Standardizing Tractors

5/14/2018 1:09:50 PM by Carissa Shaul

Standardization has not quite led the way in the world of tractor design with designs all over the map.

Every variation of engine type and its placement, cooling systems, transmissions, wheel arrangement — in short, every component that made up a tractor was tried and touted by its manufacturer as the best, most reliable, and cheapest.

During the very early years, as farmers took to the advantages of internal combustion tractors and demand soared, both large and small manufacturers took a shot at building tractors.

Dealer networks had yet to be established, and if a farmer’s new tractor broke down, as it frequently did, his only recourse was for the factory to send him the part or, if he had no idea what was wrong, to send a factory man to fix the thing.


As for tractor design, an August 1918 article in Tractor World magazine claimed there were no less than 12 different configurations of tractor wheel arrangements and six distinct crawler track arrangements. These included two driving wheels with the engine mounted between and the implement hooked to an extension behind.


A number of different tri-cycle configurations were used: two rear driving wheels with the single front wheel in the furrow, or centered; two front driving wheels with a centered rear one; or two front wheels with a single driving wheel centered at the rear; or a single rear driving furrow wheel with a non driving rear wheel on land and a single front wheel in the furrow.

A number of different crawler tractor designs were tried as well. Early Best, Holt and Yuba crawlers had a track at each side with most of the tractor’s weight on them and a single, centered wheel out front. Steering was accomplished by turning the front wheel and using brakes or clutches on the individual tracks.


Early on, steering was the same as it had been in the steam traction engines, with the front axle pivoted at the center and pulled in either direction by a chain and drum system before automotive-type steering became common. Tractor engines varied widely with the earliest being large, heavy, horizontal one-cylinder designs.

Transmissions were equally diverse. For many years, Avery used a “shifting frame” arrangement whereby the clutch lever slid the entire engine back and forth to mesh with the forward and reverse gears.

Eventually, most tractor manufacturers used a selective, sliding gear transmission, although the number of forward speeds varied.

Most tractors had disc clutches, sliding gear transmissions, tubular radiator and fan cooling and forced lubrication.

Crawlers were supported on a track on each side and steered by clutches or brakes on the tracks. Automotive-type steering was nearly universal on the wide front models and individual rear wheel brakes were common.

Standardization had finally come to the farm tractor.

While there are still many variations and parts still out there, more standardization has finally come to the farm tractor. You can find a wide variety of parts all at Used parts are excellent prices with a variety of dealers and suppliers to fit your needs.