Tructor (True Story)

Tructor(Truck Tractor Combination)

This may stir some fond memories for others who have fathers with the “tinkerer gene” my father has. Father has always been a tinkerer, and has come up with a number of things that most people wouldn’t have thought to do. This was one of his more offbeat ideas. You can see a picture of it above.

This picture dates from the late 1960’s or early 1970’s – I don’t recall the exact date it was taken and there is nothing on the photo – it’s a black-and-white Polaroid snap, from the early version of the Polaroid film where you needed to apply a fixative to the photograph after it had developed. I didn’t do any retouching on the photo after I scanned it, so this is as unretouched as a scanned photograph can get.

The truck portion was an International pickup. Everything back of the cab was removed, except for the frame that had supported the truck’s bed, and the driveshaft. The tractor was an old Farmall model with spiked steel wheels. Father removed the engine and everything else forward of the transmission/seat, only leaving one of the heavy “C” beams that supported the engine. The “C” beam was secured under the truck. The frame of the truck was hung over the tractor’s axle housing, where the frame members arched to clear the truck’s rear axle, and also secured. The driveshaft was connected to the tractor’s transmission. As a result, both transmissions worked, so you had to set the gears on both parts to move. As you might guess, it was not too fast even when both transmissions were set to high gears, but when both were set to first gear, it would have been hard pressed to chase down a turtle! Still, with both transmissions set in first gear, the vehicle had a lot of pulling power.

And thereby hangs a tale….

The clearest memory I have of this machine is the day Father decided to pull up a stump with it. He’d done similar things successfully, so it didn’t begin as anything unusual. The stump in question was 6-8″ in diameter, and enough was left to allow a chain to be secured around it. The stump was located on a slope, so Father decided to pull downhill and get an assist from gravity. After he hooked the chain to the tow hitch of the tractor portion and set the tractor’s transmission, he got in the truck and I moved over several yards to the side as an observer to signal him when the stump started to give way.

Father started the engine, eased out the clutch on the truck, and the spiked steel wheels started to turn. The chain pulled taut, and the spikes began to tear out chunks of sod and soil. The stump didn’t show any signs of budging yet, and the wheels were digging a pair of trenches, jolting the entire vehicle as they ripped into the ground. A lot of the soil in this area is topsoil over clay – red clay that’s sticky when wet and hard as bricks when dry. On the eight acres where we lived at that time, the clay was mostly 1 1/2 to 2 feet below the surface. The spikes dug the trenches down to the clay, and caught traction at last. There was a moment when the whole scene was posed like a picture…

…suddenly, the tractor half rocked back on its axle, the end of the transmission pointing skyward with the driveshaft dangling from it. The “C” beam had snapped, and the driveshaft was yanked from the truck’s transmission. I don’t remember if the truck’s engine quit when the driveshaft was pulled out or if Father quickly shut it off, but everything went quiet. Father got out to survey the damage. He later used the other “C” beam from the Farmall tractor to repair it, but the tructor was never quite the same again. It was a lot harder to start, and didn’t run as well as before. He finally either gave or traded it to someone who wanted it, and from there I am not certain what became of it.

As for the stump, we began digging it out and made a discovery that explained everything. Back when the tree had been a sapling, it had apparently been pushed over. There was a buried section of trunk about four feet long between the roots and where the stump emerged from the ground. The tree had been pushed over in a downhill direction, so we were pulling on the opposite end from the roots. If we had pulled uphill, we would have pulled the stump/truck section up over the roots, like a lever, and it actually would have helped us pull it out. Since we were pulling downhill, however, the lever worked in the opposite direction. We were actually pressing the stump end into the ground as the Tructor pulled. Unless the stump portion had snapped off, we were never going to pull that thing out of the ground the way we were set up.

4 comments

  1. An entertaining tale, and impressive work by your father to connect it all up. The only thing I can remember from my childhood along those lines is that my uncle used to put sticks of gelignite under the stumps to loosen them. My own father never worked with vehicles in any way at all, but I did to some extent: brakes, carburettor, distributor, timing etc. I’m not sure why. I invariably made a mess of it.

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  2. Thank you Steve. My father worked on vehicles until they got so many electronic components to the point where you needed diagnostic machines to deal with them. I never messed with cars much; computers were more my thing, though I have replaced worn-out components on a washing machine with success.

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