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Custom-Built Articulated Tractors Are A Big Hit
Bob Rock has had a love affair with Wheel Horse garden tractors since he received one as a gift from his uncle nearly 40 years ago. In 2001 that love affair took an unusual twist as Rock turned his first Wheel Horse into an articulated garden tractor. He says people who saw it thought it was factory-built.
    “I’ve been a machinist all my life, so I wanted it to look as professional as possible,” says Rock. “Eventually I sold it and figured I might as well build another one.”
    One classy looking tractor led to another. Over the past 12 years Rock has produced 12 custom-built rigs. All of the 4-wheel drive articulated beauties look like they just came off an assembly line.
    After building 2 Wheel Horse models, Rock converted a Cub Cadet model 582. That fully articulated model attracted a lot of attention at local shows. Next he converted a Deere 318 into a 4-WD. After that he did more Deere, WheelHorse, and even Case conversions.
    “I start with the garden tractor chassis and go from there,” says Rock. “The original is dismantled, then I create a chassis that articulates horizontally and vertically and rides on 12 or 16-in. wheels.” He builds his tractors with new hydraulic pumps, fittings and hoses. All of them have hydrostatic power, hydraulic steering and in most cases air cooled engines, except for occasional diesels.
    Rock’s creations all have meticulous metal work because he knows that business well. He owns a Hypertherm Powermax 45 cutting system, has a brake press, and several welders. All the work is done on elevated stands and a lift table. He bends and shapes sheet metal to produce authentic looking fenders, hoods, chassis parts and grilles, then protects all parts with clear coat paint.
    Rock’s son Robert has become an able assistant the last few years. At age 13, with a mild form of autism, but a strong mechanical aptitude, Robert can completely dismantle an old tractor, take transaxles apart, flush hydraulic systems, put in new gaskets and re-assemble axles. He’s gradually learning welding and takes all the new tractors on their initial test drives.
    Rock and his son enjoy taking the tractors to shows and fairs because people are really intrigued by how they’re made and how they run. He’s sold most of the tractors he’s built for $7,000 to $10,000. Some of them he built in a couple hundred hours and others took longer.
    He and Robert’s most recent creation is a made-from-scratch replica of a 4-wheel drive Minneapolis Moline. Rock calls that one an A4T-1400 and says it’s the toughest project he’s worked on. “I wanted everything done to scale, so I spent a lot of time measuring, designing and sizing before we ever worked on any metal,” Rock says. He adds that replica tractors he builds in the future will probably cost $10,000 to $12,000 depending on options that an owner wants. Some people have requested a high volume hydraulic system, dual wheels and a 3-pt. hitch.
    “We’re about a year out for anyone who wants something special made,” says Rock, “but that’s okay. My son and I enjoy working on these and we’re able to make some money at the same time.”
     Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Robert Rock, Rock & Son Fabrication, Pewamo, Mich. 48873 (ph 989 289-7858; http://articulatedgardentractors.weebly.com).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #2