Color Inserts and Automotive Styling weren't Enough for Illinois Tractor Co, to Survive a Flooded Market

| August/September 2003

In 1916 the Illinois Tractor Co., Bloomington, Ill., entered the young but increasingly competitive small tractor industry with the introduction of its Illinois Motor Cultivator. A crude, gangly-looking device powered by a 4 HP hopper-cooled stationary engine, it none-the-less provided the company with a starting point for its drive to grab a piece of the growing tractor market.

Development of a more substantial tractor came quickly, and in 1917 the company launched the decidedly sleek and modern Illinois Super-Drive. Rated as an 18-36, the Super-Drive was equipped with a kerosene-burning 40 HP four-cylinder Climax with force-feed lubrication. A separate, two-gallon tank held gasoline for starting, and once warmed up the engine was switched to draw from an 18-gallon kerosene tank.

A novel feature on the Illinois was its cushioned drive wheels, whereby a 'driving spider' mounted on springs in the rear drivers absorbed shock loads imposed on the driveline. Traction was advertised as secure, thanks to patented Loxon cast iron wheel lugs, claimed to be replaceable in as little as five minutes. Add in its automotive styling and unit construction and the Super-Drive was, in many respects, ahead of its time.

The ad shown here was a special four-page color insert in the March 1917 issue of The American Thresherman and Farm Power. Illinois clearly had big plans and high hopes for its latest offering, and figured a special ad of this magnitude would garner more than a little bit of interest from prospective customers.

For all the Super-Drive's attributes the new model did not, unfortunately, spell success. By 1921 the Illinois Tractor Co. was history. The following pages from the Illinois Tractor Co.'s special insert for 1917 (including the cover image, below) are reproduced here in their original, full color glory. Special thanks to Dusty Ericson, 7950 E. Redfield #160, Scottsdale, AZ 85260, for supplying us with this original 1917 issue. Enjoy.

ILLINOIS SUPER-DRIVE TRACTOR. The illustration at the left is a front view showing simple, powerful semi-steel roller bearing front axle with wide belt and ample radiator clearance, also position on top of axle for steel roller belt tightener.