The Lanz Bulldog

| December/January 1988

17 Russel Avenue Fort Monmouth, NJ 07703. 

The Lanz Bulldog is a tractor which is perhaps known only to a few vintage tractor collectors in the USA. As far as I know none were imported into the U.S., and those that are here now probably came in via Canada. The Bulldog was built in Mannheim, Germany from 1921 to about 1960. In 1956 John Deere gained control of the firm of Heinrich Lanz and allowed production to continue for only another four years before introducing their own models. One or two of the larger 50 and 60 HP models are thought to have continued until 1962, and the new tractors were known for a while as John Deere Lanz, but 1960 was the year in which the Lanz tractors are generally considered to have disappeared.

Until 1952 all Bulldogs had a low compression, single cylinder, horizontal, two stroke engine with hot bulb ignition and blow lamp starting. They were reputed to run on virtually any fuel that could be made to flow through the pump, including old engine oil! This tractor became the Fordson of Germany and was very highly respected elsewhere in the world, particularly in England, Australia and New Zealand. It was a very simple, rugged tractor which proved to be extremely reliable. The very early ones had no reverse gear; to go backwards the driver paused momentarily and then spun the engine in the other direction. Even those built after the war had engines which would run in either direction.

In 1952 the compression ratio was increased to about 10:1 and the engine was started on petrol. The Germans called this, perhaps erroneously, a semi-diesel. In 1955 the compression ratio was increased again to 15:1, resulting in a true diesel-but still single cylinder. Despite having only one cylinder these engines ran remarkably smooth. Many are still at work in Germany.

Numerous models and variants were made. The principal engine sizes of the hot bulb tractors were 20, 25, 35,45 and 55 HP. A range of tracked Bulldogs was produced, and many were built especially for industrial uses. Of particular interest was the 55 horsepower road haulage tractor with fixed cabriolet cab and a high speed gearbox. This was designed to tow two huge four wheel trailers and was equipped with a winch. Three-wheel and narrow variants were also built.

As an Englishman I have been interested in Lanz since working in Germany a few years ago. A catalogue of slides and other photographs, started in 1982, has since developed into a Lanz Owners Register. This now contains details of nearly 2,000 Lanz tractors worldwide, mostly in Germany, Holland, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. In building the Register I have gained a large fund of knowledge of who owns which model, who has technical literature and where to go for spares. I can also date individual models. The Register has proved popular in England and I also believe in Australia and New Zealand. Anyone starting a restoration can see at a glance who has the same model and thus where to go for advice.