CUSTOM Manufacturing Company

| July/August 1986

Rt 1 Franklin, Illinois 62638

Having noticed several letters in Reflections of the GEM lately, concerning Custom Manufacturing Company, I thought I might be able to shed some light on the history of these particular tractors.

Let me start this out in this manner back in 1948 or 1949, a neighbor and old friend of mine, F. Byron Smith, and I decided to make our first million by becoming farm equipment dealers. Let me say at the beginning, that we did not make our million but we were much wiser by the time we finally sold out.

At that particular time in our area there was not much available in dealer franchises. We did, however, hear of an interesting tractor manufactured by Custom Manufacturing of Shelbyville, Indiana. This tractor was marketed through Lehr Equipment Sales, Inc. of Richmond, Indiana and Elizabethtown, Kentucky. If memory serves me correctly, we sold three of these Lehr Big Boys.

These tractors were powered by a Chrysler Industrial #5 engine of 217 cubic inches. They were built with Chrysler components all the way, including transmission and rear-end from 2-2 Dodge trucks. The Lehr Chrysler engine gave no trouble and was very smooth and dependable. We did, however, experience problems with the drive train, mainly axles, ring gear and pinions, and bearings. We also had some problems with the Link-Belt chain reduction unit between the transmission and the rear-end. All in all though, this little Lehr did surprisingly well, pulling a three-fourteen inch plow and on several occasions stayed right with the then popular 'M' International.

Rees & Smith Farm Equipment went on to become dealers for Gleaner combines, New Holland and the wonderful little Ferguson, finally selling out in 1953.


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