Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Allis Chalmers

The orange farm machinery company became popular in this region. Our friends from Wisconsin were talking with us and I asked about Allis, and they said the union broke them. The union negotiated a "job forever" clause and it eventually broke the company in 1985 when it sold to Deutz in Germany and then Deutz sold them to AGCO in 1990.

"Brief History
Allis-Chalmers' history as a manufacturer extends to the 1840's in Milwaukee. In 1914 the growing company entered into the farm equipment business. Over the years Allis-Chalmers was responsible for many innovations in farm equipment and grew to become one of the largest and most diverse manufacturers in North America. However, Allis-Chalmers became the victim of rapidly changing financial times and was eventually forced to sell the farm equipment division to K-H-Deutz AG of Germany in 1985. Duetz sold to AGCO inc. in 1990. After the dispersal of the remaining manufacturing businesses in 1988, Allis-Chalmers maintained an office in Milwaukee until January 1999.

AGCO has expanded the farm equipment business, largely in Europe and South America. In 2004 AGCO entered the Fortune 500 list of America's largest companies."

I never owned an Allis but have driven and been in charge of a few of them. They are short and stout with little wheels and powerful engines, at least the ones I used 40 years ago. They didn't make a big tractor until the famous D-21 with 426 inch engine and Persian Orange paint.

When farming got bigger in the late 60's you saw the 806 International take over followed by D-21's and 1950 Olivers. Deere only had the 4010 then 4020 which wouldn't keep pace with any of them. Deere ended up winning the whole shooting match though.

I cut up my share of All Crop pull type combines. They were left in fence rows and when steel got high in the oil embargo 70's we would sell the best parts and scrap the rest of the machine. I would have rather kept them for a museum piece but there wasn't the incentive to do it 40 years ago. Today they would be a good piece to show and display.

The union comment is appropriate today with all of the discussion on union agreements and tenure. There are two sides to every story and this one ends with the end of another great company.

Oliver's best people got hired by Deere.



  1. Ed, I'm not a John Deere guy but my "deere friends" would be shocked that you did not mention the 5010 and 5020 tractors. They were right up there in the high horsepower class.About 140 hp if memory serves me.
    Deere even marketed a 4WD 8010 in the early sixties although I don't think many sold (too big maybe?).
    AC was never very big here. Saw a few little model Bs and the odd D17. A fair number of Gleaner combines did show up in the harvest fields.

  2. True. I thought about that. There weren't enough of them around here to talk about Ralph. They were a western tractor here where 806 and D-21 weren't. Allis was big here. Other companies had 4 and 6 cylinder engines here when Deere had putt putt's. The company succeeded or failed with the dealer. The dealer was key and still is today.

  3. Great piece Ed. Another thing that killed A-C was that the president and board in the 60's and 70's felt that Ag was "beneath" them and really concentrated efforts and dollars on the construction machinery. Trouble was that CAT was hard to compete with for loyalty and durability.

    They were strong in this area until the 70's or so. Hardly a 7000 or 8000 series around but lots of the 100 series and previous. I was in KY for the NFMS a few weeks back, never saw so many A-C t-shirts in my life! Must have had a real following at one time.

  4. It was a real following, Orin. We still talk about your cookout.

    Great piece? I am humbled but I must share my varied expeience with my Internet crowd.

    You made my day Orin.