To David Baas, author of Vintage Garden Tractors, 2nd
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
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.
I made it run in the 1970s when my son was about 12. It just sat
around until a couple of years ago when I cleaned it up and rebuilt
the engine, painted the frame and wheels, polished the aluminum,
and put on new tires.
It’s a classy-looking thing, but it is easy to explain why there
aren’t many around – it’s a poorly designed machine! It has only
one forward speed; reverse is a friction drive that works poorly;
because the engine tilts to tighten the belts (clutch), you have to
pull the starting rope from the opposite side and can’t reach the
choke. This one has an air vane governor that is less than good.
The driver’s left foot rests in the flow of hot air coming from the
engine’s cooling fan – it gets hot!
I almost added a transmission and a better clutching system, but
decided to keep it original; unfortunately, I didn’t have the
original fenders and made some that serve the purpose. They are
very necessary for safety reasons, as it uses open chains for the
final speed reduction.
Don Winn, a garden tractor collector from Stockton, Calif., had
a couple of these tractors, and gave me copies of the engine and
tractor flyers. Another friend searched the Internet and came up
with the information about Kinner Motors, Gladden Products Corp.,
and the Mustang motorcycles. I hope this information is
2900 Camino Tassajara
Danville, CA 94506