The Kaywood Tractor

A Three-Wheeled Kaywood had been hinted at in the Past, but Proof was always Elusive Finally/ Evidence that at Least One Three-Wheeled Kaywood Tractor was Made

| August/September 2002

  • Kaywood
    Front view of the Kaywood. With the exception of the cast bridge for the front axle assembly, the Kaywood is almost a dead ringer for a Parrett.
  • Parrett Tractors of Benton

  • Kaywood

  • Kaywood's Auxiliary
    The Kaywood name cast into the casing of the Kaywood's auxiliary two-speed transmission.
  • Carl Van Wylen

  • Kaywood's Cast Iron bulkhead

  • Kaywood's Auxiliary
    The Kaywood's auxiliary two-speed transmission. The shift lever is the lever to the left just above the clutch.

  • Kaywood
  • Parrett Tractors of Benton
  • Kaywood
  • Kaywood's Auxiliary
  • Carl Van Wylen
  • Kaywood's Cast Iron bulkhead
  • Kaywood's Auxiliary

For some time now I have been researching tractors made in southwestern Michigan, resulting in several stories published in Gas Engine Magazine (Love, September 2000; Friday Tractor, October 2000; Parrett, October 2000 and August 2001; Kaywood, October 2000; and Krohne, May 2002).

I mentioned the Kaywood tractor in some of my articles, for there have been indications a Kaywood tractor had been made at some point in the 1930s, but in fact I could find no hard information on it. I checked all the libraries in the surrounding towns for any reference to the company, but with no success. One four-wheeled Kaywood is known, and it sold at auction some five or six years ago, but until recently that tractor has been the only proof of Kaywood tractor manufacturing. As luck would have it Gas Engine Magazine reader Carl Van Wylen read my articles in GEM on the Kaywood and Parrett tractors, and he contacted me to tell me about a tractor he has he thought was a Parrett.

Bought as a Silver King

Carl, who lives 150 miles north of me, has two boys in high school who help him restore tractors at their farm. Carl told me the tractor he had was sold to him 20 years ago as a Silver King. He sent me some photographs of the tractor, and after looking at the photos I contacted him and asked him to send me some more, including photos of the front end, transmission and dash so I could better identify the tractor.

In February 2002 he contacted me again, and told me that as he was cleaning up the tractor to paint it he found the Kaywood name stamped in three places on the castings; on the two-speed adapter on the transmission, on the clutch pedal and on the brake pedal casting. He invited me to come see the tractor sometime.

Again, the similarity to Parrett tractors from Parrett Tractors of Benton Harbor, Mich., is clear. The men responsible for the Kaywood had previously worked with Dent Parrett at Ross Carrier.

My wife and I then went to the Benton Harbor, Mich., public library to do some research. The reference librarian had several scrapbooks of newspaper clippings from the Benton Harbor area dating from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s, and after several hours we found what we were looking for, a newspaper article dated April 7, 1936 that told all about the Kaywood tractor.

According to the article (see excerpts from the article on the next page), Kaywood, located in Benton Harbor, Mich., was going into production of a new type of tractor intended for agricultural and general-purpose industrial work.

One of a Kind or Prototype?

The Kaywood name again, this time as it appears cast into the brake lever. The Kaywood name is also cast into the back side of the throttle lever. These are the only places on the tractor the Kaywood name appears. The Kaywood appears to be made up almost entirely of Parrett tractor components, making it a bit of a pretender in the world of tractor design.

I called my friend, Chuck Pickney, who lives about 10 miles south of Carl, and we drove up to see the special tractor. And what a surprise!

The tractor is made from Parrett components, with a few exceptions. The front-end, cast-iron bracket that holds the front wheel on is a Kaywood style, as is the hood and the cast-iron dash cowl. The word 'Kaywood' is on the two-speed transmission.

I have noted in previous articles that a great deal of tractor parts came out of the Ross Carrier Company, and most of the Kaywood people worked with Dent Parrett at Ross Carrier. I had earlier believed that Kaywoods were built by Parrett in 1934 and 1935. This tractor of Mr. Van Wylen's is possibly a prototype, or a one-of-a-kind Kaywood. I can't find anyone in this area who has ever seen a three-wheel or four-wheel Kaywood. I myself have lived near Benton Harbor for 66 years and have never seen one until now, this three-wheel Kaywood. Roland Wolske, an antique tractor dealer, said he has heard of a four-wheel Kaywood but has never seen one in person, only a photograph of one.

Carl Van Wylen, owner of the Kaywood. Currently undergoing restoration, Carl hopes to have the Kaywood ready to show by Labor Day.

Closeup view of the Kaywood's cast iron bulkhead. Why the Kaywood's designers chose to cast this piece is unknown. Perhaps they were trying to maintain frame rigidity hoping a cast bulkhead would limit frame rail twisting.

I don't believe they made many four-wheel tractors, because Dent Parrett had one with the same components and design, and only manufactured 105 three-wheel Parretts. Kaywood built window blinds for years, and now the building houses K.O. Products. Kaywood changed to different owners in later years.

As to why the Kaywood name is on the castings, there were two foundries a half-block from Ross Carrier Co. Benton Harbor Malleable and Superior Steel made all the castings, and it would be easy for them to put the Kaywood name on them. It's interesting to note that in 1890, just four blocks from Ross Carrier, possibly the first automobile/horseless buggy was made in 1890. Many innovations came out of Benton Harbor, which is located on the southeast shore of Lake Michigan.

While writing this article I called the late Dent Parrett's son, John, and he said anything was possible back then. He believes his father may have helped Kaywood on the two-speed addition to the transmission, since his father had a part in engineering and manufacturing many tractors (see my articles in GEM, October 2000 and August 2001).

For now, at least we have some documentation about Kaywood's incorporation to build tractors, and if the tractor shown here is any indication they built at least one three-wheeled model. With any luck, more proof of Kaywood production will surface in the future.

This rare three-wheel Kaywood and the rare Tructor-Tractor made by Love can be seen at the Hartford Old Engine Tractor Show at the Van Buren County Youth Fairgrounds over the Labor Day 2002 weekend.

Thanks to Roland Wolske, and to Jill Rauh, reference librarian at the Benton Harbor Public Library.

Contact engine enthusiast Robert Hall Jr. at: 444 S. Olds Ave., Hartford, MI 49057-1355.

Local Concern Places New Model Farm, Industrial Tractor on Market

From the April 7,1936 Benton Harbor, Mich., News Palladium

The Kaywood Corporation, a new industry in the city, is now going into production of its new type of tractor intended for agricultural and general utility purposes in the industrial field. The first units have already been turned out, following a development period which brought highly satisfactory results as regards the work of this newly designed machine.

Model Attracts Attention

The Kaywood tractor is one of the first of its kind to come from the Kaywood assembly line. It has been on exhibition at the R.B. Collis Store on Elm Street and has attracted much attention from farmers and others interested in tractors.

The Kaywood Company was recently organized to manufacture a line of hydraulic door closers, two models of which are now on the market. The company also broadened its activities to include general lines of manufacturing. During the past winter, it manufactured over 15,000 sleds of varnished hardwood with the Benton Harbor name on them for a large mail-order firm.

Turn to Farm Tractor

Along with its other activities, the Kaywood Company management turned to the production of a farm and industrial tractor.

Engineers and men of long experience in the tractor field and fully conversant with modern-day tractor requirements were put to work and they devised a machine which now could be turned out in quantities. Both three-and four-wheel tractors would be produced.

The leading specialists in the development of this new Benton Harbor tractor have been E.O. Ashley, an experienced tractor builder, formerly of the Ross Carrier Company; R.R. Spencer, graduate mechanical engineer; F.J. Thar, a farmer who is well-versed with the needs and requirements in this part of the country in the field of tractors; R.B. Collis, well-known locally established dealer in farm machinery (John Deere, Caterpillar, Parrett, and Hardie sprayers, etc.); and G.L. Sherwood, chief engineer and general manager of the Kaywood Corporation.

All but F.J. Thar came from Ross Carrier and worked with Dent Parrett, the designer of the Parrett and Bradley tractors at Ross Carrier. These men broke away from the Ross Carrier Company and went on their own, but took a lot of Dent Parrett's designs with them, as Dent Parrett used these tractor components years earlier on his tractors.

Sells under $1,000

The Kaywood tractors are of two types, four and three wheels. The four-wheel machine will sell for $925 F.O.B. Benton Harbor and the three-wheel for $895 F.O.B. Benton Harbor, Mich.

With the development work completed, tests made and satisfactory results obtained along the line of what this new tractor will do, the Kaywood organization has gone into production. The prospects, General Manager Sherwood said today, are good for making an excellent showing in tractor sales this year (1936).

Built for Performance

The Kaywood tractor has been built for special performance in local fields and orchards. It has a small turning radius, being built low. Its general design is on the streamline order, making it possible to readily maneuver the machine in orchards and at close quarters. It has no projecting parts, while it has a power take-off and belt pulling equipment.

It is so geared that it has a speed of from one and a half to 16 miles per hour. The extremely low speed of its creeper gear makes it valuable in spraying operations, making it possible to spray constantly under a slow forward speed and can still deliver the maximum efficiency of the spraying pump.

All in all the Kaywood people believe they have built a tractor that will prove of unusual adaptability for farm and fruit needs and also for general industrial and utility purposes.


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

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