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Home built cat tractor
Leon Abbot spends a lot of time ice fishing in the winter near his home in Siren, Wis. Two years ago, he decided to build a machine that would make it easier to get to remote lakes, traveling over deep snow through heavily wooded areas.
The result was an innovative tracked "Cat" tractor that worked out so well he now uses it for many other chores around the repair shop which he has operated for more than 30 years.
He built the frame out of heavy channel iron and mounted a Wisconsin V-4, air-cooled engine on front. Abbot converted the hand-cranked engine to electric start by mounting a triple pulley on the fly-wheel to accommodate a starter and alternator (the third pulley drives a hydraulic pump).
Figuring out how to mount the 12-volt automotive starter motor was a problem. He had to come up with a way to release tension on the belt once the engine started so it wouldn't bum out the starter. He ended up mounting the starter on a hinged bracket, and running a control rod back to the driver's seat. The instant the motor starts, Abbot uses the control rod to release the starter, slackening the belt.
The add-on automotive alternator charges a 12-volt battery that mounts behind the engine.
Abbot used two Chevy Vega rear ends with identical gear ratios to power the rig. The rear ends face each other and are connected by a drive shaft fitted with a 4-in. drive sprocket that's chain-driven by a 12-in. sprocket on the output shaft of a 1941 Ford 4-speed truck transmission mounted behind the engine. Abbot clutches with a built-in engine clutch.
The center wheels on each side are mounted on a non-powered axle that moves up and down, which Abbot says is key to success of the machine.
"When I first built it, I only had two wheels per side. It dragged too much and was hard to turn. I position the center wheels a few inches below the drive wheels so the rig sort of pivots on those wheels," he says.
To make the tracks, Abbot simply cut the sidewalls out of standard 38-in. tractor tires and then bolted metal U-shaped guide brackets to the inside of the lugged belt. The guide brackets hug the outside of the drive wheels, holding the track in place. The front drive axle mounts on sliding brackets and can be moved forward as needed (via turnbuckles) to tenísion the tracks. "I haven't had any trouble with the tracks. They stay on great, have tremendous traction and don't seem to wear at all," says Abbot.
He steers the tracked tractor by braking either side with two levers. All four drive wheels are braked, controlled by a master cylinder on each side of the machine.
Two high-backed car seats mount at the back of the machine. There's a hitch on both front and back. In addition to using the rig for wintertime recreation, Abbot also mounts a blade in front to move snow and dirt. Originally he rigged up a hand-cranked winch to raise and lower the blade from the driver's seat (see photo). Recently, after mounting a hydraulic pump on the engine, he put hydraulic lift on front of the tractor. He also uses the tractor to skid logs out of the woods. "It has a lot of power," he notes.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Leon Abbot, 24768 Herman Johnson Rd., Siren, Wis. 54872 (ph 715 349-2985).

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1991 - Volume #15, Issue #6