1919 Allis-Chalmers 6-12

Rare tractor back on track after decades entwined in a tree

| September/October 2004

Manufacturer: Allis-Chalmers Co., Milwaukee, Wis.
Year: 1919 (years of production: 1919-1926)
Horsepower: 6.27 drawbar, 12.37 belt (Nebraska Test No. 54, 1920)
Number produced: 1,471
Serial number: 10010 (10th unit built)
Engine: LeRoi Model 2-C, four-cylinder, 138-cubic inch displacement
Ignition: Eisemann magneto and spark plug
Cooling: Thermo-siphon
Weight: 2,500 pounds

For more than 20 years, Tommy Watson passed this forlorn tractor on his way to work in rural Texas. A dozer operator, Tommy had worked the land where the tractor sat entwined in a tree.

Ever since he first laid eyes on the machine, Tommy, who hails from Cuero, Texas, knew he wanted it. Tommy knew this wasn't just any old tractor, but a rare, first-year-production 1919 Allis-Chalmers 6-12. Not only was it a first-year offering, it bore serial no. 10010, making it the 10th 6-12 off the Allis-Chalmers assembly line. However, getting permission to hack it out of its growing casket took some time - 20 years of time, in fact. Finally, on Aug. 15, 2001, after years of trying to make a deal on the AC, he heard the words he'd waited 20 years for: 'Come and get the tractor.'

That was a lot easier said than done, as the tree the AC was encased in had grown between the tractor's frame and left wheel, firmly locking the tractor in its woody clutches. Of course, that snafu wasn't going to stop Tommy, so with the help of his son Trent, Tommy went to work with a chain saw and together they cut the majority of the tree out of the way. The real work started the next day, when Tommy returned with his son Thomas and they literally chiseled the tree from the tractor. With the AC finally freed from the tree, Tommy loaded it up and took it home in order to chisel out the rest of the remaining wood.

Taking stock
Obviously, this was a machine in need of some major work. To begin with, the one-wheel sulky was missing, so the rear of the frame had been sitting on the ground. The engine had a hole rusted through the cylinder head and was pretty much ruined, and tearing the transmission and differential apart showed the machine had seen some hard use: The forward and reverse gears were worn through at least a third of the way through their face.

Further disassembly showed the probable cause of the worn transmission when we found the two clutch discs were completely worn out. Near as we can tell, the last owners had simply tightened the clutch so it wouldn't slip and then simply banged it into gear whenever they used it. The 6-12 is a simple machine, with only one forward and one reverse gear, so once moving, it doesn't have cause to shift. I suppose this method could have worked for years.

Tommy was able to find a shop that could weld up the gears, and after looking over the engine a bit more he decided it would be best to replace it.