REFLECTIONS

A Brief Word


| May/June 1994



Stover experimental tractor

Stover experimental tractor.

As most of you know, we spend most of our time researching and writing about vintage engines and tractors. Many of you have probably seen this 1920s photograph of a Stover experimental model. (It is in our Power in the Past, Volume 3.) For reasons unknown, this model never made it past the experimental stage.

At the time, Stover was a major player in the gas engine business, probably ranking among the top five. It appears that Fairbanks-Morse was the largest, followed by International Harvester Company. There were other major companies including the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company, Nelson Bros., and Fuller & Johnson, to name a few. However, Stover was among the top five, and in a better position to develop a tractor than many of its competitors.

Why did some tractors sell, and why didn't others (like this Stover model) ever get off the ground? A book could be written on this question, and indeed, the many suppositions written over the years would make a very large book. In the case of this Stover tractor, it never got past the experimental stage, and this provides some clues. It is likely that the company decided against further experiments and further expenditures of money to pursue the venture. Given the competitive nature of the business, this was probably a wise decision. Perhaps the Stover people got wind of the Farm all experiments over at the International Harvester Test Farm. This in it-self was probably a sobering thought, since IH had seemingly limitless funds for research and development work.

Double-Cylinder Surface Planing Machine: Cylinder Belted at Both Ends Forged Steel Cylinders Self-Acting Pressure BarsBed Raises and Lowers in Extra Wide Gibs Improved Tightener for Feed BeltFriction Rolls in Each End of Bed Planes Up to 26 Inches Wide and 6 Inches Thick Feed Taken from the Countershaft or the Cylinder.

For their part, IH was willing and able to designate major funding toward its experimental tractors, and numbered some of the world's best designers among its staff. IH and some of the other major builders also had a well developed distribution and dealer network. Sufficient funds were available for major advertising campaigns. These, and many other factors, made it possible for the majors to completely swamp the competition in their wake. The bottom line is that it wasn't always the best tractor models that came from the major builders . . . sometimes the small companies had models that offered innovative new features. Yet, they were unable to get their message out to the farmers, and thus, were unable to sell their tractors in the quantities needed for efficient production.

Have you ever wondered how large engine cylinders were accurately bored? See the photo of a Niles horizontal boring machine. These were built in many sizes, to accommodate virtually any boring job. This illustration is from a huge catalog from Niles-Bement-Pond that we acquired some years ago.