Big Wheel '94-'98 Project

| March/April 1999

  • Economy Power King
    '74 Economy Power King before rebuild and attachment of cab.
  • Deep-Lug Tires
    Chains, 3/8-in. HD custom made for high-lug, 4-ply 8.00-24 agricultural deep-lug tires, mounted.
  • Makuen Machinery
    Snow thrower from Gordon-Fisk mounted by Makuen Machinery.
  • Gas Tank
    Gas tank of '74 whose hole etched by caustic fluid could not a braze weld.
  • System Rig
    Another view of the completed system rig including cab.
  • System Rig
    Completed system rig including cab.
  • Snowthrower
    Hitch mounted underbody transfers power to snowthrower via belts and electrically switched PTO.

  • Economy Power King
  • Deep-Lug Tires
  • Makuen Machinery
  • Gas Tank
  • System Rig
  • System Rig
  • Snowthrower

65 Sullivan Street, New York City, N.Y. 10012 or 53 Market Street, P.O. Boxe 48 Ellenville, New York 12428

I had a shock of recognition as quick as love at first sight in '94 when it caught the corner of my eye sitting for sale not 10 feet from the edge of a 55-mph New York State highway. I was not looking for such a machine at all, but when I saw it--deep lug agricultural (8.0-24 inch inside-diameter) wheels on a tractor not much bigger than any 'garden' tractor and notably smaller than a Farmall cub--the bulb in my brain said instantaneously and simultaneously:

I never saw a tractor with those proportions before

What a brilliant set of specifications combined in one machine.

Of course! Why do we not see more of these around?1

I want it. It's just what I need to remove snow from 1,000 feet of sidewalks.

I envisioned it as having the traction, power, and versatility of a full-fledged no-nonsense farm tractor, yet it was at the same time a down-sized scale sized to fit the width of standard sidewalks (narrower wheels than Farmall Cub yet of an approaching power).

Having quite a few hundred feet of sidewalks and paths in our ten unit apartment/cottages rentals units complex in a village that issues $25 tickets for not clearing sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowstorm, there is ample justification to invest in substantial and reliable machine help. The worst sidewalk is 185 feet alongside a state-plowed highway, with no median between it and the curb of the road, so the state plow always pushes the snow right back up on the sidewalk after we pay $20 to $50 to have it shoveled by hand. On a recent medium-snow winter we paid $700 in many attempts to keep it clear and avoid tickets. During the heavier snowfall winters the expenses are closer to $1,000 because we have multiple shoveling for each single snowfall. Needless to say I've dreamed of a machine that could possibly solve this expensive dilemma.

Short of a bulldozer, I knew as soon as I saw this '74 'Economy/Power King' with agricultural wheels that if any machine had ever been designed to solve my snow-on-sidewalks problem this was it. It was narrow enough (44 inches) to fit the width of our sidewalk (63 inches), yet had the 38.5 inch and outside diameter, deep-lug agricultural tires. No other machine that I had ever seen had the combination of no-nonsense tires mounted narrow enough and with a height-off-the-ground profile to handle a snow removal from a standard rural village sidewalk in a seriously competent way. An extremely low engine-to-rear-wheel gear ratio of 581 to 1 by means of the dual tandem gear boxes should offer unstoppable traction. High underbody clearance of 19 inches (without snow blowers hitch) should allow me to not get hung up on a double-high (10 inches) curb if I happen to slip off the edge of the sidewalk onto the road once in a while.

The very design of all ordinary garden tractors having no ground clearance to speak of preclude them from consideration on these last two requirements.

The agricultural tires are filled with 30 gallons of calcium chloride or environmentally safe house-trailer winterizing ethylene glycol equivalent) and have 3/8 inch chains to fit to them (add 280 lb). I expect, accordingly, to have traction to vie with the state DOT's plow's snow spill-over compaction recalcitrance.

Within a week or so I purchased said machine without so much as ever even having turned the '74 over, trusting the incessant rap of the landscaper man who had a visible affection for this particular machine and was never at a loss for words over its capacities and advantages, history and uniqueness, no matter how many hours I stood practically mute beside him. $1,250 was chicken feed for such a marvel, not only, and moreover within a month--believe it or not it's true--I purchased a second, '68, Economy tractor of exact same ilk and origination except it had two shift levers (a dual tandem gearbox transmission system). If I wanted to attach a snowthrower to my '74, the Power King factory technical maven in Wisconsin advised being able to gear down further than a single transmission by means of an in-line second gearbox or else snow would too often clog the snowthrower's chute. A second factory-sourced gearbox would cost me more than if I purchased this whole second machine for the sole purpose of cannibalizing its second gearbox. So my greenhorn learning curve on the subject of tractors was rapidly accelerating to a point where now within a mere matter of months or so (1/1660th of my whole life lived so far then), I progressed from never having seriously even looked at a tractor much less thought of one or taken them into consideration for any reason whatsoever and assuredly never having one or even climbed up on one. (Having spent more than a year's worth of my discretionary [extra] income, it took me two years of spaghetti-eating to recover.) Then suddenly owning two of them, as it turned out because of the vagaries of a tractor-owner's life, it was to be well nigh four years before either machine would be put to service.

The extended time it took to pay for them (I only take delivery after I have paid in full for something) allowed me time to put together the facility of a special trailer rigged to transport such 2,000 lb. cast iron hunk of steel. My landscaper tractor-liaison man delivered both machines onto my lawn within 24 hours of my final payments of $1,250 and $1,150 that were consummated 12 and 15 months after my first 'shock of recognition.'

Location of Compatible Attachment

After sporadic searching spurts over a two-year period, I finally located a single-stage snowblower and associated hitch linkage compatible with the '74 tractor. Although such a search for a compatible part for an over-20-year-old machine (I was unaware of the GEM publication at the time) would have been probably too daunting for most, especially after discovering from manufacturer (luckily Power King now still offers unlimited 800 telephone access with their technically expert personnel) that the compatible snow thrower part was manufactured for only one year.

But, armed with an awareness of the fact that networking logic realizes the answer (or mechanical part) to any question (or need with a maximum number of steps being to a third to a fifth-removed person, I proceeded.3 The answer to any question, no matter how strange, specialized, or arcane, may be obtained by querying a maximum of three to five other people, most often only three.)

The exact snowthrower was identified via manufacturer's part number and located in Lyndonville, New York, near Buffalo, a two-day trip (372 miles one way) from home base,4 at a very knowledgeable, reliable, and trustworthy farm and garden machines retail shop run by Theron Haydon, of Gordon - Fisk, Inc., for $750 as it was either new or barely used and stored inside all these years. A very interesting sidenote to the character and integrity of this tractor man extraordinaire, Theron, should be added here: I first located, contacted and sent a deposit of $240 to hold the snowthrower assembly to Theron in about 1994. It was well over a year and a half to two years later before I ever contacted him again about the matter (because of my own diffused focus of attention and having had to put the tractors project on the back burner) on the phone again (never having met him or spoken or written to him at all in the intervening two-year time period). When someone there picked up the phone and I said, 'Hello, is this Gordon-Fisk,' he (it was as I discovered Theron) answered, 'Mr. Johnson?' (From a single few minutes phone conversation two years ago this man recognized my voice and placed me immediately, with nary a hesitation!!!

Makuen Machinery, Bullville, New York, routinely attached the two with the hitch linkage. This firm, a larger farm and garden implement/tractor dealer over a big mountain from me, also liaisoned with Power King's technical man in Wisconsin during the more touchy procedure of moving the dual gearbox from the '68 to the '74 tractor. Driveshaft splines had to be replaced. Water had to be removed from driveshaft and rear gearbox enclosures, replacing gearbox oil in the process. The '74's sparkplug head threads required insertion of a helicoil. And both gas tanks (our instructions to Makuen were to end up with both machines kept running and operational fully and not to cannibalize one for the other) had to be removed and flushed out because neighborhood boys had, during both tractor's prolonged immobile storage in our backyard (waiting for our tedious money-saving ordeal to build-up our financial strength necessary to enable all rebuilding/refurbishment activity), 'helped me' by pouring the contents of every bottle of liquid they could find in the outlying areas into the gas tanks-- oil, transmission oil, house wash (caustic soda), Clorox TM, paint, soap, and insecticides!

This 'help,' while it slowed our program a great deal, did actually help us in the long run because, while at first we thought we alone could accomplish the dual-gearbox transfer, the corrosives in the gas tanks forced us to accept the idea that we would have to seek professional help if we wished to salvage our $1,250, $1,050, and $750 preliminary investments that, for us, are a princely sum. Even Makuen ran into difficulty being able to weld, braze, TIG, or MIG repair the hole etched into the pot-metal-type material used in the 68's gas tank by the caustic liquids the boys poured in. We had to locate and order a replacement tank with the exact odd configuration: two five-inch diameter cylinders welded together perpendicularly in the overall shape of an 'ell' (L)! With luck and undoubtedly God's will, such an odd, specialty tank designed and manufactured twenty years ago was found by Makuen tractor personnel.

Also to the credit of this project, having dragged out for years, a cab was discovered opportunistically and accidentally, fairly locally, 3? years into project, sitting in someone's backyard upside down alongside a back country road we occasioned to explore. It was upside down because kids had used the smooth fiberglass-formed roof with nicely curved edges to toboggan down a hill somewhere. We were only able to recognize it being possibly compatible with our machine because the fabric doors had 'Power King' printed on them. We paid the owner's $100 asking price. Other than its being recoverably bent out of shape and the plastic windows having turned yellow and scratched, its condition is good. Makuen was able to attach it to the'74 with some modification involving welding on brackets for $375.

We have a proven machine that outperforms new machines costing upwards of well over $5,000 for a total outlay of between $3,000-$4,000, the difference being in our time, energy, and visionary love of a challenging but meaningful project.

It is my firm conviction that not only is it not true that newer machines are better than older machines merely because they are newer; it is also true that older machines may rather be better than newer machines! Manufacturing craftsmanship and quality control and design strength have been in continual decline since the late 60s. While older machines may be criticized for being 'overbuilt,' as a result they are stronger, more robust, more resilient, and outlast more 'modern' machines as a result, by far. Whereas contemporary machines are assembled using streamlined, cost efficient manufacturing methods-- electrowelds, robotics, space-age glues, plastics,--that defy repair rather than replacement, older machines were always designed and assembled with the idea of allowing later maintenance and repair to be done by non-specialist owners themselves without their being forced back to a dealer for an exorbitantly inflated price of a whole new replacement assembly (or even a forced purchase of a whole new tractor), e.g., instead of, say, a simple gasket membrane or screen, or replacement part.

It is inarguably more advantageous from all angles to focus our energy and money into keeping older machines operational and well-maintained rather than discarding and replacing them; and I believe there is even a sanctity in doing so.

Specifications of '74

Economy/Power King tractor/snow thrower/rear wheels/cab

Engine: 14 HP Kohler Model K321: torque 23.8 ft. lbs. at 2200 rpm.

Gear boxes: (Dual 'tandem' driven 50-ft.-lb.-rating): Borg-Warner (two shift levers)

Direct gearing; belt transference of power only in snow-thrower hitch

Engine-to-wheel rpm ratios of:

53.6 to 1 for speed of    7.1 mph

92.3 to 1 for speed of    4.1 mph

176.5 to 1 for speed of    2.41mph


303.67 to 1 for speed of    2.1 mph

580.s69to 1 (!)    0.64 mph

Differential: hypoid, 5.17:1 reduction ratio

Drawbar pull with both lowest gears engaged: 8205 lbs.

Final drop drive: spur bull gears keyed to 1?' axle: 10.361: 1 reduction

Wheels:Wheelbase: 54Vs in.; rear tire are agricultural type

Width, rear: 41? in.; rear ctr-to-ctr of tire: 33? in.

Width, front: 35? in. ctr-to-ctr (adjustable to +6 in.)

Frame clearance: 19 in. (without underbelly hitch)

Tires:Front: std 2 ply 4.00-12 (20 inch o.d.)

Rear: High-lug, 4 ply 8.00-24 (38.5' o.d.) Agricultural

calcium chloride [74% full CALCL2 type 1 (5 #psi)]

 +adds 264 lb.

 -chains 3/8 in. HD add~60 lb.

Snow Thrower:Single stage engaged via electrically switched front PTO

42 in. wide belt-driven

mechanically raised/lowered with spring assist

(allows adjustment for type of terrain: springs up if obstruction is hit [!]

Weights: (1,561 lbs. total)

tractor: 937 lb.

CACL2 type 1 - filled rear agricultural tires: 264 lbs.

Chains, 3/8 in., rear: 60 lb.

Snow thrower and hitch: ~ 300 lb.

CAB: 20 lb.

Cab: steel frame, fiberglass formed roof, plastic windows sewn into oilcloth-fabric side doors (2) and front and rear shrouds/engine - heat ducts.

Headlights: two sealed beam

Brakes: rear drum (for very tight turns)

Hitch: 3-point rear in addition to underbody hitches

1These bigger, heavier-duty (garden-type) tractors' region (where they are more common) is more north of us, where the farming done is of a larger scale than in our more hilly region and where winters are much more severe.

2My landscaper-salesman had an intriguingly nefarious snickering giggle when he spoke an aside with his head turned away from me, saying something like 'Wait 'till you get a flat.' (I did not learn that these tires were filled with calcium chloride until two years later.)

3 Mathematical statistics logic insists that by proper networking: The first person sorts through all his sources (hooks magazines, people), selecting the best choice of another person to obtain a specified piece of information (or part). Then this second person, who in all of the first person's knowledge is the most likely to have the special piece of knowledge (or part source), himself networks out in the field of all his knowledge ability to identify that person in his awareness who is most likely to have the special knowledge (or source for a part). Operating in this way, the information (or part) is usually located by the third removed person maximum (no matter how arcane or specialized the information or part is)!

4Overnight slept in down bag at about -5 degrees F in back of van.


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