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The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

Posted March 20, 2017 9:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: auction classic auto Farming tractor

The challenge has haunted designers and engineers since the dawn of time: Take an existing product, and expand its functionality to broaden the market. In 1938, farm tractor manufacturer Minneapolis-Moline applied this Swiss Army Knife approach to its Model U series, resulting in the U Deluxe (or UDLX), an enclosed tractor capable of plowing fields during the day and driving to town in its off-hours. Just 100 examples were sold, and today, roughly 25 remain in restored condition. On Friday, March 31, a show-ready 1938 Minneapolis-Moline UDLX heads to auction in Davenport, Iowa, a star attraction in Mecum’s Spring Classic Gone Farmin’ sale.

Minneapolis-Moline’s consumer research showed that farmers wanted a tractor with an enclosed cab for protection from the elements. Why not, the company rationalized, take this one step further and produce a tractor capable of doing double-duty as a family automobile?

So how did the tractor and family automobile hybrid work out, anyway?

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#1

Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/20/2017 12:11 PM

I've seen at least three of them now in person now. Interesting concepts but after having been allowed to sit in one I have say they weren't made for today's modern farm boy builds!

Gotta be under 6 feet all and 200 pounds to drive one of those all day.

Also with no air conditioning either it made them pretty miserable to run on a hot dry dusty day.

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#15
In reply to #1

Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/22/2017 12:18 AM

According to Wikipedia, the first domestically produced automobile to have air conditioning was the 1939 Packard. As the UDLX predates the Packard and given the size of the blower and evaporator components, especially, it's highly unlikely that Moline could offer that as an option, not to mention the lack of available space necessary to install all of its components.

That being the case, a more suitable option, if available, would be to install some type of evaporation type of cooling system or a fan forced air cooling system.

I think it would be interesting to see an options catalog for this vehicle to see if these items were even offered. Maybe someone here has access to this database.

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#2

Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/20/2017 2:31 PM

Another example of "trying to make a product cover multiple wildly different roles but in the end do none of them well".

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#3

Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/20/2017 3:39 PM

I have plowed fields pulling a "One-way" with a hand clutch U model Moline. The steering is strictly "Armstrong power steering" - meaning, if you don't have big arms, you can't steer it! I thought I would have to use a cheater bar when plowing out the corners.

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#4
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/20/2017 4:29 PM

Perhaps they should have used Archimedes and his lever as their company slogan.

"Give me a seat to sit on, and I will move the earth *"

* (cheater bar sold separately)

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#5
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/20/2017 10:48 PM

I have a MM U! Officially my first tractor! Got it about 22 years ago for $400. Still use it a few times a year for odd jobs. Might even go through it and give it a basic restoration job and repaint one of these years for a winter project.

I always thought the engineers who designed it tried to build the perfect tractor but totally forgot that it had to have an operator and thusly that why they had such a crappy setup for where the operator sat and how things were controlled.

Best way to drive one was to take the whole seat assy off ans just stand while running it. It's the only way the brake pedal locations, angled steering wheel and hand clutch layout worked efficiently.

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#7
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/21/2017 8:21 AM

And here I thought that the "U" never had a seat as I have never seen one with a seat. I spent many a day pulling a 12 foot cultivator doing summer fallow, all without ever having sat down. By that standard you can't call me a "modern" farm boy.

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#8
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/21/2017 8:36 AM

I know. Sitting while trying to operate a U Moline is a futile effort at best, majorly frustrating, and you end up exhausted at the end of the day.

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#9
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/21/2017 10:11 AM

I always thought the engineers who designed it tried to build the perfect tractor but totally forgot that it had to have an operator

The one I saw, had a bench seat with very little leg room... engineers probably were the same people who wrote jokes like this....

  • What do you call a swimmer with no arms and no legs?
    Bob.
  • What do you call a man with no arms and no legs, no head and no torso?
    Dick.
  • What do you call a man with no arms and no legs hanging on a wall?
    Art.
  • What do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a pothole?
    Phil.
  • What do you call a man with no arms and no legs on a barbershop floor?
    Harry.
  • What do you call a man Standing on a stage with no arms.?
    Mike.
  • What do you call a water skier with no legs.?
    Skip.
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#13
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/21/2017 7:40 PM

You forgot:

  • What do you call a man with no arms and no legs on a porch?
    Matt.
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#6

Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/21/2017 7:21 AM

I've seen those at farm auctions,... Interesting to say, Minneapolis-Moline also produced tractor models that ran on propane, in rather large quantities. Of which I saw a few at farm auctions also.

Of course farm equipment such as tractors like everything else merged. With a short list,.... White purchasing Minneapolis-Moline along with Oliver and Cockshutt, After which Allied Products purchased White. From there it became AGCO,.... Which after that they started building Cavaliers

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#10
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/21/2017 1:20 PM

Oddly enough I don't have a propane powered tractor yet.

Still want one some day.

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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/21/2017 1:50 PM

How about one that runs on old tires...

going off topic a bit.... Back in the 80's,... the area Thresheree Association, asked us to bring our saw mill so their members steam engine could power it.

The one in the picture is similar to the one the tractors that powered our sawmill.

I was impressed with the skill required to maintain proper and consistent speed.

RPM's was easy enough to hit because the saw blade would siiiiiiing (sing). its keeping it at the RPM as its sawing through maple... starting out with sharp inserts, wasn't bad... but as the day rolled on.

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#12
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/21/2017 1:58 PM

My grandpa had stories of running those things threshing grains when he was a kid in the 1930's and 40's.

Back then it took a town of a few hundred people to process and bring in the volume of crops two - three guys with modern machinery can do now.

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#14
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/21/2017 8:29 PM

The neighborhood farmers went to the neighborhood farms to thresh.

When I was old enough to go to the taverns, I use to play Sheepshead with some of these old timers. Had some nice stories.

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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/22/2017 10:23 AM

The one in your picture (the GB model) is what we used to call a "Wheatland" tractor, and these had much beefier front axles and wheels, and the frames too.

We never had any tractors that ran on propane, but back then we ran all our tractors on butane, and the well motors (usually Chevy short block V-8) on natural gas.

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#17
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/22/2017 10:31 AM

I first saw a one at an auction with my dad when I was around 12. I thought is was so odd with the barrel I pointed it out to my dad. He told me that a propane tractor. I didn't believe him at first.

I always loved going to farm auctions. And still do.

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#18
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/22/2017 10:55 AM

Amazing how some of these old tractors stood up to the elements.

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#19
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Re: The Swiss Army Knife of Farm Implements: 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor

03/22/2017 11:24 AM

yep,... heavy steel.

After the tractors start to get larger and with the larger size came weight, then soil compaction became an issue and was replaced with polymers.

That was not only lighter but also cheaper and could be used on the smaller tractors.

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