3955 Parkhill Road, Santa Margarita, CA, 93453
A few summers back when I was in Grafton, California helping
move the tool and die shop which Bob Yonash operates for his
son’s company, Empire West Plastics, a tractor appeared in the
yard one day, and I asked about it. The tractor itself, although
unusual, wasn’t particularly fascinating, but the story behind
it certainly was. It goes like this:
In May of 1948 Bob Yonash was called to a meeting in the offices
of a Dallas lawyer. He had previously advised the lawyer on cases
involving manufacturing, and this turned out to be such a meeting.
Although the country’s manufacturing was getting back on track
following the diversion to wartime production, there was still a
pent up demand, particularly in some export markets. Harold J.
Silver, a New York business man with connections in Argentina, had
identified an opportunity to sell tractors there. He returned to
search for a supplier.
Silver learned that Nateco, a steel foundry in Marshall, Texas
had been considering a tractor design (originally conceived as a
copy of the International-Harvester Model H) but based on their own
front end casting, a Continental engine, and a Timken transaxle
assembly. Mr Silver pushed Nateco along and helped work the paper
design into a sales brochure (complete with synthetic
‘performance’ specifications) which he took to Argentina.
The good news was that he had returned with a firm order for 3000
tractors and a letter of credit guaranteeing payment as they were
delivered to dockside! The bad news was that several months had
slipped by with little progress for Nateco. It was now May, and the
contract required delivery by January first. Any delay and the
sales would probably be lost to the established manufacturers.
Bob, beginning the next day with a trip to Nateco and then to
Detroit where working drawings were supposed to have been
commissioned, confirmed the ‘no progress’ report. He
returned to his own drawing board and long sessions of
round-the-clock design finishing, casting, and cash flow
estimating. He turned to Texas Manufacturing Company, TEMCO, (later
the T in LTV) where he had recently served as chief production
engineer. TEMCO had an aircraft engine overhaul production line
recently idled, and he tried to get them to bid on the tractor
assembly. While they were thinking about that he was off to
Continental in an attempt to get an allocation of engines from
their oversubscribed production. No luck. Then to Timken for axles.
Same situation, but Timken did agree to allocate an axle assembly
for each engine. Back to Continental, and with a little
exaggerating concerning the axles in hand, he got the same
promise-an engine for each axle.
Now for production. Back to Dallas, but no response yet from
TEMCO. A call to a top executive there elicited the Texas type
response, ‘Bob, our guys aren’t sure about this deal, but
if you promise me we’ll make money on it we’ll go
ahead’. ‘If you let me set up the line and pick the
production foreman I’ll promise it.’ Next came a delicate
bit of negotiating with Silver and the lawyers. Bob thought it
ought to be worth a pretty fat fee to pull this deal out of the
fire and turn a phoney sales brochure into a finished product with
fairly high volume in 7 months flat. The ‘Intercontinental
Manufacturing Company’, which at that point existed only in a
briefcase didn’t disagree, but their doubts that it could be
done were apparent when they scaled back Bob’ s salary request
and offered him $5 for each tractor delivered on time instead.
Then came a scramble to set up the line. TEMCO facilities were
able to produce various minor components such as hood and
instrument panel stampings. A local foundry came up with an
adequate cast iron front frame component. Bob remembers various
problems and setbacks such as carloads of paint arriving with short
weight and not usable. The radiator manufacturer ran out of
materials, but good relations with the purchasing agent at Timken
solved that when a carload of materials awaiting COD pickup in
Phoenix went unclaimed so was re-routed to Dallas. The TEMCO
company news-letter of July 1948 shows pictures of the tractor
line, and proudly notes that it is a suspended monorail. ‘The
tractors don’t touch the floor until they are ready to be
wheeled out’. Good thing, too, because the biggest problem Bob
remembers is the strike at the wheel manufacturer’s which left
them shuttling a dozen or more tractors per day out to an old
runway, jacking them up and bringing the wheels back to put on the
next tractor off the line.
The Nebraska test, number 400, was performed in September with
no problems in confirming the C-26 horsepower designation the
contract required. Bob hadn’t been worried about that because
the engine was well known and several others (Cockshutt he
remembers) were using Timken’s axle assembly with good results.
By October, when the wheels finally arrived, production was flowing
smoothly and another 1500 tractors had been sold to Brazil. Bob did
a redesign with a Buda diesel, Nebraska test number 420, and about
200 of those were produced. He believes that all 200 were shipped
to India as part of the last substantial order of 500 tractors sold
Intercontinental went on to buy a production plant in Garland
and produce buses for delivery to Cuba. Token tractor production
continued at the new plant. The Nebraska test summaries through
1959 report both models as still being available, but it is
doubtful that many more were actually produced.
Bob Yonash and the C-26 he used towing others around went on
too. They both accumulated a few dents and a little rust through
the years. The tractor got a rebuilt engine once and a homemade
ROPS one accident too late. Neither of them has been restored.