Bailey’s Parade Cruisers

Topeka, Kansas, Man Builds Two Scale Tractors for his Granddaughter

| August 2005

I live in Topeka, Kan., where Gas Engine Magazine is located. My inspiration comes from the articles of special small projects GEM has covered over the years. In retirement I do what most old farm boys do; restore, build and improve machinery. I have built a couple of scale tractors I think readers may find interesting.

The Old Days

Growing up, we farmed 120 acres with four mules, and it really changed our life when electricity came in 1951. Yes, 1951. We didn't have a tractor, but for a few summers in the early 1950s, I worked for my Uncle Mike at his Allis-Chalmers dealership, the Yost Motor Co., in Atchison, Kan. Raymond Spencer, a neighbor who had farmed with horses, bought a new International Harvester M. The talk at the table was he paid $1,200 for it and how much corn it would take to pay for it. When I was 10 or 11, I remember plowing under the 12-acre alfalfa field with our three-mule riding sulky and 16-inch plow. I would watch the mules' flanks very carefully and I needed to stop about every half round to let them rest, and every round in the shade of the hedge row I would change out a mule. Each time we rested I could hear Charlie Tull's Johnny Popper, poppin' away over the hill. I knew we would never get a tractor.

My Uncle Mike had built everything from real airplanes to toy cars in my grandfather's blacksmith shop as a young man and could do anything. He got the bug from his father and I think I got the bug from him. When I found I was going to have a grandchild, I started my first retirement project. Living in town now, a full-size tractor was out, so I thought a miniature Farmall would be just her size.

Miniature Farmall

I wanted something I knew would last for many years. I began by going to the local Honda motorcycle dealership. I bought a very small 1-1/2 HP, 31cc Honda garden tiller for $350. I threw away all the tiller parts except the dirt shields; they looked like good fenders to me. What I didn't know was the tiny 4-cycle OHV engine idles at 3,000 RPM and has a working speed of nearly 10,000. The Honda guys said not to worry about laying the engine down and tilting it a quarter turn; it would run just fine even upside down if I wanted it to. I geared it down with a 5-speed Peerless transmission and down some more to the differential.

The hood is from a Western Auto-type pedal tractor. I cut a 2-inch-wide strip for the center so I would have room for the Honda recirculation fuel tank. A few small dents from a child's hammering and a small rust hole remain for nostalgia. The seat is from a small toy tractor I found at a junkyard for $12, bent and beat to a pulp. I straightened it, reinforced it and made it adjustable so I could set my 200 pounds on it. My granddaughter Bailey's 28 pounds would just spin the wheels on loose gravel when pulling other children in a small hayrack I made, so I put a 100-pound cast iron weight under the belly, so she can now pull a car.

The original pedal tractor steering was direct-drive to a single front wheel, so I made a chain-drive reduction gear box, 2-1/2-to-1 for the wide-front end, but probably should have been 3-to-1 or 4-to-1. I couldn't find a steering wheel I thought was the correct size, so I used tubing I bought at the hardware store and bent it with my conduit bender. I made a jig to hold everything in place, brazed it and polished it before taking it to the chrome shop. All the neighborhood children and everyone Bailey knows has driven Bailey's little Farmall tractor.


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