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A Cockshutt Tractor History

by Danny Bowes  

Prologue: 1877-1927

The son of a very successful Toronto and Brantford, Ontario merchant, and himself quite an entrepreneur, James G. Cockshutt opened a business called the Brantford Plow Works in 1877. In 1882, the business was incorporated to become the Cockshutt Plow Company. Along with quality built equipment, expeditious demand and expansion made Cockshutt Plow Works the leader in the tillage tools sector of the farm equipment industry by the 1920's.


Lacking a tractor of their own design, Cockshutt started selling Allis Chalmers' 20-35 and United models. This apparently unsatisfactory arrangement didn't last long, and shortly they began marketing Oliver Hart Parr 18-28 and 28-44 models, moving on to the exceedingly popular Oliver 60 and 70 models, selling thousands upon thousands, and almost unable to keep up with the demand. 70 Standards were being built as fast as possible, and picked up every bit as quickly. Many were sold in Oliver green, with red wheels, and yellow grille, and were advertised this way. Others were painted Cockshutt red, with cream colored wheels and grille. The 80, 90, and 99 tractors boasted a lower production than the 60's and 70's, but were also well received. My Dad, having ordered a new 60 Row Crop in 1941, was told he could only get it if he went directly to the Smiths Falls factory with the dealer, which he did, and they towed it home the approximately 90 miles on a rope behind the dealer's car. Others relate the same difficulty in securing a new Cockshutt tractor, especially 70 models. He remembers that he could almost fry on the transmission by the time they got home after a VERY hairy ride! He was given a tour of the tractor factory while they were there, and thoroughly enjoyed it.


WWII had come and gone, with the Oliver-built Cockshutts selling strongly all the way through, and, in 1946, Cockshutt unveiled their own sensationally successful 30 tractor, with it's industry revolutionizing independent PTO. All fuel types, and four front end styles were available. The models 40, 20 and 50 followed, in that order, with independent PTO as standard equipment on the 40 and 50, and Diesel, distillate, and LPG versions of these available also. The 20, using a Continental Lhead 140 cubic inch 4 cylinder engine, was not available in either a Diesel or LPG version, or with independent PTO, but did later have a distillate option. Buda engines were used in the 30, 40, and 50 tractors, in all fuel types. The Buda Engine Company was bought out by Allis Chalmers in 1953, forcing Cockshutt to re-examine it's engine alternatives. Perkins, Hercules, and, once again, Continental, engines were utilized in following Cockshutt models, as the Buda supply was used up. The 35 Deluxe, a model following midway between the 30 and 40 power sizes, used a Hercules GO198 4 cylinder gas engine, along with features of the larger 40 and 50 models, such as a 6 speed transmission, and over-the-engine steering. It also introduced the ‘Deluxe' styling exercise, that of reversing the paint colors on the hood, grilles, and fuel tank. The effect was very appealing, and gave the nearly 10 year old 'roundnose' bodywork a fresh appearance. Models hence would employ this paint scheme, and would be known as ‘Deluxes'. These models even were provided with a cigar lighter! The 20 Deluxe's operator's platform was measurably improved by offsetting and tilting the steering column up, and offsetting the gear shifter, thereby making it much easier to mount and dismount than it's predecessor. Another major upgrade was the heavy duty round tube front axle, which replaced the rather flimsy, and easily damaged, square tube type of the previous model. The models 40D4 and Golden Eagle featured a Perkins L4 4 cylinder Diesel engine, of 169.5 cubic inches, and an excellent fuel economy rating. The last roundnose model to appear was the Golden Arrow, a 1957 'show' tractor, built in very limited numbers, to present the new draft sensing three point hitch of the upcoming 540 and 550 models. It also featured the transmission of the forthcoming 550. The front frame, engine, and sheet metal were the same as a 35. Originally intended to be returned to Brantford for upgrading to full 550 models, some Golden Arrows escaped, and are much sought after collector tractors today.


In 1958, the new '500' series debuted. Departing from, and contrasting with, the old roundnose streamlined styling of the groundbreaking 30 tractor, they had a new bold, squared off look, in an all yellow paint scheme called 'Harvest Gold'. During 1961, the 'Red Belly' paint scheme came into effect, and an effect it was--the tractors now featured a 'Vermillion Red' transmission, engine, and frame, up to the nose of the tractor. The 500 series tractors were the little utility 540, and the 550, 560, and 570 full size tractors. The 540 was powered by a Continental Lhead 162 cubic inch engine, and, like the former 20, not offered in a Diesel version. Unlike the 20, however, the 540 received an independent power take off shaft. The 550, replacing the 35, likewise featured a Hercules GO198 engine, but was also offered in a Diesel version. The 560, replacing the 40D4, and Golden Eagle, was also powered by the very efficient Perkins L4 Diesel engine. There was no gas powered 560 available. The 570 used a Hercules 298 cubic inch gas or Diesel 6 cylinder engine. The following, and last production Cockshutt model, was the powerful 570 Super using a Hercules GO339 power plant. A rich history of innovative tractor design cumulated in this model. Fiat-sourced 411RG & 411R utility models were secured and sold to compete with other imports. Alas, the storm clouds had gathered and darkened over Brantford....

Disaster followed in 1962. Cockshutt had fallen victim to corporate raiders in 1958, resulting in a controlling interest being acquired outside the family-owned business for the first time. Tensions within the company increased until January, 1962, when Cockshutt was purchased by White Motor Company. The then in-development 580 model was left hanging--not getting past the one complete prototype tractor built. White had already bought out Oliver, and would go on to buy Minneapolis Moline in 1963, but allowed MM to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary until the formation of White Farm Equipment in 1969.


Not wanting to lose the valuable brand loyalty Canadian farmers accorded Cockshutt tractors and equipment, White elected to continue the Cockshutt name, using the more advanced Oliver tractor models of the period as the basis for the ‘new' Cockshutt line. Thus things had come full circle; Cockshutt was once again marketing Oliver tractors.




The first ‘new' Cockshutts, corresponding with the like-numbered Oliver tractors, were the models 1800 and the 2 cycle GM Detroit Diesel powered 1900, with it's signature howling exhaust note, and identifying dual, side by side front mounted air cleaner stacks. The model 1600 was to follow shortly. These new tractors featured, among others, such conveniences as a tilting steering wheel; Hydra-Power Drive, a power shifting under drive device; and, of course, independent power take off shafts. Four wheel drive was an option available on all three of these models. Earlier tractors still used the 'Red Belly' paint scheme, but this was interspersed with the 'Sumac Red' and 'Clover White' that ended up prevailing. A distinguishing feature of these later tractors was the 'Clover White' 'checkerboard' grille, which was visible from quite a distance, and matched the color of the four wheels, and the head-and-taillight inserts in the fenders, all of which contrasted nicely with the 'Sumac Red' body color. Alongside these full size workhorses, the older Oliver standby models, the utility 550, and the field size 660, and 770 were offered. All but the 660 of these models were also built in an industrial version. A small crawler line was another choice for the industrial customer. The Fiat-based 411RG & 411R models that Cockshutt had sourced earlier were continued. The 770 was updated with a checkerboard grille and flat top fenders, giving it more modern appearance, family resemblance, and a new lease on life. The unaltered 660, still displaying the old Oliver 'Super' sheet metal work, was discontinued shortly, in 1964. Incidentally, the model placard used on the former Cockshutt 500 series tractors was employed once more in the new line, even crossing the marquee barrier to appear on all future Oliver full size models from the 770 on up.

At about this time, it was decided to drop the Oliver combine line, and instead focus on the more technologically advanced combines Cockshutt had under development, and continue on with them. It was a shrewd business move on White's part, and served them well right up until the end.









Improvements continued, and horsepower figures rose, until the next line, the '50' series, was introduced. ROPS/canopy combinations, and factory cabs, albeit unsealed ones, with optional air conditioning, were available for all 6 cylinder 50 series tractors. The 60 hp 1600 became the 66 hp 1650, bringing in with it the term Certified horsepower, Oliver's way of guaranteeing that customers received all the power they were paying for, and often more; each tractor was dynamometer tested to ensure it developed it's full rating. The 'plow power' term was going out of style, unable to keep up with demands for specific output queries, and the changing times. The third and final installment of the 1800, the Series C, was updated to become the 80 hp 1750, and the new 354 cubic inch Perkins powered 92 hp 1850 was introduced, bringing back to Cockshutt the engine that had been the heart of the doomed 580 model. The 1850 gas was powered by a Waukesha engine, like most of the others. The 1900 became the 1950, at 105 hp, and a new 53 PTO hp 1550 was unveiled. In 1965, the Fiat 411 tractors were restyled to become the Oliver and Cockshutt 1250. The crawler line was discontinued the same year. Following in 1966 came the Cockshutt 1350, a Minneapolis Moline Jet Star 3-based model of 44 hp. Curiously, no 1350 was offered in the Oliver line, the number slot was just left open, for the time being. Another Fiat tractor became the 55 hp model 1450. Signaling change, beginning in 1966, the industrial line became known as 'White Industrials'. In 1967, Canada's Centennial year, the 105 hp 6 cylinder turbocharged 1950-T was announced to replace the 4 cylinder GM Diesel powered 1950 of the same rating. Like the 1950, the 1950-T featured dual air cleaners, but they were in line with each other, as opposed to the 1950's side by side ones, making it an easy model to identify. Following in 1968, the new low slung brutes, the model 2050 and the turbocharged 2150 were introduced, upping the horsepower ante even further to 118 and 131. They were powered by 478 cubic inch Hercules/M.A.N. Diesels that were referred to in advertising as 'White Whispering Diesels'. Major change had come, both within the company, and within the industry. In a period of only ten years, tractor power levels had increased to the point where a current 'midsize' model could easily have been the flagship of the line before. Four wheel drive was available on all but the 1350, 1550, and 550 and 770 tractors. The same year, the excellent new auxiliary power shift transmission, 'Over/Under Hydraul Shift', was inaugurated, providing a range of 18 forward, and 6 reverse speeds, including a 20% under drive and a 20% overdrive in each of the six standard speeds. Also this year, production ended on the 770 model.









The atmosphere of change continued, unabated. In 1969, the final merger of all the companies under White Motor Company resulted in the White Farm Equipment company. Minneapolis Moline thus lost their wholly owned subsidiary status, and fell victim to a loss of identity similar to Cockshutt's, resulting by 1971 with some Oliver models painted MM Prairie Gold, and presented as Moline tractors. Many other mixed and matched models quickly came and went, including the MM-built articulated 4WD 2455 and 2655 tractors. At the final merger time of 1969, however, the next, and last model line, the ‘55' series, was brought to light. The 1250 had been much improved to become the 1250-A, and now became the 1255, to conform to the new series designation. The MM based 1350 had been dropped, and was replaced with a Fiat sourced model, the 1355. 1265's and 1365's followed. Later on, the 1450, like the 1250, was much improved, to become the 1465. Cockshutt 1265, 1365, and 1465 models were also available as straight White 1270, 1370 and 1470 versions, although still in red and white colors. Remaining at the same power level, 1550's had their Tilt/Telescoping steering improved slightly, and 2 headlights added in the upper part of the grille, to become the 1555. This enhanced lighting system, and a small 'White' decal now residing near the Cockshutt one, was featured from the 1555 on up the line. With an additional 4 hp, the 66 hp 1650 became the 1655 at an even 70 PTO hp, and featured the same improvements as the 1555. The 1850's Perkins powerplant was dropped, and an Waukesha 310 cubic inch, lightly turbocharged 6 cylinder took it's place, raising the power level 6 hp, to become the 1855, at 98 PTO hp. It also featured a rubber mounted operator's platform to reduce fatigue. In 1970, the 1750 was increased by 6 horsepower to become the 86 PTO hp 1755, and the 1950-T's engine was boosted slightly more to 108hp, to provide the 1955 model. The dual air cleaners of the 1950-T were discontinued in the 1955. Both the 1755 and 1955 shared the 1855's isolated operator's platform. All three also benefited from a new long sloping dash, making instrumentation easier to monitor, and a large bellows around the steering column to keep dust out, regardless of the position of the Tilt/Telescoping wheel. A sealed factory cab became available with the new 17, 18, and 1955 tractors. A new hydraulically engaged PTO clutch, allowing more controlled start-ups, and hydraulic power brakes, reduced operator fatigue even further. The following year, 1971, an optional, and striking, red, white, and blue paint scheme, called 'Heritage', was available on all 1555 through 1955 Oliver and Cockshutt models. Four wheel drive was once again offered on all models but the 1555, and 550. Earlier, in 1970, production on the venerable 550 was discontinued, and it joined it's 660 and 770 sister models in the history books.

Epilogue: 1973-1976

Equipped at first with 573 cubic inch, 145 hp CAT 3150's, and later with 636 cubic inch, 147 hp CAT 3208 V8 Diesel engines, and all the comfort and convenience features of the 1755, 1855, and 1955 tractors, the large and impressive White 2255 came into existence in 1973, but also ushered in the end of the golden era of Oliver-built Cockshutt tractors and equipment. While it still displayed the white painted wheels, ‘checkerboard' grille, and red body color of the other models of the 55 series, the Cockshutt name had been phased out, as the White name was taking over. By 1977, the heritage-laden Cockshutt name was gone, and the familiar red and white paint replaced by the silver and black of the new White line.

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