Joe Pretzl’s Buggy
Joe Pretzl’s Model T Buggy Tractor
Chopped, dropped, leaded, bull nose or not, “Buggy” was not a term restricted to real horse drawn buggies, or to late 1940s hot rods.
Here Joe Pretzl has turned his old jalopy into what we called a “buggy” tractor.
Some 1917-22 era cars were even manufactured as “runabouts” (a term for an abbreviated regular car — minimalist in parts, performance, and cost).
The car — the world over — became a gold mine of so many parts used for so many other things by poor folks use in various innovative ways. In Africa they used high carbon steel axles for drills and mills. I took apart dozens of “T’s” to use the frames (same size as a stud (2×4)) to make rollers for dad’s “float.” T’s were manufactured with rivets, as bolts would loosen and be lost on the wash-board like early roads. So I spent hours with hammer and chisel and about beat my hands to death dealing with rivets!
Joe Pretzl’s Tractor
In 30s and 40s, desperate for better or quicker than horses, we adapted many things to work differently. Here Joe has converted his old Ford to pull a plow, or pull anything else for that matter.
Farmers would cut the “horse part,” the tongue off to shorter length, necessary to be able to turn short, then weld or bolt on a piece of iron in order to hook it up to the “hitch” on a tractor or homemade tractor.
These makeshift uses worked well. We were desperate for better and faster, and farmers are a vastly innovative lot. Old horse drawn implements; mowers, buck rakes, side delivery rakes, wagons, etc., were all modified thru this period. There was a problem, of course. A horse is rated at one horse power. While buggies, and other makeshift tractors were often rated at much higher “horsepower.” This would put too much strain on the implement, and the bugaboo of machinery, “broke down,” echoed still again.
During the war years, no tractors or implements were made — everything went to the war effort. When the war ended, manufacturers could not get up and running quickly enough for demand, nor could they instantly jump the transition from horse drawn to tractor drawn. But, they tried. Newly and very hastily engineered implements gradually hit the market. I remember that it was all hastily painted — sometimes in clumps, and sometimes even still wet when we got it! Many of these were in parts with the dread “some assembly required.” My 1948 self-propelled combine came in this way. Let me just say it was a “learning experience”! That is, I learned to swear! Somewhere there are some implement engineers with burned ears!
Joe Pretzl’s Car 4 x 2
But you could not keep farmers down, and we adjusted to the worst engineering and manufacturing and made it work. We adjusted to machinery made with no planning on how to repair it, replace parts that lasted only a short time, to zerk fittings to grease that were in completely unattainable positions — you could not grease them! Some parts could not be made to fit others, and had to be remanufactured or replaced with whatever work-a-round you could dream up. Anything, and I do mean “anything” coming out of a factory could be sold! And, many similar horrors. However, we had “cut our teeth” on the horse drawn makeover and were not novices on “make-do!”
Tractors pre WWII had a deserved bad reputation. Few and far between they were very difficult to start. Often we had to use a team to pull them to start. Often they would be so difficult to start that farmers would use horses instead. Cars were similar. Usually cold mornings saw a familiar scene—we would get one vehicle or tractor started (some would start), then hook up the recalcitrant one and tow down the road to start it. You learned very young how to engage the clutch in the proper gear to start the motor. Being the smallest you could not be the one to push.
Some farmers had the pre-war Fordsons (like Joe’s Fordson here) and early John Deeres, and Case tractors that were morphing nearly daily as they evolved. But, they were too expensive for most of us, and very, very clumsy. So clumsy that many called them hogs—if you have ever tried to control a pig or hog, you will understand. There is a real reason for the term “pig headed!” Tractors of the pre-war were like the cars. Often you would find that dozens of different part manufacturers had made the different parts. Then pieces of this and that were bolted together with a name stuck on it.
After the war, lots of army surplus became available very cheap. And, we tried to adapt them. However, few army things really made it into civilian life. The military always made equipment far too clumsy for any way it could be adapted to civilian use. I remember a surplus Allison tank engine we tried to adapt. Very powerful for $60. However, it used gas as fast as you could pour it in. No way could you afford to operate it, work or no work!
The Pretzls lived on Elgin road in Emmett valley, just up the road from Falk. The early roads to town were often just bogs waiting to get you stuck. Bob Pretzel told me, that his dad — perhaps in this buggy — simply took off thru the sagebrush way around them avoiding the mud holes. He was not alone — such roads became wider and wider as this practice was adopted by more and more.
Sage brush and dry hills, to early settlers were simply no impediment. You could simply treat them as empty open land to cross anyway you saw fit.