The March 2002 issue of GEM featured an article about an OilPull tractor made by Art Harnich, Wayland, Mich. That article really caught my attention, because Art had done exactly what I had been wanting to do for years. In fact, I already had the rear wheels, acquired at an auction 22 years ago with the intent of building a tractor - but that was as far as I got. That is, until I read Art's story.
The Rest of the Story
The wheels I bought those 22 years ago came off a field sprinkler system, and with their 3/8-inch needle bearings they were ideal for a tractor. I also had the steering wheel I wanted, a nice piece off an old road grader, but I still needed an engine. By luck, a good friend, Steve Swanson, had the engine I wanted, a 3 HP McCormick-Deering Model M. We negotiated on a price and I traded him a #10-1/2 AC Gilbert Erector set from my collection. The engine had been sitting in a shed unattended for the last four years, but after two days of cleaning and oiling, the old Model M ran again.
I still needed a transmission, and another friend of mine, Cedric Wille, stepped in, contributing the hydrostatic drive from a Wheel Horse tractor he had. Actually, he gave me the whole tractor. Then I needed something to make the framework out of, and two more friends appeared. Harry Richter gave me some 4-inch channel iron that came out of a remodeled butcher shop (he even delivered it!), and his father, also named Harry, gave me the 1-1/2-inch round steel (salvaged from an old car wash) I needed for the axles. With the main materials collected, it was finally time to get started.
The rear wheels are 8 inches by 50 inches, so I let that dictate the size of the tractor. The tractor I made is a replica of a Rumely OilPull Model H 16-30. Finished weight is 1,800 pounds, and the tractor is 10 feet long, 5 feet 3 inches wide and 7 feet 7 inches tall. If you count from the day I bought the rear drivers, it took me 22 years, 5-1/2 months to build. My best friend, my wife Pat, was very tolerant of this endeavor, provided I kept her parking space in the garage open.
I am not going to tell you about all my mistakes I made or problems I had dealing with issues like pulley sizes, gears, sprockets, key ways, bushings, couplings, pillow blocks, spacers, etc. Finding some of the parts was just a matter of searching - with a sprinkling of dumb luck. The hardest part was matching the front wheels to the rear. As luck would have it, I found just the wheels I needed attached to a David Bradley mower sitting at a roadside antique shop in Emerald Grove, Wis. The cost of the tractor went up considerably at this point but I had no choice, as they were an exact match for the rear wheels I had lovingly stored for 22 years. Since finishing my OilPull I've added a pump and piping for cooling. Water is pumped out of the hopper, through heating fins in the cooling tower and then back to the top of the hopper.
And that's the end of the story. The tractor runs fine, and I want to thank my friends for all for their understanding and support - I couldn't have done it without them.
Contact engine enthusiast Dick Zander at: 1650 Elmdale Ave., Glenview, IL 60025.
Sourcing Parts and Thanking Friends
Putting it all together is only part of the challenge - it's finding the parts that can really define a project. This is only a partial itemization of pieces and the places they were found.
Front wheel bolster: Construction scrap
Seat: Flea market
Towing rings: From roof-mounted heating units
Cab walls: Ping-pong table
Belt rest: Driveway edging
Idler pulley: Made to suit
Radiator: Baseboard heating fins
And similarly, without friends, much of what we make would never come together:
Leonard and Rob Steffen: Turning axle ends
Brian and Tim Zander: Assembly
Joeff Horigan: Fine tuning, engine timing
Boyd Zander: Structural and mechanical calculations
Bob Hoffman: 20-30 owner/much needed advice
Leonard Zander: Cooling tower
Vole Merry: Wood for canopy
Joe and Kate Zander: Rumely information
Ray Zander: 22 years of free storage in his Wisconsin barn
Gail Hintz: Photos