Saturday, August 1, 2015

The David Bradley Tri-Trac

One of the most interesting items exhibited at the 25th Power from the Past Show was this 1953 David Bradley Tri-Trac owned by Iber and Frances Tripp from Simpsonville, SC. Looking like a cross between a scooter and a mechanical scorpion, it's not what comes to mind when you say garden tractor.

The David Bradley Manufacturing Works was purchased by Sears and Roebuck in 1912 and produced house brand proucts for the retail giant from that point forward. After World War 2 Bradley introduced a two wheel walk behind garden tractor that was produced from 1946 until 1966 that proved to be a very popular product and is what most people think of as a David Bradley garden tractor. According to one account Sears management pressured Bradley to produce the Tri-Trac because they wanted a small riding tractor to compete with the International Harvester Cub. Maybe it was the radical design or maybe it just didn't perform to expectation, for whatever reason the Tri-Trac was only produced from 1954 to 1957 with disappointing sales numbers.

It often seems the internet is just an endless circus of depravity peopled by cross dressing freaks and tatoo encrusted performing animals but if you search long enough you occasionally find a nugget. I found one of those rare sites that offer origional source material online while researching the Tri-Trac. Collectors and others with an interest in Bradley and Roper products will surely want to visit the website of the Bradley Historical Society at . Here you can browse a collection of issues of The Pioneer Plowman and The Roper-Bradley Newsletter, both in house published newspapers about the goings on within the Bradley factory.

The December 29, 1953 issue of the Pioneer Plowman featured an article titled Sears unvails Tri-Trac that offered the following insights. The Tri-Trac was targeted at the "sundown farmer" the suburban owner of 1 to 30 acres who wanted to garden after work at the factory or office. Bradley estimated the population of this market at around 2,000,000. The price was to be set at less than $700. The specifications were listed as length 102", height 48", weight 894 pounds. A single cylinder 6.2 hp air cooled Wisconsin motor powered the machine. An eight foot turning radius, a front axle that was adjustable in 2" increments from 48 to 72 inches for row crop widths and a " fingertip control" 0 to 4 mph adjustable clutchless drive were listed as selling points. Twelve attachments were to be available including a lawnmower, a 9" plow, a snow plow and a "bulldozer".

This article also provides a photo of Gabe Kerouac, assembly supervisor, test driving the first Tri-Trac to roll off the assembly line. Unfortunatly the collection of The Pioneer Plowman ends with the March 30, 1954 issue and jumps to the Roper Bradley News of August 1966 so we can't learn more about the Tri-Trac during the rest of its production run. Maybe some day someone will donate the missing issues and the rest of the story will become available.

Sources and Resources:
The Pioneer Plowman Vol.7 No. 1 Dec. 29 1953 available at
David Bradley Tractors by Terry E. Strasser published in the Nov. / Dec. 2001 issue of Gas Engine Magazine available at




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