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Farmall Tractors: Innovation with a Tricycle-Wheel Design

Farmall tractors were associated with International Harvester as a brand name of one of their famous line of hardworking farming machines. Farmall tractors began on their road to fame with the introduction of what would become known as the tricycle design in 1923. Farmall tractors are no longer sold today as the International Harvester Corporation was absorbed by the Navistar Corporation. But Farmall tractors have a rich history due to their innovative design and the brand name was a leader in the tractor industry for the better part of the 20th century.

International Harvester was leery of the tricycle-wheel design at first. The tricycle-wheel design of Farmall tractors was based on a front set of wheels with a narrow span across the width of the vehicle. This was different from designs already on the market in the 1920s which usually had four wheels evenly-spaced on the vehicle. The narrowly-spaced front wheels allowed greater maneuverability for the Farmall tractors facilitating quicker working of the fields. However, International Harvester was not totally sure of their design and released the first prototype in the Texas test market. International Harvester took this limited-release approach for the Farmall tractors in case the designed proved unpopular.

The Farmall tricycle-wheel design proved to be very popular. And in 1926, International Harvester built the Farmall Works Plant in Rock Island, Illinois in order to begin large-scale production for nationwide sales. In 1932, the Farmall F-20 was released and was equipped with a more powerful engine. The F-20 would later be known as the Farmall Regular. Subsequently, Farmall released more F-series models to include the F-30 in 1931, F-12 in 1932, and F-14 in 1938. Eventually, the signature color of the Farmall tractors would be known as “Farmall red” as they transitioned from the dull battleship grey.

Farmall tractors transitioned to a new letter series in 1939. The new letter series would include the A, B, BN, C, H, and MD. These new series sported a more streamlined design and were built with the small and medium-sized farms in mind. Their capabilities were just as good if not better and were available with a variety of new options. All of the new models of Farmall tractors maintained their tricycle-wheel design except for the A series which had what was known as the Culti-Vision offset engine, wider front wheel spacing, and lower axles. Letter series tractors were later upgraded to what were known as the Super series.

1947 would see the introduction of the smallest of the Farmall Tractors. This tractor was known as the Cub and had a 60 cu. in. four-cylinder engine with a wheelbase of 69 inches. The target market for the Farmall Cub was the small farm population. International Harvester was also poised to meet production requirements for the Cub by acquiring a wartime aircraft plant in Louisville, Kentucky known as the Farmall Works-Louisville Plant.

Letter series tractors transitioned to the Hundred series in 1955. But even though the series nomenclature changed, the tractors still had the same basic design with only a few changes to their appearance. International Harvester stopped putting the Farmall name on its tractors in 1973.

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