More Descendants of the 'Doodle Bug'

| July/August 1997

  • Tractor

  • Engine

  • Tractor
  • Engine

3931 SE 80th Street Ocala, Florida 34480

I was born at grandfather J. T. place at the intersection of Millionaire Road and Starvation Alley. The farms on Starvation Alley were not known to be the most productive, but on Millionaire Road several of the farms had oil and gas wells. This made the farming more lucrative.

However, not long after I was born, Dad and Mom took me home to the farm on Sand Ridge. I grew up and lived there until I was twenty years old. Then I began to travel the world in my Uncle's Navy. My Uncle thought I looked like an electrician, so I was one for four years.

But, in '46 I came back to the farm. You have heard, of course, that you can take the boy out of the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the boy. Stirring the soil gets in the blood.

Well, I tried to do custom work and to farm also. I made a living but not much money. My Uncle Paul said that the clay land that I was farming did have one good point. He said that when I was through plowing at the end of the day, if it looked like rain I could just hook on the end of the furrows and drag them into the barn, because they had not broken all day. .

As I explained in a previous article about descendants of the 'Doodle Bug,' I sold the farm in Ohio and moved to South Florida. There I began to design and build equipment for agriculture and light industry. Among other things, during the '60s and 70s I built several different types of trenching machines. See, I'm back to stirring the soil again.

In the area where we had moved to in 1977, they were installing sewer systems in the towns and subdivisions near us. What I saw here was an opportunity to make some extra money, if I only had a trencher.

As I mulled this over, (my wife claims she can see the wheels turning in my head) I decided to build a tractor that would have a trencher attachment, but would do other jobs too. The photos here show the results of my labor.

The tractor was originally powered by a 20 HP Onan. This did not give me the power I wanted at the attachments, so I opted for a larger engine and wound up using a four cylinder Jeep engine. When does an engine become an antique? My engine is from a 1947 CJ2A Jeep. It is rated at 32 HP at 2000 RPM. That old flat head four cylinder really purrs through the Cherry Bomb muffler. It has been a very satisfactory power plant.

The engine drives three hydraulic pumps. At the front of the engine there is a double U-joint drive to a Vickers variable displacement pump. This pump is plumbed to a Char-Lynn 4000 series motor. This gives a true hydrostatic transmission. The Char-Lynn drives into the differential of a Spicer-Dana axle. Without any other gearing this gives me zero to six miles per hour in either direction. It also gives plenty of torque. If you run up against an immovable object the rear wheels just dig holes. By the way, the rear axle has a limited slip differential.

At the rear of the engine is a gear pump driven through a flex coupling. This pump is rated at 20 gallons per minute at 2000 RPM. The output of this pump is plumbed to quick couplers at both the front and rear of the tractor, to power the attachments. Also at the rear of the engine is a belt drive to a Vickers power steering pump. This pump supplies the power steering, the three-point lift, the dozer blade lift, and the boom control on the trencher.

Let me digress here and tell about the power steering unit. For several years I have used a power steering unit that has been very satisfactory and relatively inexpensive. On the older models of the big Buick cars, GM used a Saginaw power steering unit. This unit does not use a hydraulic cylinder. The whole mechanism is built into the gear box. It requires just two hydraulic hoses from the pump to the gear box. If the pitman arm doesn't point in the direction I need, I just cut it off its tapered hub and weld it back on to suit me. At the salvage yards, where I trade, they call this the three bolt model. (There was also a two bolt).

This Saginaw unit is easy to mount, easy to plumb, and can be powered by most any power steering pump. I've used this setup on several different pieces of equipment, including some older model farm tractors that did not originally have power steering.

This tractor is one of three that I have built with the engine at the rear over the drive wheels. This design has an advantage over a front mounted engine on small utility tractors, in that it uses the bulk of the tractor's weight to increase traction. Think back to the Allis-Chalmers Model 'G.'

At one time this design presented the problem of where to put the radiator, as the cooling fan had to be, more or less, in front of the engine. Nowadays though, with the electric driven fans the radiator can be mounted most any where it's convenient. As you can see in the photos, my radiator is mounted up over the engine. This helps keep it clean since it is above most of the trash and dirt. There are also two hydraulic oil coolers.

There are two separate hydraulic oil reservoirs, one over each rear wheel. They also serve as fenders. The fuel tank is forward of the rear wheel on the right hand side. The box on the left hand side is the battery and tool box.

The tractor has a standard three point lift on the rear. On the front is a special lift that handles the dozer blade and the lawn mower. Pulling two inch pins lets me change from one to the other in just a couple of minutes.

The lawn mower takes a 4 foot cut. It is driven by a hydraulic motor with an output of 17 HP The two twenty-eight inch blades overlap one inch. A No. 50 roller chain drive keeps them timed. This mower has probably mowed several hundred acres, as we used it in custom mowing for four or five years. We mowed lots up to six acres in size. Today we still mow three acres where we live. Under decent conditions we can mow about 1 acres per hour.

The dozer blade can be angled to the right or left. A two inch ball is mounted on top of the blade. This sure is handy for pushing trailers around. It also serves as the hookup point for what we call the 'yard crane.' The yard crane is mounted on an old trailer axle. The 10 foot tongue is three inch pipe and the boom poles are two inch pipe. The adjustable brace pole is 1 inch pipe that telescopes into two inch pipe. We use 3/16 inch aircraft cable on the winch. Maximum lift is bout 1500 pounds. This is one of the handiest and simplest pieces of equipment you can have around the shop building. It can be used with any tractor or pickup truck that has a two inch trailer ball. A front mounted ball is by far the easiest to use. Back when I didn't know any better, I used to manhandle anything that weighed up to 150 pounds or so. Today, if it weighs any more than a battery, I wrap a chain around it and hoist it on the yard crane.

The trencher attachment is powered by a 20 HP hydraulic motor through a No. 80 roller chain drive to the head shaft. The digging chain is a standard No. 120 roller chain with an attachment link every 6th link. I fabricated the cutters from inch steel and bolted them to the chain with four 5/16 grade five bolts. By changing to different sizes of cutters we can trench six, eight, ten, or twelve inch widths and up to 40 inches deep. I have no idea how many thousands of feet of trench this chain has dug, but it is still in good condition. We did one job of 7000 feet of trench, 12 inches wide and 32 inches deep, that had tree roots in almost every foot of the way.

I mentioned earlier that I had built several trenchers. One of the things I have learned from experience is that a digging chain that is hydraulically powered will last two or three times as long as one with a straight mechanical drive. The hydraulic drive cushions the shock load on the chain and cutters. If the cutters hang on something solid, for instance, like a steel pipe, the relief valve opens and stops the chain. This prevents tearing up the cutters or throwing the chain. My unit will chew through roots up to 1 inches in diameter.

With all this hydraulic power available, it was a simple matter to come up with a log splitter. The splitter uses a hydraulic cylinder with a three inch bore and a 20 inch stroke. The reason beingit was a cylinder we already had. Anyway, it will handle about 98% of everything we have thrown at it.

This tractor has now been in regular use for 20 years. Very few days go by that it isn't used or something. If the pictures of the tractor do not look like it's been around for 20 years, it is probably because, as I was preparing this story, I decided that everything should have a new coat of paint.

A new 32 HP 'Orange' tractor with hydrostatic drive, but no attachments will set you back about $15000.00. The total cash outlay for my tractor was less than $2000.00. This was because everything (except the steel, the hydraulic hoses, and a few other parts), was salvage or surplus. Of course I don't count my labor, as this was a labor of love.

Now then, as I was writing this story I received confirmation that we are to have a special section set aside at this year's 'Ageless Iron Expo' for homemade, shop built tractors, Doodle Bugs, etc.

The Expo is scheduled for the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th of July, at Ankeny, Iowa. This special display will be for anything from shop-built yard tractors on up in size and shape. (Model size equipment will have their own display area.) If it is self-propelled and does some job or work, bring it. Maybe it's not a tractor. Maybe it's a forklift or a sweep rake (buck rake). I once saw a self-propelled manure spreader at a show. Maybe it's a radical modification of a farm tractor, like two tractors built together. Even if it's of Rube Goldberg design we would like to have it in our section. Maybe all it does is make folks ask, 'What does it do?'

Since I have bugging the folks about having such a display, they said, 'Okay, you be in charge!' You do not have to reserve space, but I would appreciate it if you would give me a call at (352) 368-5885, or drop me a line about what you can bring. I would just love to have some idea of how many of you 'home grown engineers' will participate.

As Tennessee Ernie Ford used to say, 'the good Lord willing and the creek don't rise,' I plan to show the tractor described in this article. It won't be bright and shiny like the pictures, since I am using it nearly every day. Don't worry about having your display fancied up. If it works we want to see it.

Hope to see all of you at Ankeny in July. Give me a holler. Be careful, but have fun with your toys!


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