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Brief History of the Cleveland Tractor Company

By richard - Posted on 05 October 2011

The Cleveland Motor Plow Company was incorporated in 1916. Founded by Rollin H. White, manufacturer of the White steam car, the company began building a 10 drawbar horsepower crawler tractor, called the model R. This tractor used a four cylinder Buda engine.

In 1917, the company's name was changed to the Cleveland Tractor Company. This year's model was called the H. It was rated at 12/20 horsepower and used a four cylinder Weidley engine.

Cletrac was devised as a trade mark in 1918. In 1919, the model W was introduced. It was basically the same as the H, but with some improvements. The W was produced until 1932. I wonder where Rollin got the idea to use R, H, and W for the first models?

During this time, Rollin also built an automobile called the Rollin Motor Car. Sales were not very good, and the car was eventually discontinued. There were however, many surplus engines remaining. To use up these engines, Rollin built an unusual little crawler called the F. Nicknamed the String of Pearls, This tractor had stamped out steel tracks, running around a track frame, with a chain of rollers riding between the track and the track frame. A sprocked, high up at the rear of the track frame, drove the tracks. If you've seen one of these tractors, you'll know where Caterpillar got the idea for their new models.

Most of the early Cletracs had steering wheels. Later, levers were used. This gave better steering control.

The Cleveland Tractor Company built at least 58 different models, from 1916 to 1946, when it was merged with the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, to form the Oliver Corporation. Tractors were built from 9 to 100 drawbar horsepower, using both gasoline and diesel engines. Improvements were constantly made, resulting in very efficient tractors.

After Oliver took over, many new models were introduced. These were quite modern machines, which sold well, through the 50's.

There were many, very highly advanced, experimental tractors built during the late 50's and early 60's. These included better starting engines, power shift, counter rotating tracks for zero radius turning, and some new models. Unfortunately, the Oliver people at the main office (with more interest in farm machinery) would not put much money back into crawler development,  so these new models were never introduced.

Oliver was having financial difficulty at this same time, and in 1961 sold out to the White Motor Company. For a few months however, there existed a company called Cletrac Corporation. White Motors discontinued all the crawler line, except two small models called the   OC-4 and OC-9. The entire production line was moved to Charles City, Iowa. All crawler production ceased in 1964.