Alan Thomley from Eau Claire, Wis., has always preferred the color orange. So in the late 1980s, he purchased a 1944 model B Allis-Chalmers tractor for $1,500 to enjoy and drive around. Later, he matched it with a one-bottom mounted plow and a one-row cultivator and portable saw rig.
After taking ownership, Thomley, who works full time in the assembly department of a sheet metal factory in Osseo, Wis., began rebuilding the motor. During this endeavor, he would often go to tractor swap events looking for parts. The toughest challenge was finding original pieces to fit the B.
This row crop tractor was manufactured in West Allis, Wis., and South Hampton, England, from 1938 to 1957. There were 120,787 units built, and the purchase price in the final year was $1,500. Designed by Brooks Stevens, an industrial and graphic designer, the model B was the result of research by Harry Merritt, Allis tractor division manager, who looked at U.S. farm sizes in the early 1930s. At that time, most tractors were being used on farms larger than 100 acres.
The Allis B was specially designed to enter the small-farm market, and early research proved this model cost less to both buy and operate compared to horses. Known for its distinct size and adaptability, the B became one of the best-selling models from Allis-Chalmers and one of the most-loved tractors of its time. Some say it probably removed the horse from the pasture.
Features include manual steering, open operator station, optional canvas cab, three-speed unsynchronized gear-type transmission, three forward and one reverse gear, 19.51 hp on the drawbar and 22.25 hp on the belt, 12-gallon fuel tank capacity, 8-inch-diameter belt pulley, a weight of 2,060 pounds, differential mechanical contracting brakes, and a 2.1-liter, four-cycle, gasoline liquid-cooled engine.
This versatile machine came in three variations: the Asparagus B, Potato Special and IB Industrial. However, the B would not remain the smallest row crop tractor in the Allis lineup. From 1948 to 1955, the company produced the model G, with only about 10 drawbar hp.
Thomley’s collection of vintage tractors includes five other Allis-Chalmers models: a 1945 C, a 1950 WD, a 1955 WD 45 and two 1938 WC units. He also has a model 1940 Farmall B, a model 1948 Farmall C, a 1946 model John Deere B and a model 1950 Case DC. All are parked inside, and he continues to restore those that need a little work in his spare time.
“This is my favorite tractor because it’s not only orange, but the first AC model I owned,” he says. “I do some pulling with it and have fun going to area shows like Pioneer Days in Eau Claire. It’s cute and small, easy to maneuver, runs perfect, and besides, I just love driving that model B.”
Persinger writes from Milwaukee, Wis. To have your favorite tractor featured, email or send in a photo of yourself with your tractor, along with a 300-word write-up about the tractor, to: email@example.com or Wisconsin Agriculturist, P.O. Box 236, Brandon, WI 53919.