Morris Wiant on his Sears tractor from a kit. Photo by Wally Harris.
653 Road 230 Americus, Kansas 66835-9531
Sometimes a person sees something that is so unusual that it might have been 'cobbled up' for the sake of getting an item that will attract attention. At first, I thought this tractor fit into that category, but upon closer inspection it appears that this tractor is authentic. It was probably sold by Sears, Roebuck & Company as a kit which could be ordered either with or without the engine. I saw it a couple of years ago at the Winfield, Kansas, show, and at that time it proudly displayed a neatly made sign proclaiming it to be a 'Basket Case.' In 1993 it was again seen at shows with the sign 'Deere John' in authentic John Deere colors hanging on it.
This was something that I had to investigate further! After introducing myself to the owner, I learned that he is Morris Wiant (rhymes with giant) and that he and his wife live in Wichita, Kansas, where he has worked for the Coleman Company for over 44 years. He bought this unique tractor 4 or 5 years ago from a man near Goessel, Kansas. At that time it was not in running condition. The front wheels had been replaced with old mowing machine wheels. It had no seat, and steering was accomplished by turning what appears to be an old crank from an ice cream freezer. The ignitor on the engine had been replaced with a spark plug. Also, there were no provisions for brakes, nor was there any platform on which one could stand. With no seat and no platform it is interesting to speculate just how the operator drove this unit!
Morris said he had spent many hours working on the tractor, but had no idea of how many. He rebuilt the ignitor, and replaced the front wheels with others from an old manure spreader, because they looked more like what one would expect. Using angle iron he reinforced the original frame which was made from 4x4 wood. Next came a comfortable seat for two. He installed a steering wheel instead of the freezer crank and, in the interest of safety, installed a braking system using found materials, added a platform on which one could stand, and added safety belts. He has no information on the unit, so has no idea of color scheme, if one was used. He prefers, instead, to keep it looking like a 'working' tractor. In describing it, he almost reverently said that if one would look up the word 'ugly' in a dictionary, the picture of this tractor would probably be found there!
The present engine is a 7 HP Economy which, if original, would date the unit at 1914 or earlier. Power is transmitted by means of a clutch on the engine pulley and is controlled by a lever. All gearing was exposed. The transmission has two forward speeds (slow and extremely slow according to Morris), and one reverse. The unit has a heavy duty differential (also exposed). Final drive is by means of gears to the rear wheels.
When asked if he would sell it, he replied, 'Definitely not, my three granddaughters love to ride on it with me during parades and they would disown me if I sold it.'
Although claiming to be retired from over 44 years from the Coleman Company in Wichita, Kansas, Morris leads a very active life. He, his wife Leona, and one, two or three of his four granddaughters like to take in shows in the vicinity. He is also a member of the model engine clubs at Goessel and at Pawnee. He has shown his 'oddity' at shows at Pawnee, Goessel and Win-field.
If you are interested in seeing this very different tractor in 1994 you just might find it at the shows mentioned above. If you have further information concerning it, I am sure that he would be 'interested in hearing from you. His address is: Morris Wiant, 820 North Flora, Wichita, Kansas 67212. Phone: (316)943-1367.