Allis Chalmers

Allis Chalmers Restored

Restoration of 1947 Allis Chalmers Tractor at Beacon Mens Shed

Allis Chalmers

“Beacon blokes save icons
of agricultural history”

By Karen Hunt 

ABC Rural News

Tuesday, 11/01/2011


Not that long ago, the sound of a hand-cranked motor would be reverberating throughout farms across the country as tractors were wound over to get them going.

At Beacon, on the eastern edge of the wheatbelt, it’s a sound now heard frequently from the Men’s Shed, as a band of enthusiastic volunteers get to work.

Bruce Ingleton is leading the project to restore some of the district’s agricultural machinery, starting with a 1947 Allis Chalmers tractor.

The tractor was found at the back of a local shed, the victim of advances in technology, but took surprisingly little work to get it going again.

In 1947, the tractor would have cost around four hundred pounds; by comparison, the average weekly wage was around £12.

Mr Ingleton says it would have been difficult for any farmer to get hold of a tractor because supplies of agricultural machinery were low due to decreased manufacture of agricultural machinery throughout World War II.

Interview with Bruce Ingleton by Karen Hunt 11/01/2011
“Beacon Blokes Save Icons of Agriculture”

Bruce Ingleton says the 1947 Allis Chalmers tractor was found in the back of a local shed.

Beacon Mens Shed Community Workshop


Allis-Chalmers cast steel badge in pristine condition with chrome and orange backround
Allis-Chalmers vintage shop banner

Allis-Chalmers was a tractor manufacturer with a history going back to 1847. 

Throughout the 50s and 60s, they worked to keep pace in the battle for horsepower dominance and market share.

Allis Chalmers

Tractor History


In 1932, Allis-Chalmers collaborated with Firestone to introduce pneumatic rubber tyres to tractors. The innovation quickly spread industry-wide, as (to many farmers’ surprise) it improved tractive force and fuel economy in the range of 10% to 20%. Within only 5 years, pneumatic rubber tires had displaced cleated steel wheels across roughly half of all tractors sold industry-wide. Cleated steel remained optional equipment into the 1940s. Also in 1932, Allis-Chalmers acquired the Ryan Manufacturing Company, which added various grader models to its construction equipment line.

In 1933, Allis-Chalmers introduced its Model WC, its first-generation row-crop tractor, which would become its highest-selling tractor ever. In 1937, its lighter and more affordable second-generation row-crop, the Model B, arrived, and also became a top seller. Its All-Crop Harvester was the market leader in pull-type (tractor-drawn) combine harvesters.

In October 1937, Allis-Chalmers was one of fourteen major electrical manufacturing companies that went to court to change the way labor unions excluded contractors and products in the building trades through the union use of the “Men and Means Clause”. The action of Allis-Chalmers and others eventually resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court decision of June 18, 1945, that ended certain union practices that violated the Sherman Antitrust Act.


World War II caused Allis-Chalmers, like most other manufacturing companies, to become extremely busy. As happened with many firms, its civilian product lines experienced a period of being “on hold”, with emphasis on parts and service to keep existing machines running, but its war materiel production was pushed to the maximum of productivity and output. In the late 1930s through mid-1940s, Allis-Chalmers made machinery for naval ships, such as Liberty ship steam engines, steam turbines, generators, and electric motors; artillery tractors and tractors for other army use; electrical switches and controls; and other products. Allis-Chalmers was also one of many firms contracted to build equipment for the Manhattan Project. Its experience in mining and milling machinery made it a logical choice for uranium mining and processing equipment. Allis-Chalmers ranked 45th among United States corporations in the value of wartime military production contracts.

Immediately at the war’s end, in 1945–1946, Allis-Chalmers endured a crippling 11-month labor strike. Buescher was convinced that the corporation never entirely recovered from the effects of this strike. This seems debatable given the various successes that Allis-Chalmers did have during the next 30 years, including prosperity in the farm equipment business in the 1950s and 1960s. But it certainly gave competitors a chance to grab market share.

In 1948, the Model WC was improved with various new features and became the Model WD, another top seller. The WD was a milestone for the company. It included fully independent power take off, which was powered by a two clutch system.


The 1950s were a time of great demand for more power in farm tractors, as well as greater capability from their hydraulic and electrical systems. It was also a decade of extensive dieselization, from railroad locomotives to farm tractors and construction equipment. In 1953, Allis-Chalmers acquired the Buda Engine Company of Harvey, Illinois. Allis wanted Buda for its line of diesel engines, because its previous supplier, Detroit Diesel, was a division of General Motors, whose recent acquisition of the Euclid heavy equipment company now made it a competitor of Allis-Chalmers for construction equipment business. The Buda-Lanova models were re-christened the “Allis-Chalmers Diesel” engine line. Diesel engineers were busy during the following years updating and expanding the line.

In 1952, the company acquired Laplant-Choate, which added various models of scrapers to its construction equipment line.

In 1953, the WD-45 was introduced, replacing the WD. The motor was increased to 226 cubic inches, giving it 30 horsepower on the drawbar at the Nebraska Tests. This was almost double the horsepower of the WD. A new Allis chalmers designed Snap- Coupler hitch was used. It allowed the operator to hook up to an implement from the seat of the tractor. A Buda diesel-powered WD-45 was introduced in 1955. This series stayed in production until the unveiling of the D-series in 1957.

In 1955, the company acquired Gleaner Manufacturing Company, which was an important move for its combine harvester business. Allis was the market leader in pull-type (tractor-drawn) combines, with its All-Crop Harvester line. But acquiring Gleaner meant that it would now also be a leader in self-propelled machines, and it would own two of the leading brands in combines. The Gleaner line augmented (and later superseded) the All-Crop Harvester line, and for several years Gleaner’s profits made up nearly all of Allis-Chalmers’ profit. Gleaners continued to be manufactured at the same factory, in Independence, Missouri, after the acquisition.

In 1957, the Allis-Chalmers D Series of tractors was introduced. It enjoyed great success over the next decade.

In 1959, Allis-Chalmers acquired the French company Vendeuvre. Also in 1959, it acquired Tractomotive Corporation of Deerfield, Illinois, which it had been partnering with as an auxiliary equipment supplier for at least a decade.

In Haycraft’s history of the construction equipment business (2000), he expressed the view that Allis-Chalmers relied too heavily for too long on partnering with auxiliary equipment suppliers, and acquiring them, instead of investing in in-house product development. In his view, this strategy limited the company’s success in this business, and it eventually had to spend the development dollars anyway. Buescher’s comments about the Buda acquisition and the need for subsequent improvement of its designs seem to corroborate this view. However, the topic is multivariate and complex; elsewhere in his memoir, Buescher presents a viewpoint in which investing in research and product development is an expensive move that often doesn’t pay off for the innovator and mostly benefits competitor clones.

1960s and 1970s

In 1960, the U.S. government uncovered an attempt to form a cartel in the heavy electric equipment industry. It charged 13 companies, including the largest in the industry (Westinghouse, General Electric, and Allis-Chalmers), with price fixing and bid rigging. Most feigned innocence, but Allis-Chalmers pleaded guilty. Although one motive for the forming of cartels is so that amply profitable firms can try to become obscenely profitable, it did not apply in this instance, according to Buescher; rather, his view of the attempt at a heavy-electrical cartel was that it was a desperate (and foolish) attempt to turn red ink to black ink among fierce competition.

The D series continued to be successful in the 1960s. The factory-installed turbocharger on the D19 was the first in the industry. It was soon followed by the 190 and the 190 XT, which was a direct competitor for the John Deere Model 4020 with 98 horsepower (factory rating).

 “Allis Chalmers.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia contributors. (2018, May 2)

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.

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 ploughs. 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 theModel “80” at 62 HP.

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
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