A River Bottom Allis

By Staff
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Erwin Kretzschmar and the rare Allis Chalmers.

Rt. 3, Box 157, Floresville, Texas 78114

Our son Melvin and his wife Carol came home late one Sunday
after noon and immediately told me what they had found. Melvin said
they were out driving around and had met their cousin, Calvin
Bibert. Calvin in turn said that his cousin, who works cattle on
large ranches, had seen a tractor in the San Antonio River bottom
near Karnes City on the Helena Highway. He didn’t have anything
to do, so they decided to track it down. They found the ranch
belonged to a bachelor who lived in Karnes City.

When Melvin came over and tried to explain what they had found,
I couldn’t believe there was anything like that in the country.
The only way I could find out what it was, was to get out a book on
old tractors and let him see if he could find anything which
resembled what they saw. When I came to a picture of an Allis
Chalmers 10-18 he said, ‘Whoa, that’s it!’

That night it was hard to sleep because I couldn’t wait till
Monday morning to see it in person. Our first step was to get the
ranch owner’s name so we would know on whose place the tractor
was located, and then take it from there. That morning we
didn’t have to set an alarm, as we were waiting for daylight.
My wife Tillie and I covered the forty miles quickly, and arrived
at the ranch gate early. It was a good thing we arrived early,
because the ranch owner was coming out of the gate. How lucky can
one be!

After our introduction and a little weather talk, I asked if we
were at the right place, and then we got down to business. Well, I
didn’t want to make an offer without seeing the tractor, so we
asked permission to take a look at it. He said it would be okay to
look at it, while he fed his cattle. Even though the tractor had
‘grown up’ in a cluster of mesquite trees, we were thrilled
as we got our first glimpse. As we got closer, I noted the radiator
and magneto were gone. I figured I could find a magneto for it and
use a radiator from another tractor. After making up my mind, I
decided to offer the owner $100.00. So, I went to the pens where he
was feeding the cattle and made the $100.00 offer. He hesitated a
little and asked if I couldn’t make it $150.00. Well I figured
it was worth it, so I made him out a check and said I would pick it
up the next day, as it might take a while to load it.

That afternoon we checked over the old truck and gathered all
the tools we might need to load the tractor. It may sound silly to
take along a chain saw, but the trees had grown through the wheels
and this was a quick way to cut them out. As we pulled it out of
the thicket into a clearing, the front wheel collapsed. The frame
that held the front wheel on, had rusted through. The broken frame
caused more trouble in loading, but we had enough railroad jacks, a
come along, chains and blocks to get it loaded.

By late afternoon my wife and I had it loaded and were on our
way home. We unloaded it by the welder, so I could repair the front
and it would be on all three wheels again. Now came the task of
restoring it. Instead of lugs on the wheels, it had knobs, and
quite a few were missing. I decided to remove them all.

One problem we had was that the engine was full of wood ants. We
worked in our spare time for a few weeks before we got the pistons
loose, ground the valves and had the engine turning freely. I made
a square radiator from a car radiator to make the tractor look more
original. Since the carburetor was missing, I took one off an old
tractor and got it to work. The biggest trouble was the magneto. I
first tried a Fairbanks Morse, which wouldn’t work, as it had
to run counter clockwise instead of clockwise. I heard of a magneto
shop about 150 miles away that could change the winding. I made the
trip and found they would do it for seventy-five dollars, which I
thought was too much. Back home I thought I would take apart an old
American Bosch magneto, and to my surprise I saw the letters L and
R on the cog wheels, which meant you could run it either way. That
solved my problem and it didn’t take too long to get it running
like a clock.

The tractor is a three wheeler, two large wheels in the rear and
one small one in front. The tractor weighs 4800 lbs. and is rated
10 horsepower on the drawbar and eighteen on the pulley. It has a
two cylinder opposed engine.

There are two fuel tanks on the left side of the operator. The
small one is used for starting on gasoline and the large one for
running on kerosene. It is rated to pull a three bottom mold board
plow. The front wheel is on one side, but runs in line with the
rear wheel so it follows the furrow.

Each cylinder has a separate exhaust. This is one of the only
tractors of its kind that I’ve ever seen run. The only other
one I saw was at the Miller Auction in Iowa, and I would say it was
about in as bad shape as this one I have restored. I drove it in
local parades and I must say this is one of my favorite tractors.
To hear two cylinders firing separately is music to my ears!

Quite a few years have gone by since we did all of the above. We
have also traveled lots of miles showing it at engine tractor shows
around the states. What I regret most is that we never took a
camera along to all those shows and recorded the original condition
of the engine. What I didn’t realize, until recently, is that a
lot of years have gone by since then. I checked back to see how old
my beard is, and I found that I started it back in 1985 when we had
a big snow storm, the largest ever in this area. San Antonio had
fourteen inches. The years have been flying by. This past year, the
Texas engine show at Temple had a T-shirt made of this tractor; but
since they only had a few hundred made, they were sold out by noon
of the first day.

This will be 84 years that I have been on this earth, and in
another year, it will be 60 years with the same woman, quite an
experience. If reincarnation is right, maybe I will arrive as a
collector in another world.

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