couple spreaders to make them rigid. The wheel cleats are the most tricky part of all. They are l' x l' angle iron, about 4' long. Mount them by one end so they extend to the outside and with a backward rake. Walt used sixteen spaced 22' apart this time. After the cleats are welded to the wheel they have to be bent in slightly, about a ' at the outside end. That's so when the wheel rotates it doesn't bounce every time a cleat goes past. We found the best way to bend them is a large crescent wrench, adjusted to the thickness of the cleat and slipped over the end for leverage. Then heat it red with an acetylene torch. The draw bar arrangement depends on the cultivator tines you manage to scrounge up. I have a matched set of four from old high wheeled push cultivators, or you could fabricate your own. I have also added a third wheel in the center of the drawbar, so as not to have to hold up the weight when walking the tractor. It has casters for turning and they are removable for cultivating. Next year I also want to add a cart with a seat for riding around the show grounds. Old Nellie Bell had one. The last part of construction is an old choke cable for throttle control and a clutch. The clutch is a simple slack belt arrangement a small wheel with a large washer on each side to keep it centered on the belt, mounted on a pivot arm with a bracket welded to the frame. To pull it in and tighten the belt, this time, he used the shifting lever with bracket and cable from a ten speed racing bike (although any old cable with several small pulleys on brackets to go around the corners, or a choke-type cable with a lever at the control end, like off an old lawn-mower or snow blower, would work just as well). If you have any problems drop me a line. Good luck! Keep on crank in!