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Allis Chalmers “Dragster” Turns Heads
You’ve never seen a tractor like this Allis Chalmers “dragster” built by Eric Del Ponte, West Bend, Wis. He built it by modifying a 1939 Allis Chalmers B, lowering the axles and adding big rear wheels and tires off a semi truck and drag racing tires to the front wheels. Oversize headlights and orange LED lights under the hood and rear end make the tractor glow bright orange at night.
    “I built it mostly for looks but it works unbelievably well,” says Del Ponte. “I tried to keep the tractor profile nice and low. Parts from Steiner Tractor helped to freshen up the tractor’s original 20 hp, 4-cyl. engine, transmission, and gear-driven final drives.”
    The tractor is painted dull orange instead of Allis Chalmers orange. “I wanted the tractor to have its own identity,” says Del Ponte. “To create the look, my brother Kyle applied a base coat of metallic orange tangerine paint and then 3 clear coats of matte clear. We painted the wheel hubs a dull metallic gray and applied the same matte clear on top.”
    He displayed the dragster for the first time at the recent SEMA auto parts show in Las Vegas. “It might be the first farm tractor ever to be shown there,” says Del Ponte. “I built it last year after PAC Racing Springs of Detroit, Mich., saw a photo on my brother’s Facebook page (The Redline Projects) of the tractor still in the beginning stages of construction. They contacted me last January and asked if I would display the finished tractor at their show booth.
    To get the body down low, Del Ponte flipped the tractor’s front axle and rear end upside down. He also rebuilt the front axle’s suspension system, adding radius rods found on old 1930’s hot rods to give the front end a fancier look.
    He welded shut the exhaust, intake, oil fill, and temperature gauge holes in the hood to make it look nice and smooth. He also removed the tractor’s stock cast iron exhaust manifold and used 1-in. dia. exhaust tubing to make the custom headers.
    Del Ponte built a new steering column with custom support brackets. “With all the modifications there wasn’t a lot of room to get on and off the tractor, so I made the steering wheel removable,” he says. “By pushing on a small metal sleeve, I can disengage the entire steering wheel and remove it.”
    The original steering gearbox was worn out and a new aftermarket one wasn’t available, so Del Ponte replaced it with a steering box designed for a Chevy Corvair and modified it to fit.
    He totally rebuilt the area around the seat, providing a mounting point for the seat brackets, a receiver hitch, and a new place for the battery. Diamond plate steel was fitted and welded together to make the floorboards.
    The seat mounts on a pair of metal rails and can be moved forward or backward – just like a car seat - by pushing down on a handle attached to a rectangular metal box located in front of the seat. “The box contains toggle switches and wiring for the gauges. I also added a cup holder in the center of the box,” says Del Ponte.
    The tractor’s charging system was converted to 12 volts and the battery was relocated under the seat. A pair of small levers next to the seat serves as the choke and throttle. “The original throttle and choke levers were located on the steering column and added clutter, so my dad and I re-engineered them,” says Del Ponte. “I also installed new electric Auto Meter gauges to monitor the oil pressure, temperature, and battery voltage at the base of the custom made steering column.”
    The tractor’s oversize headlights, along with many other parts, were bought from Speedway Motors (ph 800 979-0122; www.speedwaymotors.com). He mounted a K&N air filter directly onto the carburetor. The wire harness, choke, and throttle cables run along both sides of the chassis.
    The tractor’s 335/65 rear semi tires are mounted on 22 1/2-in. rims from Wold Wheel of St. Ansgar, Iowa (ph 800 443-9653 or 515 736-2205). “I had Shawn of Seylang Welding & Machining fabricate new center hubs to copy the 8-lug bolt pattern found on Ford F-250 3/4-ton pickups,” says Del Ponte. “I wanted to use wide agricultural tires but couldn’t find anything that would work, because as ag tires get wider they also get taller. So to get the desired height and width we were after, we went with semi tires.”
    The stock front wheels are fitted with 26/4.5-15 Mickey Thompson drag slick tires from Summit Racing Equipment and have a smooth tread pattern.
    Del Ponte welded new material onto the tractor’s original fenders to make them one-of-a-kind. “One of the biggest challenges was trying to get the fenders on both sides to look identical,” he says.
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Eric Del Ponte, 7166 Co. Rd. M, West Bend, Wis. 53090 (262 894-3369; delponteeric@yahoo.com).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #1