Did you know steam engines didn’t need rails? Or that some tractors only had rear sets of wheels? Some tractors were created for very specialized purposes while others were just your ordinary run-of-the-mill tractors burdened with the task of exhibiting Swiss-Army-like capabilities on the farm. Tractors were slow but they had tremendous amounts of torque, making them extremely useful for a wide variety of jobs. In fact, it wasn’t long before we started using tractors for things that they were never intended for (with mixed results).
Tractors were a derivative of a few early-19th-century technologies that converged into a single invention that was necessitated by the growing demand for power in the fields. Tractors weren’t invented for farm use; in fact, the first ones didn’t even have wheels but once some enterprising chap threw a set of wheels underneath these newfangled steam engines, our world changed forever.
Thomas Aveling was a catalyst in tractor development. He took those big, stationary steam “generators” and invented a drive system that could move them under their own power. This was circa 1859—fifty years before production cars. From there, the rest is history.
And then we took the tractor idea and ran full-speed with it; there was no stopping us. We put enclosed cabins on them and tried to make them workhorse Cadillacs; we crafted every sort of imaginable attachment for the front, back, sides, tops, and bottoms; we even used tractors in pairs. When that got old we welded two tractors together—because they just weren’t big enough.
With all of this wild tractor action, it’s no surprise that we’d eventually catch a few tractors doing things they were never intended to do.
21 Tractor With A Cause
There’s no love like tractor love. Ladies, if your boyfriend ever gives you an old Ford 8N, fully restored and custom-painted: A) I hope you really, really like your tractors (otherwise, that’s weird) and B) that may be a “hint” that he’s fixin’ to put you to work in the fields. This particular 8N was restored and given by Kevin Pontel to his girlfriend Sarah, a survivor and Jefferson County Cancer Coalition board member. This Ford has a particularly important job raising awareness, so although it works hard, it works clean. (Actually, let’s be honest, it doesn’t work hard at all.)
20 Road Locomotive Tractor
Some tractors were never designated for work at all. This Showman tractor is a steam-fired external combustion engine that may crawl slower than a snail, but you could uproot Everest by the very lithosphere it’s rooted in with it. These particular versions were primarily exhibition tractors (very similar to show ponies). They were set up to promote and support carnivals. These Showmans had what was called a dynamo (basically a generator) mounted at the front of the boiler. The massive flywheel could power the dynamo while the road locomotive remained stationary so power could be siphoned off by various pieces of carnival equipment and lighting apparatuses.
19 Baby Tractor
This thing has no excuse for even existing and that’s just the bottom line!. Nonetheless, if you gave us a few spare tractor parts, a set of rims and tires from who knows what those things came off of, and a little lawnmower motor, we’d have probably done the same thing. The only difference is that we may not have posted a picture for the world to see. This is one of those things that one could make a certain Harley-Davidson joke about (regarding doing things that are fun until people see you doing it) and that’s precisely why we keep our strip mower well-hidden from the public eye.
18 Cadillac Tractor
You may remember a song that instead referenced “Cadillac grills” rather than cabins. However, a Cadillac reference to a tractor is fitting here for two very distinct reasons. One, Cadillac has historically been a very innovative brand; they are actually responsible for the very first fully enclosed cabin design on a car. Despite the phone booth-like appearance, it was groundbreaking! This tractor, like Cadillac, is an extremely innovative design offering farmers basic cabin comforts in even the worst weather. It never took off—at the time, anyway. Strangely, you’ll note that many larger pieces of farm equipment feature enclosed cabins. Despite all the innovation, how much work are you really trying to do in your “Comfortractor"?
17 Dual Drive Tractor
This is a revolutionary tractor that emerged to meet a need for stronger tractors (with better road performance) as farm operations were becoming increasingly more demanding of equipment. Although it would eventually become a production tractor called the Doe Dual Drive (or Triple D), the whole thing started out with one guy who simply put two Fordson tractors together one day to make life easier. Although later variations would feature a mechanical solution to allow both tractors to be operated by one driver, the first Fordson Double D prototype literally required two operators. We just think one guy got tired of plowing in solitude all day and thus the idea was born.
16 What The Hay?
Is it a grader? Is it a salvage title? Is it an ingenious way to conceal your “real” tractor from repossession when the harvest is light and musclemen come a-knockin'? (It’s not. We poked a stick at it, just to be sure). Whatever it’s supposed to be is less important than what it’s supposed to be doing! From the looks of it, it doesn’t do anything but collect moisture overnight and slowly develop mold. But hey, who are we to speculate? It’s not like “farmer’s lung” is an actual condition caused by inhaled fungus spores growing in the lung tissue or anything.
15 Road Plow Tractor
Well this is interesting, isn’t it? Are you really surprised, though? Everything else has a themed build, tribute, clone, or concept; why not the tractor? As much as we rely on the agriculture industry, it was only a matter of time before the West Coast Chopper treatment was applied with a green and yellow livery. If you didn’t already take note, this is a rather unique bike with a super-vintage setup that’s not even legal anymore. If you can’t outwardly spot it, you may not be a vintage bike enthusiast, but those who are already saw it. The clue is in the handlebars.
14 Mow Plow Chopper
Sometimes, inventions are purely for the joy of doing the thing. They offer no practical means of improving our lives, they typically have less resale value than the individual parts inside them, and (unless they’re built well) they usually don’t last. This mower conversion features all the practicality of mowing your lawn with a Peterbilt (and the same turning radius, too). His proclivity for Bud Light is immortalized forever in the bar-tap shift lever but we hope he restricts the intermingling of the two hobbies to only the shifter. The Harley-Davidson joke, again, becomes applicable here.
For lack of a better way to describe whatever this thing is supposed to be, we have to resort to word-mashing (or a portmanteau, if you're feeling decidedly un-tractorly). CactorCycle is a car, a tractor, and a motorcycle all mashed into one homogenous machine. It takes you a moment to decide how much you like or dislike it because although it looks silly, it also looks like one of those vintage ride-on tractors for kids…just for adults instead. (It’s the grown-up version you always wished for.) Still can’t decide if you like it or not? How about if we threw a Chevy small-block under the hood? (Look closely.)
12 Litter Bug Tractor
There is a small bit of humor in finding an abandoned National Park Service D10 Caterpillar...in the middle of a national park…abandoned! You’d think they’d try to lead by example or something. No such luck here! They’ve left it for so long that it’s attracted the attention of countless rattle-can raiders and even the occasional cyclist. The 700-horsepower dozer weighs in at around 18,000 pounds, so it’s not like it’s just going to blow away in the wind and be forgotten. If the park service doesn’t get a flatbed out there and pull it away, it’s going to be sitting there for our grandkids to “sign” their name on.
11 Tractor Games
Up until now, we’ve been able to reasonably give the tractors the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we caught them when they were off the clock and maybe we caught them in their 90s and steam power just isn’t the thing anymore. But this is as red-handed as it gets. The tractors are playing on a big metal arch, right in the middle of town. As far as the artistic aspect of it goes, it’s not bad. We always like seeing vintage hardware preserved (albeit a bit rustily) rather than watching it sail off into the jaws of the crusher.
10 Monster Tractor
This thing...we don’t even know what it is, what it’s supposed to be, what it was, or where it’s going. The owner probably doesn’t know, either, but it looks like one of those things that looked a whole lot cooler in his mind (and a whole lot more functional, too). Whatever the case, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. You know as soon as you start to see sheets of plywood leaning on the wheels (and garbage piling up underneath), it’s a done deal. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow; but eventually, this thing is on its way out.
9 Water Tractor
Of all the things you can do with a tractor, lounging in a large body of water is probably one of the least-recommended activates you and your new tractor can adopt as a pastime. Diesel power definitely doesn’t like water ingestion—and you’ll definitely hate the repair bill. When you do drop a digger in the water like this, the best thing you can do is just grab your lunch box and go home. You’re done for the day, the week, and the rest of…ever. You might as well get a desk job for the Quickie Mart at this point because nobody should rightfully trust you with any more machines.
8 Soviet Tractor
Anybody that knows anything about our friends over there in the former Soviet Union knows that they don’t play around unless they’re playing around. In which case, there’s no playing around like their playing around—and we’re not playing around! They strive for the biggest planes, tanks, and other contraptions of mechanical might; why should their agriculture industry be any different. If you could count on anyone to be a propagator of competition-based farm and garden equipment, it would be a tie between these guys and the dudes that pony-up their lawnmowers in the Midwest and scoot around on dirt tracks.
7 Air Tractor
Aviation guys know the “Ag Truck” moniker to be applied to a very different machine but this is about as literal as you can take the term “Air Tractor.” Don’t let the lack of aerodynamics fool you into thinking these tractors don’t fly! The farmers and mechanics that race these things take them to the absolute limits of their performance—and occasionally beyond! If you’re sitting there thinking to yourself how dangerous this looks, you probably don’t even know the half of it. Sure, there are roll bars, emergency fuel and electrical cutoffs, and a few other goodies but don’t expect to see sanctioned tractor racing here anytime soon.
6 Tractor Trailers
So, tractors have this innate ability to do just about anything. That’s why we love them, correct? Whether a stubborn stump needs unearthing, a field needs plowing, or you need to take a lackadaisical meander with your trailer through the only road in your village (taking up the whole thing in the process), there’s a tractor for every job. Seeing as how tractors are so versatile (as we’ve just pointed out), doesn’t it seem like there is really something more pressing this guy could be doing with it? For crying out loud, it even has a fork attachment.
5 Tractor Pulling
They don’t call it “tractor” pulling for nothing, and whether or not it originated here, it definitely proliferated here. (We are fairly certain that man has been hooking chains to one another’s vehicles to out-pull each other as long as man has had both chain and vehicles.) But women are no exception to this tomfoolery. This farmer’s daughter is out to plow more than just a field; she’s also out to prove she only needs one axle to do it! And thus, one of the finest design characteristics of the tractor presents itself; the short wheelbase. The axle’s positioning, right at the tip of the frame, makes for some great “load-bearing” wheelies!
4 Tractor Posing
This tractor is so fresh that you can still see plant codes on the new tire; the paint is fresher than Will Smith in Beverly Hills in the 90s and the tractor appears to have been restored to resemble a “day-one” job, although that’s not likely the case. It sure looks pretty either way, regardless of how it got that there, and you know what they say about women and pretty tractors? What tractor were we talking about again? Oh, yeah, the one that’s NOT doing tractor work? (We can’t say that we blame it, we wouldn’t necessarily be focusing on tractor work, either.)
3 Straight-Up Shenanigans
It’s not hard to figure out where this guy was going with this thing and it would appear that it should, in theory, work just fine. After all, the craftsmanship looks primitive but solid; and we can dig the overall concept. What we can’t dig is why it’s even a thing; it makes zero sense! If you have that much terrain that needs compacting, you should already own a compactor. If you don’t have the explicit need for a roller on a regular basis, how does scratch-building one count as using your time wisely? (It looks like somebody probably likes to find excuses to stay in the garage.)
2 Tractor Tradesman
As we said, tractors are extremely versatile and there’s almost nothing they can’t do! That goes for building houses, too; don’t pack up that tractor as soon as the foundation is laid, there are still so many more untapped uses. Man-lifting is a trick that’ll come in handy when you need a little boost, or even a moderate one. However, it’s still very peculiar that he had to fire up the old John Deere just to take a quick look at his soffit. Even more peculiar is that he seems to not feel the need to secure the scaffold to the forks. A ladder still seems easier here.
1 Angles And Dangles
When you love your tractor so much that you have to find every excuse to use it, you may find yourself justifying questionable ideas that would normally never fly. After all, there are only so many things you can practically do with your tractor. Sure, we just got done telling you how versatile they were. But to be honest, versatility has a limit; and common sense is usually the quality control check that warns you when that limit is fast approaching. This guy, casting common sense to the wind, decided the best way to rake his lawn was with his tractor. While we’re all for convenience, is this really the best way?
Sources: BiZon, NTPA, Hemmings, Antique Tractor Blog, Galaway Advertiser.