The Kaywood Tractor

By Staff
article image
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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