Letters and Miscellanies

Farm Implement Garden Tractor

| May 2005

To David Baas, author of Vintage Garden Tractors, 2nd Edition:

I received a copy of your book as a Christmas present, and am writing this on the assumption you would be interested in some more information about a tractor shown on page 20. You refer to it as a Busy Bee, but it is really a Farm Implement with a Busy Bee engine.

The engine shown is a 5 HP Busy Bee made by Gladden Products Corp., Glendale, Calif. They manufactured two engines: a Model BB, a vertical cylinder rated at 2-1/2 to 4-1/3 HP (depending on RPM), and the Model AB, a horizontal cylinder rated at 3 to 6 HP at 1,800 to 3,000 RPM - 5 HP at 2,000 RPM. At first the engines were designed and built by Kinner Motors, manufacturers of aircraft engines for 27 years. Gladden Products Corp. was the successor to Kinner, and their main product was the midsized Mustang motorcycle. My Model AB engine has an aluminum gas tank and shroud, but I have seen others with steel tanks and shrouds. It has a two-piece cast aluminum crankcase and head, and the bolt-on cylinder is cast iron. The crank bearing and mains are pressure lubricated, and it has an air vane governor. I think that Gladden was out of business by the mid-1950s, but don't know that for a fact.

Original decals on the tractor itself say it was manufactured by the U.S. Tractor & Engineering Co., but there is no address. I have a flyer from the Farm Implement Co., San Francisco, Calif., describing the tractor and stating the price was "$575 delivered anywhere in California." Perhaps they were just an advertising agency, or maybe the fabricator/distributor.

I first saw one of these little tractors running in a very tight circle without a driver at the California State Fair in the late 1940s. I was about 12 at the time and thought it would be really nice to have one - my dad didn't think it was necessary.

In the mid-1970s, a junk man pulled into my ranch yard looking for scrap metal; I recognized the frame of a Farm Implement on his truck and traded him for it with two or three times its weight in scrap iron. He told me who he got it from and I was able to acquire the engine. A decal was still intact and I took a photo of it that I later used to create an accurate duplicate.


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