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Big Wheel ’94-’98 Project

Author Photo
By Staff

1 / 7
'74 Economy Power King before rebuild and attachment of cab.
2 / 7
Chains, 3/8-in. HD custom made for high-lug, 4-ply 8.00-24 agricultural deep-lug tires, mounted.
3 / 7
Snow thrower from Gordon-Fisk mounted by Makuen Machinery.
4 / 7
Gas tank of '74 whose hole etched by caustic fluid could not a braze weld.
5 / 7
Another view of the completed system rig including cab.
6 / 7
Completed system rig including cab.
7 / 7
Hitch mounted underbody transfers power to snowthrower via belts and electrically switched PTO.

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

                                       
(+reverse)

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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