McLean Tractor HUSKY MODEL 48

By Staff
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208 West Main, Box 406 Oakland, Illinois 61943  

In 1934, Mr. Clyde F. McLean Sr. of Indianapolis, Indiana, and
his brother, Cleo, started building two-wheeled garden tractors.
Since his father was a business man and fine mechanic and machinist
(I have seen his work and it was the finest), and Clyde inherited
his father’s talents and skills, he had no problem in building
these fine tractors.

The first tractor Clyde produced was a chain-driven machine,
with cast iron drive wheels that were about 16 inches in diameter.
It didn’t take him long to learn that the wheels were too
small. They let too much dirt get into the drive chains. He changed
the diameter of the wheels to 21 inches, and this solved the
problem. This McLean tractor remained unchanged for the rest of its
production years which ended in 1941 or 1942. The tractor then was
changed over entirely to Briggs, Clinton and Kohler 3 to 6 HP, with
rubber tires. I might add that rubber-tired wheels were available
after 1937-1938.

These tractors were powered by the world famous Model 92 Maytag
washing machine engine. Clyde McLean Jr. told me that they employed
two ‘pickers’ who traveled all over the country
‘picking’ and purchasing these Maytag engines for them. At
this time, the average price they paid for these engines was five
dollars apiece. These engines were cleaned and repaired, given new
rings and any carburetor (or mixing valve) parts that were needed
were replaced. They also replaced all gaskets and repainted the
engine. The flywheel magnetos were re-charged and adjusted before
they were installed on the tractor. These Maytag engines had
adequate power, as they could spin the wheels under any
condition.

These tractors were made to till and cultivate the soil, so
several different shovel arrangements were available. They also
made a front-mount sickle-bar mower, which proved to be a very
useful attachment.

About 1936, the buyer was given an option. For twelve dollars
extra, a back-geared Briggs & Stratton engine was
available.

During 1934-1937, this country was still under the crunch of the
Great Depression. Even though the economy was poor, Mr. McLean was
able to sell his tractors, because the complete tractor sold for
$38.00 for the first few years they were produced. Mr. McLean said
they found a good market among the W.P.A. workers, since they were
working and had a little money.

Mr. McLean had a very good machine shop, but had no foundry or
casting facilities. He was able to make a deal with a semi-employed
preacher, who had a small foundry. This preacher and foundry
owner’s name was Paul Smith, and he lived in Indianapolis. He
made all the wheels and other castings that were used in the McLean
tractors.

The name ‘Universal’ was established in 1930, after the
fall of ‘Air More Equipment,’ of which Clyde and Cleo were
both part owners.

In 1936 Clyde Jr. started helping his father in his shop. Since
he was only sixteen years old, he could only work after school and
on Saturdays.

After Clyde Jr. finished his education, he worked full time and
gradually took over the engineering of the many yard and garden
equipment tools that they manufactured. Under Clyde Sr.’s
management, and Clyde Jr.’s shop experience, the factory
expanded very fast for several years.

A new three-wheel model was developed and put into production.
This tractor was a radical change, as it had one large drive-wheel
in the back, and two small guide wheels in front. The best thing
about this tractor was the addition of a seat, which made it a
‘rider’-no more walking. Many attachments were available
for this tractor, namely: a fine front-mount rotary mower and a
snow blade. Later they produced a four-wheel garden tractor; a
shredder; tillers; and even a utility cart. They also produced lawn
mowers.

Recently I visited with Clyde F. McLean Jr. and found him and
his wife very fine people. I am, indeed, in debt to him for this
information.

I was fortunate to be able to purchase one of these early McLean
tractors with the Model 92 Maytag engine. These McLean tractors are
in great demand today, especially among Maytag collectors. Most of
you know I have been an avid one for many years.

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