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The Little A-Cs - Chapter 10

This book was written exclusively for Yesterday's Tractors Magazine. It is not published in any physical form but only available on this site. No part of this text may be used in any form other than as provided electronically from www.yesterdaystractors.com without express written consent of Yesterday's Tractors. Copyright 1996-1998.

View the table of contents.

10. Using the Little Allis'

You locate an excellent AC B at a price that is absolutely amazing. The paint is good with no signs of rust, the engine starts with ease and doesn't miss a beat, and the tires still have those little rubber molding marks on them that indicate their newness. The implements that may have come with your newfound treasure are long gone but this doesn't bother you because you're not sure what you will need anyway.  You write a check and go rent a trailer. After an excited trip home, you unload, start it up and drive it around in circles for a while. The next day you decide it's finally time to put your little workhorse to work and hook up your little garden tractor's trailer to it. Hmmm. Your garden tractor could do this AND cut the lawn. It's time to go get some implements worthy of a "real" tractor. After weeks of calling every implement dealer in the state you discover that you can buy a bigger trailer, put a ball on the drawbar (to jockey your boat around the driveway), or hook up a chain to any large heavy pieces of metal to create the ever-present and popular "drag" (you quickly realize why a drag is so popular). 

After dragging the driveway 3 times and moving the boat to 4 unique locations, you realize that this is not quite living up to the picture in your mind of the perfect furrows made as your plow knifes the garden and the pulverizing disk breaking up the soil and creating a fine seed bed. And what about all those blackberry bushes you had planned to mulch into oblivion and the elimination of hours of tedious fence post hole digging.  After a few weeks of deliberating, you drain your savings account for the down payment on a Kubota 4x4 with all the implements and hide the AC out behind the garage. After a year or so, you decide to sell the little AC and put a ad at your local feed store

"Small Farm Tractor for Sale, Ran when I parked it,
1 1/2 inch trailer ball, chain, and homemade drag
included. Best Offer or trade for ?"

It sells after a short time at only a small loss and you swear off old tractors for good.

What went wrong? If you are reading this book, you, like me, probably believe very strongly in the utility and capability of 40s and 50s vintage tractors.  There are obvious differences in the capabilities of the older machines and their newer 4x4, lightweight, expensive counterparts. Many Cons but some definite Pros. For those that are familiar with both mechanics and how to prepare and equip a tractor to work, the cost vs performance will often tip the scales in favor of the older machines. Unfortunately, for the uninitiated, the hitch styles, lack of implements, traction, different components (like magnetos or wierd sized PTOs), and lack of safety features represent extremely formidible and real problems.

Hitch and Implements

Possibly the most important component on the tractor is the hitch.  It is what allows you to get your work done.  One of the reasons the B, C, and CA are so economically priced is that they frequently don't have a hitch that is immediately usable. The reason is the proprietary nature of their hitches.  Often an individual will get their machine home only to find that the only job it will do is pull a trailer or drag an implement around.  For the individual with a 40s and 50s tractor, there are only 2 options.

  • Buy the tractor with the proprietary implements you need.

  • Upgrade the tractor a modern 3-point hitch that will let you use the myriad of  new and used implements on the market.

Proprietary Implements

Finding a machine with all its original proprietary implements and have them match your requirements is not always easy. Not only are the implements frequently missing after 50 years but those that exist are frequently not suited to the small landowner or homesteader of today. Implement technology has changed so drastically that aside from the plow, disk and cultivator, none of the implements you want existed at the time these machines were built. Additionally some implements that were available may not exactly match your needs. A good example would be the sickle bar mower. Many people find this mower available with a B, C, or CA and assume that they will be able to "keep the trails clear" or clean up the all the undergrowth that has taken over their fields. While the sickle bar mower was great for cutting hay in the pasture it may get a bit irritating when you have to sit there and wait for it to saw through those little alders plus having to resharpen the teeth on every pass. It just was not designed to dothe job of a rotary brush cutting mower like a Bush Hog.

One proprietary implement that is still available is a large multiblade grounds-finishing mower. One company producing such a product, specifically to fit these machines, is Woods. While not cheap, the overall package of the mower deck and a B or C will actually run less than high quality garden tractor (such as the Cub Cadet) with a deck capable of a 50 to 60 inch swath (and its a lot more fun to mow your lawn that way).

The 3 Point Hitch

The second option is easy but for some reason escapes most folks. They would spend $15,000 for a modern tractor before spending $350 or less for a new factory-built 3 point hitch designed specifically for the B, C, or CA.  The enterprising shade-tree fabricator can do even better by purchasing a few dollars worth of steel and a set of lift arms and jacks. This can be done for about $80 (of course you have to have the welder and drill).  When you have the 3 point, a whole world of implements becomes available.

To make use of many of the implements, you will need to adapt the earlier models of the B and C from a 1 1/8 inch PTO shaft to a 1 3/8s. It may also be necessary to use a converter that doubles as an overrunning clutch for implements such as the rotary brush cutter. These are readily available through any tractor dealer. For PTO implements, these machines should use the 540 RPM variety.

Once you have a 3 point hitch you must be sure to size any of the implements to the tractor. For example, in 99% of the cases, a 2 bottom plow will be unsuitable for all machines in this series with the exception of the CA. A 3 point mounted 2 bottom will not only be difficult to pull, it will be quite heavy when in the up position and make steering extremely difficult (if the front wheels are even on the ground). Another good example is the rotary brush mower. Keep the width down to 4 feet or the engine won't have the power necessary to cut heavy grass or brush. Remember that on these non-live PTO systems, an implement such as this will push the tractor even after you put the clutch in, creating an extremely dangerous situation when you are near hills or have objects in the way.

Front Weights

AC manufactured weights for attachment between the front radiator support and the front of the torque tube. Though they carry the weight high, they are still quite handy to keep the front end on the ground when using mounted implements. Since most machines had these, they are still relatively easy to come by and worth the time to find.  Very early Bs had weights that hung from the arched front axle. These are more difficult to find.


The ability to make the little tractor work depends greatly on the quality and setup of your rear tires.  If your machine came with marginal rear tires or they have no added weight, it is likely you will not get the traction necessary for even small jobs with a drawbar implement or plow. Remember that when the 1951 B was tested at Nebraska, it required 1750 pounds of extra weight to achieve its horsepower rating and slippage percentages.  The calcium chloride solution recommended by AC can still be purchased from most rural tire dealers. Frequently they can come right out to your place and fill the tires (this is preferable to hefting a filled 24 inch tire on the back of your truck for the trip home from the tire store).  Do not use radiator antifreeze in your tires, it is not only illegal in most states, but could really destroy a good garden for at least one season if you lost a tire full while working.

When you use the Calcium solution, be sure to take care of any leaks immediately. It will begin to rust the rims literally overnight if it starts to seep from the innertube.


It is impossible to say enough about safety with old tractors. I can only compare it to my 100s of thousands of miles of riding motorcycles.  If one does not retain that healthy fear, respect, and constant vigilance, one should not do it.  Old Timers were constantly telling me, "once you lose the fear, park it and don't get on it again.

Older tractors cannot be retrofitted to be as safe as a modern machine with off-the-shelf components... they do not exist and will not. It is too expensive for aftermarket companies to retrofit the engineering necessary. There is simply not enough profit margin to cover the liability.  You may be able to build acceptable safety margins into the machine but chances are you are not an engineer and your concepts and designs will remain unproven until it really counts.  Do what you can to improve the safety of your machine, but in the long run the following partial list of hints may also prove helpful (these tips actually apply to the new "safer" machines also):

  • Drive the tractor by yourself - No riders and no one even near. The safe distance must even increase further if you are using the PTO. With many tractors of the B, C, CA, and IB vintage, you cannot even run the hydraulics without the PTO engaged so their use mandates a solo performance (not even a spectator). When you are done with the job, go get the family and show them the results, that will keep the day a good and happy one.

  • No side hill operation - It sure seems that all tractors were designed with acres of flat land in mind. They tip over quickly enough that jumping off is a nice dream but nothing more. It is  absurd with the reflexes God provided. Ain't gonna happen, so you have to plan ahead and just not do it in the first place. You have probably heard stories about people who have flipped and "jumped" off. Being thrown off and lucky enough to land where you won't get crushed is not quite the same thing as "jumped" to me. Also, don't be misled into thinking that a wide front-end will eliminate this problem.

  • Watch your mounted implement weight - Even with front weights and a disk that was designed for the tractor, I have brought the front wheels off the ground when going perpendicular to the incline of a hill. Be ready to drop the implement at any time by releasing the hydraulics.

  • Do not pull immobile or sliding loads - If you want to pull stumps, you need a backhoe or a big crawler, not a wheel tractor. As far as sledding or dragging loads, they can hang up unexpectedly and flip the tractor. An old fellow in the valley took me into his barn to show me his only vintage tractor among many large modern production machines. It was a Ferguson TO-35 in all original shape and he told me it was his fathers. I was noticably impressed and excitedly asked him if he was going to restore it someday.  He just said "nope" and pointed to a bend in the steering wheel and told me "That's what killed my father". He proceeded to tell me how his father had a sled for carrying firewood and it simply dug in one day. We didn't say much more as we walked from the barn and I had a strong feeling that he was teaching an upstart know-it-all tractor restorer a valuable lesson. Possibly one that saved my life!

  • Don't drive among trees and stumps - These tractors have more torque than you expect. When the rear wheels get stopped, the front end will come up. Getting the clutch in fast enough may not be possible. They also have no qualms about climbing right up a stump and tipping over.

  • Don't let anyone under a load held up by hydraulics - A hose can break, a valve can let go or a seal can fail. The load will come down and with a vengeance.

  • Read the owners manual - Even though they were written long ago, they contain many valuable safety tips (don't fuel when hot, don't get off the tractor with the PTO running, how to hold a crank). In fact, many of the older books on agriculture are valuable sources of safety information. They stressed safety due to high farmer mortality rate prior to the invention of the common safety features found on today's tractors.

If it seems this section is all gloom and doom, remember that the use and/or restoration of tractors should add enjoyment to your life. There is no better way to add enjoyment than to never have a tragic accident.

Prev Page  Table of Contents   Next Page
1. Introduction
2. What are they?
3. History in Brief
4. Competing Tractors
5. Appearance
6. Identifying Numbers
7. Similarities and Differences
8. Cosmetics: What did they really look like?
9. Tips, Tricks and Maintenance
10. Using the Little Allis'
11. Tune-up Data, Quantities, and Specifications

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