This week’s Interesting Iron takes us to Liberty Center, IA, about an hour(ish) south of the Des Moines metro. This beautiful little 1946 Allis Chalmers B lives down there until Monday, October 19, 2020 when the auction wraps up. This auction is a fundraiser for the Southeast Warren County FFA chapter, and some of the proceeds will end up funding their operating budget.
If the bid goes high enough, that is…
This little Allis Chalmers was a tractor that a local farmer picked up at auction some years back, mainly because a) he needed a small tractor on the farm, and b) his wife had a thing for Persian Orange. ? Over the years, though, it saw less and less use. Eventually, Luke Wickett, the Southeast Warren County FFA president got his hands on it (I think it was his SAE project).
When he got it, it was a bit of a basketcase. The sheet metal was in pretty bad shape, and the little four-banger was seized. Over the next 6 months, Luke pretty much tore it down to the frame to restore it. He fixed the sheet metal (I’m pretty sure it’s all original to the tractor), broke the motor free and rebuilt it, converted it to 12V power, fixed the wiring, added a few lights, and even repainted it! He tells me that his stepdad helped out with a few things here and there, but for the most part, this was his deal from start to finish! It’s sporting new rubber and a comfy new seat, too!
The Allis Chalmers B was a success for a handful of reasons. One of the biggest ones was because Harry Merritt (AC’s tractor division manager) was a data nerd. While America was stumbling out of the Great Depression, Harry was looking at numbers in the census. Through some data analysis, he reached three conclusions.
- The majority of American farmers worked less than 100 acres, and they used horses to do it. Horses are spendy to own and definitely less efficient.
- The tractors being sold were bigger units, and working on bigger farms.
- There was an emerging market for a small tractor that could replace the horse.
So, armed with this information, AC set out to build the tractor that would meet that need! In 1937, they released the Allis Chalmers B, a 17-horse tractor that got the job done, and did it cheaper than the cost of owning horses. It was sold at a price point that farmers could handle (less than $500 out the door), and eventually it did end up putting the horses out to pasture!
All in all, Allis Chalmers built nearly 121,000 of these handy little tractors over about 20 years! It was a handsome tractor, too! In an era where tractors were typically painted dark/drab colors, the Persian Orange paint really stood out! (One of AC’s goals for the B was that it had to be a good looking tractor and it needed to stand out. Brooks Stevens, the designer, delivered on the promise, too; the lines looked good then, and they still look good now, as far as I’m concerned!)
Our good friend Mark Putney (Indianola, IA) is hosting the auction, and it runs until Monday evening (10/19/20). As I’m writing this, the bid sits at just under $2000. But…in order for Luke’s FFA chapter to see any of the proceeds, the hammer price needs to hit $3500. That’s not HUGE money for an Allis Chalmers B, but it’s pretty good money (I did a little digging in our Iron Comps Insights database). If we find the right bidders, we can get there, and hopefully help fund a small school’s ag program and help shape the future of farming here in Iowa!
I typically never solicit bidders, but this is your chance to add one of Allis Chalmers’ finest to your collection. Not only that, you’ll help a small-town FFA program provide a better ag experience for their kids! So…that said, get out your wallets, and get to bidding! (If that’s not your thing, please do me a huge favor and pass this story on to your friends! Thanks!)
*If you end up winning the bid on this tractor, please send me an email! I’d really like to chat with you about it! firstname.lastname@example.org