| November/December 1990

What's New

In all walks of life we constantly hear about some new and exciting development, whether it be cars, tractors, or toilet paper. Now right off the top, we'll concede that there are a lot of new and exciting things happening, and many of these are truly new and original. Witness the computer revolution. However, we take exception to some of the claims we see and hear. For example:

We recently came across a couple of photos illustrating the Cletrac Model F crawler. Now this little machine was announced about 1919. Take a closer look and notice the overhead drive sprocket. We're not sure how well it worked, but the point is that the overhead drive principle isn't new at all, despite some recent claims to the contrary. Chances are that the use of slides instead of conventional front and rear idlers was a disadvantage to the design. Then too, the materials available to the market at that time were simply not developed as they are today. Thus, for various reasons, this design probably was not a roaring success.

A look at Photo REF-2 shows the back of this little Cletrac model. Note the use of an automotive style rear axle housing. This too was a radical departure from the accepted designs of the period. In fact, the Wallis tractor of 1919 was one of the few which had boasted a totally enclosed rear axle for any length of time. Of course, in this same time frame, Henry Ford came along with his cast iron marvel called the Fordson, and International responded with their 15-30 Gear Drive tractor.

In the 1940's, the Cletrac was equipped with rubber tracks. Only a few of these machines were built because no one was able to provide rubber tracks that would stand up to everyday work. Eventually these problems were solved, and today's market indeed has a crawler tractor with rubber tracks. So again, what's really new? Now before you start writing unkind letters to the effect that we are putting people down, we aren't! What we are trying to do is to get our readers to take a closer look at their old' iron and then make some of their own comparisons. We think you will find that whether it's some feature from an old engine, from an old tractor, or perhaps some long antiquated piece of equipment, you will begin to see features that go back many decades. Oh that we could do so well!

We also ran across an advertisement for a combination engine-air compressor. This advertisement from August 1910 shows the machine to have been built by Oscar M. Bergstrom at Minneapolis. Priced at $95, it included the battery, coil, and fifty feet of air hose. Note that this ad claims that 'two cents' worth of gasoline will inflate from twenty to fifty tires, depending on size.' Has anyone come across one of these units? See Photo REF-3.

The Reflector can get by reading German, but we're completely lost in Spanish. However, we came across some nice illustrations from a J.I. Case catalog in the Spanish language. Apparently this catalog was for the South American trade, and there are indications that Case did indeed ship large numbers of their tractors and implements to South American countries. The catalog puts its greatest emphasis on the little 10-18 tractor, so it seems logical that this model was promoted more than perhaps the larger sizes. Photo REF-4 shows a Case 10-18 pulling a potato digger somewhere in South America.


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