The Littlest Oliver

By Staff
article image

Rt 2, Tamarack Road, Whitewater, Wisconsin 53190

This story starts about 1959. My father, a farmer by trade, and
a builder by desire, had just become interested in a new product
called Fiberglass, and was looking for a project to experiment
with. At the time, he milked cows, and farmed a few hundred acres
in LaGrange, Wisconsin, mostly with Oliver equipment. He had an
88RC and a 77RC and, at one time, even had them hooked together
pulling a 6-26 plow. But that’s another story.

He was evidently impressed with Oliver’s huge 990GM, because
while visiting a neighbor one day, he spotted an old walk-behind
mower in the junk pile. It had cast 12 inch wheels with tractor lug
tires, and immediately he saw a miniature Oliver 990GM. He brought
that mower home and started building.

The rear end was a worm gear drive, and ideally suited for a
kids tractor because it won’t coast when power is removed from
the input shaft, so no brakes were necessary. The frame was built
by stacking two 2′ channels atop each other, then adding the
flat mounting plates and filling in the cast shape with Bondo. It
sounds kind of crude, but the original Bondo is still tightly
attached after 30-plus years.

Next was to find a small transmission. A trip to the local
salvage yard produced a neat little three-speed manual transmission
from an English Ford car. He said he chose it because it was the
smallest one he could find. (I hope it never needs a centrifugal
clutch and belt drive to the transmission!) The front axle is a
piece of 2′ channel, arched and king pin type steering, all
built from scratch. The steering gear is a small worm gear unit off
the knotter on a grain binder.

Now that all the mechanical work was finished, it was time to
form the hood and fenders from fiberglass. He started by making a
wooden pattern, exactly the shape he wanted the finished product to
look like. When he was satisfied with that, he waxed it up real
well and covered it with fiberglass resin and cloth, forming a
mold. Then he removed the wood pattern, waxed the inside to form
the finished product. A finish paint job, and a wagon to match, and
our little 990 was ready to roll!

We had untold hours of fun with it as kids over the next ten
years or so, since I was the youngest of five children, I rode the
wagon more often than not.

From about 1970 to 1990, it sat sadly in the old corn crib on
flat tires. When my oldest son was six years old, I got it out, put
new tires, new paint, and a new 3 HP Briggs on it. When I finished
with it I told my son that if he could pull the starting rope, he
could drive it. He put both feet against the front tire and pulled
for all he was worth, and he hasn’t stopped riding it since! He
has two younger brothers who spend most of their time in the wagon.
I know how they feel!

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines