POST-DE­PRES­SION POWER

OLIVER LAID CLAIM AS HORSE­POWER LEADER WITH THE LAUNCH OF ITS MODEL 70.

Successful Farming - - AGELESS IRON® - By Dave Mowitz, Ex­ec­u­tive Edi­tor, Ma­chin­ery & Tech­nol­ogy

To­ward the end of the 1930s, the Great De­pres­sion’s choke hold on agri­cul­ture was fi­nally re­lent­ing. Fore­clo­sures were be­com­ing a bad me­mory of past trou­bled times. Money was seep­ing back into agri­cul­ture. Farm­ers, yearn­ing for the ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy, be­gan shop­ping for trac­tors in droves.

The time was ripe for a break­through in trac­tor de­sign, and the newly formed Oliver Cor­po­ra­tion pounced on that op­por­tu­nity with a trac­tor that would de­fine horse­power de­sign for the next sev­eral decades.

Sleekly styled and pack­ing a pow­er­ful six-cylin­der en­gine that burned high-oc­tane gaso­line, Oliver’s model 70 was a per­fect metaphor for agri­cul­ture’s new pros­per­ity.

When it was in­tro­duced in 1935, the 70 in­stantly stood out of the grow­ing pack of post-De­pres­sion horse­power. Not only did it her­ald the be­gin­ning of bet­ter times, but also it es­tab­lished Oliver as a se­ri­ous con­tender in the world of farm ma­chin­ery. Gone were the stodgy Hart-Parr de­signs re­placed by a trac­tor de­signed for to­mor­row. For a time, the 70 was the envy, as well as the tem­plate, for com­pet­ing trac­tor en­gi­neers.

The 70 was not a rev­o­lu­tion­ary de­sign such as the Ford­son or Far­mall Reg­u­lar. The trac­tor’s au­to­mo­tive styling, while ad­vanced, was not a novel con­cept. Trac­tors bore sim­i­lar styling in the late 1910s and 1920s. While the 70’s en­gine was ad­vanced in that it was de­signed to burn 70-oc­tane gas (from which the model 70 de­rived its name), such high-speed en­gines had been avail­able since the mid-1910s.

Still, when it first hit the mar­ket­place, the 70 in­stantly eclipsed styled trac­tors of pre­vi­ous eras. Oliver en­gi­neers, un­der the lead­er­ship of chief en­gi­neer Her­man Alt­gelt, seam­lessly merged auto de­sign with agri­cul­ture pur­pose, cre­at­ing a stan­dard other trac­tors would em­u­late for the next 25 years.

The 70 first ex­isted as the Oliver Hart-Parr Row Crop 70. This was Alt­gelt’s first at­tempt at cre­at­ing a new look for the rapidly grow­ing Oliver Cor­po­ra­tion. The pop­u­lar­ity of the trac­tor quickly spawned two new ver­sions in a fixed frontaxle Stan­dard and shrouded Or­chard.

Then in 1937, the 70 un­der­went fur­ther stream­lin­ing ac­cented by a sloped-back oval grille and side pan­els bear­ing hor­i­zon­tal, rather that ver­ti­cal, lou­vers. Gone was the HartParr name from the trac­tor’s hood and side pan­els.

The power plants on new 70s stayed the same with this change. Farm­ers could choose from a high-com­pres­sion en­gine (HC des­ig­na­tion) or a ver­sion ca­pa­ble of burn­ing kerosene or dis­til­late fuel (KD des­ig­na­tion).

Built to Oliver’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions by Con­ti­nen­tal, the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two valve-in-head en­gine types were found in vari­a­tions in cylin­der head and man­i­fold de­signs. As a re­sult, the HC turned out two more horses de­vel­op­ing a max­i­mum 28½ draw­bar horse­power. Oth­er­wise, ei­ther en­gine had a dis­place­ment of 201¹∕3 cu­bic inches and op­er­ated at 1,500 rpm.

These new 70s were also of­fered with a wealth of op­tional equip­ment, which re­flected the op­ti­mism of the times. For ex­am­ple, buy­ers could add an elec­tric starter. Many did just that, and by 1938, Oliver re­ported 75% of the 70s leav­ing its fac­tory equipped with such an elec­tric unit. Oliver also of­fered an op­tional six-speed dou­ble neu­tral trans­mis­sion. With a road speed of 13½ mph, this trans­mis­sion grew in de­mand un­til it be­came stan­dard equip­ment by 1944.

For all its ad­vances, the 70 was sold with steel wheels. Buy­ers could up­grade to rub­ber in 1937 as stan­dard gear. Folks not trust­ing new­fan­gled pneu­mat­ics could buy into an in­no­va­tive ap­proach to steel wheels. Oliver en­gi­neers fash­ioned an open-skele­ton wheel de­sign that hosted var­i­ous lug com­bi­na­tions, the most pop­u­lar of which was tip­toe spades 4½ inches wide and 3 inches tall. Oliver pro­moted its Power on Tip­toe as a con­cept that would pen­e­trate the ground to pro­vide foot­ing while min­i­miz­ing soil com­paction. Var­i­ous vari­a­tions were of­fered in­clud­ing dual rear wheels equipped with spade- or cone-shape lugs. For all its unique­ness, Power on Tip­toe soon faded from the 70’s op­tion list.

The first model U (shown left) was sold on steel. The trac­tor’s fourth gear had to be locked out, be­cause the re­sult­ing road speed would jar the trac­tor and op­er­a­tor to death while driv­ing due to steel lugs.

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