“You know me, Barney Oldfield.” And in 1933 what you probably knew about the Allis-Chalmers Model U tractor was that Oldfield had set a world speed record for tractors driving one. Of course it didn’t just happen because Barney thought it would be fun to ride a tractor going over 64 miles per hour. His comments afterward indicated that it was anything but fun. One of the greatest self promoters of the Twentieth Century, Oldfield was well aware of the value of name recognition. He had been doing product endorsements since his days on the bicycle racing circuits in the 1890’s. Harry Merritt Tractor Division General Manager at Allis-Chalmers also knew the value of celebrity and had hired big names from auto racing to promote the rubber tires that A-C introduced with the Model U in 1929.
While the speeds recorded at Nebraska fell short of those reached by Merritt’s barnstormers, they were more in line with what the average farmer would find useful. Records are made to be broken and it wasn’t long before Ab Jenkins topped Oldfields speed record. In 1935 on his home turf at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah he clocked 67.877 mph. A record that would stand for 81 years. In May of 2016 Jack Donohue blew Jenkin’s doors off ( ok, would have if Model Us had doors ) when he clocked 101 mph with his 8NCredible at the E.C.T.A. Ohio Mile event. See the May 1, 2016 Ironmule post for more about the 8NCredible. So why did it take so long to beat Jenkin’s record? Probably because there just aren’t many people who feel a need for speed on a tractor.
You can see a collection of entertaining photographs that cover Barney Oldfield’s exploits at www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/our-collection-on-barney-oldfield/ . For more about Ab Jenkins visit https://bangshift.com and search for an article on the 2014 Bonneville Speed Week. Want to find out what Jack Donohue has been up to? Visit: http://jackdonohue.com .
https://www.agriculture.com look for an article on the Allis-Chalmers Model U by Dave Mowitz 3/24/11
UNL Tractor Test #170 Report