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Spike Wheel Tractor "Walked" Through Fields
The spiked wheels on a Fageol tractor were designed to "walk" over fields, loosening the soil rather than rolling over it and compacting the soil. In reality, the wheels often dug down to the frame and spun hopelessly. The farmer had to hitch up a team of horses, pull the tractor out and finish the work with the horses.
  At least that's the story John Boehm heard when he purchased an early 20th Century Fageol from a previous owner. John E. Kiley said that his father only used it to disk his almond orchard. Apparently the original owner, Kiley's great-uncle, didn't use it much either.
  "I think they just left the tractor in the barn, which is why it shows such little wear. It was easy enough to get it running. I installed new hoses, cleaned the carburetor and magneto, and changed the oil," says Boehm, who collects, restores and sells tractors and parts (specializing in high clearance row crop Deere tractors) and raises English walnuts near Woodland, Calif. He heard about the unusual Fageol parked along a freeway and purchased it for the asking price after recognizing its rarity.
  The Fageol tractor was patented in 1915 by Rush Hamilton of Geyserville, Calif., after he put spike wheels on the front of an orchard tractor.
  By 1918, Fageol Motors was manufacturing a 4-wheel tractor with spike wheels on back. It weighed 3,600 lbs., had a ball and roller bearing transmission, Lycoming 4-cylinder engine, and one forward and one reverse gear. It had tiller steering and a huge filter air cleaner for the California dust. Its design included distinct jagged vents on the hood.
  There was no clutch, which stumped Boehm. He was forced to read the directions.
  "To start the tractor moving with the motor running, take the operator's seat. Place both hands on gearshift lever bar. Press both [steering] clutch pedals down as far as they will go, then to go into forward gear, push right hand forward and pull with left. Allow the clutches to come up evenly and tractor should get away in a straight line."
  "The secret appears to be in grinding the gears together as quickly as possible," Boehm says. He's learned how to drive the tractor quite well and takes it to the California State Fair and other shows.
  Production ended in 1922. Fageol found more success in building buses and trucks and eventually became Peterbilt Motors. Co.
  With so few Fageol tractors around, they're very expensive. Boehm recalls a tractor (that didn't run) selling in the $15,000 range in 2008.
  Boehm says he has other vintage tractors for sale, but he's keeping his Fageol.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, John Boehm, Woodland, Calif. (rustyacres@yahoo.com; www.vintagetractors.com).

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2011 - Volume #35, Issue #2