Allis-Chalmers Tractors

Allis-Chalmers was a tractor manufacturer with a history going back to 1847, but it entered the 50s behind the leaders, International Harvester, John Deere and Massey-Harris. Throughout the 50s and 60s, they worked to keep pace in the battle for horsepower dominance and market share.

Allis-Chalmers Tractors

  • Model “U.” The “U” was A-C’s answer to the Ford’s Fordson tractor and was first produced in 1929 in partnership with the United Tractor Company. It was popular enough that it stayed in the A-C line until 1952. It weighed 4,000 pounds and produced up to 30 HP, particularly later in its production run. The “U” also had the distinction of being the first farm tractor equipped by the manufacturer with low-pressure rubber tires.
  • Model “B.” For many small farmers, the Model “B” was a revolution and was in production from 1937-57. It was the first “modern” tractor that sold for under $500 – with rubber tires when a set of rubber could add $150 to the price. At that time A-C’s popular “WC” sold for $825. The “B” helped bring an end to farming with horses particularly when comparable models were produced by other manufacturers. By the 50s, the price of a “B” had risen because of inflation, more horsepower and better options. By 1957, the published price was $1,440. Over the course of its production, the “B” sold around 120,000 units, compared with the more powerful “WC” that sold 178,000 units between 1933-48.
  • Model “G.” The “B” was not A-C’s smallest tractor. In 1948, a strange-looking machine dubbed the “G” was introduced with just over nine horsepower. It was unique because the four-cylinder engine was mounted in the back and a curved tubular frame allowed for implements to mounted in front of the operator. Because it allowed the operator to closely watch where the cultivator or fertilizer was going gave the “G” unmatched precision for planting, seeding, and cultivation of vegetables, seedlings and berries. About 30,000 units were sold between 1948-55.Allis-Chalmers Model G Tractor
  • The “WD.” When the “WC” ended production in 1948, the “WD” succeeded it. The new model looked like its predecessor, but there were so many new features and improvements on the “WD” that the sales force had to learn a whole new set of terms for the tractor. Two-clutch power control, single hitch-point implements, traction-booster, and power-shift wheels were all new features. The two-clutch feature allowed the operator to stop the drive wheels while power continued to the PTO (power take off) operating implements like combines and balers. The power shift rear wheels allowed the “WD” to move its rear wheels away from or closer to the tractor for different row widths without jacking the tractor up off the ground. Power shift worked by engaging spiral rails on the axel and was a big hit with farmers. The “WD’s” 24-30 horsepower allowed it to pull three plows. Over its six years of production, the “WD” sold over 145,000 units.
  • The “WD45.” By 1953, John Deere and IH were coming out with tractors that had over 40 horsepower, and Allis-Chalmers had to respond. So, they introduced the “WD45” with 30-39 HP on the drawbar. The increase in power took it into the four-plow class, and the tractor sold well. The new “Snap-Coupler” hitch system allowed the farmer to back up over an implement until a tongue snapped into the hitch, something the three-point hitch couldn’t do for several years. The WD45 was also the first A-C tractor to offer a diesel engine and power steering. Between 1953-57, Allis sold over 90,000 “WD45s” – 83,500 with gas engines and 6,500 with diesel engines. That was half again more than the comparable John Deere Model “60” that sold 61,000 tractors between ’52-57. However, the WD45 was Allis-Chalmers’ highest-powered tractor at 39 HP by the end of its production. In that same time, IH offered the “400” with 48 HP and John Deere topped out with the Model “80” at 62 HP.
  • Allis-Chalmers Model WD
  • The “CA.” By 1950, the venerable Model “B” was nearing the end of its production run, and competitors were offering more modern tractors in the 20 HP range like the John Deere “M” and the IH “Super C.” So, A-C introduced the Model “CA” with 20 HP in 1950. It had the power shift wheels and two-clutch system of the “WD” and a four-speed transmission.
  • The first “D” series. In 1957, the “D14” and the “D17” introduced more power, larger diesel engines, new styling and a better ride for the operator to the A-C line. The “D14” had 30 HP and was produced until 1960. The “D17” went through four different “Series” upgrades between 1957 and ’67 and produced 46-49 HP. Both models featured a new position for the operator that was in front of the rear wheels. This was important because it reduced the “catapult” effect – if the drivers seat is behind the rear wheels, any big bump gets multiplied and will catapult the driver high into the air. By the early 60s, there were over 50 different configurations of “D-Series” tractors available, including various engine styles, orchard models with fairings to protect the trees, high clearance models and various fuel options.
  • Models “D10” & “D12.” In 1959, the lower end of the lineup was filled by the “D10” and “D12” both with 24 HP. The only difference between the two models was the width that the tires were set apart. The D12 could cultivate wider rows. The models were successful and went through three series updates. By the end of production in 1968, the tractors were producing 30 HP. But by the late 60s, customers were demanding diesel engines, and Allis-Chalmers could not produce one at this price point.
  • The “D15.” In 1960, the “D15” replaced the “D14” in the 33-38 HP range. The tractor had a larger four-cylinder engine that produced about 18 percent more power. By this time, the industry and their customers had pretty much settled on the three-point hitch as the standard for coupling implements. So, Allis-Chalmers began manufacturing three-point as well as their on-point Snap-Coupler implements. The “D15” was the first in the line to have the three-point system.
  • The “D19.” By 1961, other manufacturers were offering higher horsepower than A-C with 50, 60 and even 70 HP models common. John Deere even had their experimental 150 HP Model 8010 out. So, Allis-Chalmers responded by introducing the Model “D19” with 58 HP. They achieved the extra power by adding a turbo charger system to their diesel engine – the first model with a factory-installed turbo charger as standard equipment. By the end of its run in 1964, the tractor was producing 64 HP.
  • The “D21” was the first A-C model to break the 100 HP barrier with 103 horses on the PTO and 93 on the drawbar. That was enough power to pull a seven-bottom plow allowing the tractor to ride on level ground instead of having to put one set of wheels in the previous furrow. It boasted a number of firsts. First A-C model with a direct-injection diesel engine. First with independent power take-off. First with hydrostatic power steering and a tilt steering wheel and instrument panel. All new power train and transmission. The “D21” was produced between 1963 and ’65 when it was replaced by the “D21 Series II” with 116 HP on the drawbar. The extra power came from a turbo charge system added to the existing engine.
  • The “Hundred Series.” In 1964, Allis-Chalmers began selling what would become their new model line with the “One-Ninety.” For some reason, the model numbers were always spelled out until 1971. What distinguished the line was high horsepower, new squared-off styling and refinements in operation, transmission and the implement hitch system. The Traction Booster Drawbar would transfer weight from implement to the rear wheels under increased load and would allow the tractor wheels to “dig in” and produce better traction. The “One-Ninety” was also the first A-C tractor to offer factory air conditions in 1965.
    The “One-Ninety” gasoline version was produced from 1964 to ’68 and produced 63 HP. The diesel version of the model continued until 1973. In 1965, the “One-Ninety XT” tractor was introduced with gasoline, diesel and LP (liquefied petroleum gas) engines. The “XT” models produced between 72 and 80 HP depending on engine type. In 1967, the series was rounded out with the introduction of the “One-Seventy” with 47 HP and the “One-Eighty” with around 55 HP.
  • The “Two-Twenty Landhandler.” By 1969, changes in agricultural technology and best practices had called into question the premise that more horsepower was always best. Conservation tillage techniques had reduced the number of farmers using large plow units. Large combine harvesters were now self-propelled rather than pulled by a tractor. And many of the remaining farm tasks did not require a lot of power. So, Allis-Chalmers and other manufacturers emphasized efficiency – the ability to pull the same implement faster rather than larger and larger implements. The 1969 Model “Two-Twenty Landhandler” had the same 117 horsepower as the “D21 Series II” that it replaced, but it had a beefed up transmission and heavier rear end to handle heavier pulls.By 1970, Allis-Chalmers Persian Orange machines were well respected and the company was poised to take advantage of the booming market for machinery during the decade. But they would not survive the recession of the 1980s.

    Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First published in 2006. A partial bibliography of sources is here.

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