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Ingenious Automobile Conversion Moves Forward While Going Backward

It has been said that “necessity is the mother of invention” and this pair of photos dated March 1, 1938, show a very innovative conversion of a Dodge Brothers four-cylinder chassis and drivetrain dating between 1915 to ’26 into a mechanical hay rake proves that the adage can be it true.

To construct this rig a talented and sharp mechanic installed a worm and roller steering box, and wheel facing the rear in the middle of the Dodge chassis. By installing the pitman arm pointing upward on the box it reversed the arms regular front-to-rear motion. By the addition of a length of water pipe and two threaded couplers into the middle of the drag link, and cutting a hole in the fender for it to pass through the machine was converted to rear wheel steering.

The forward motion of the vehicle was handled by using the reverse gear and backing up by the use of one of the forward speeds in the transmission. A second clutch pedal was added next to the steering column which connected to the original pedal via a linkage that reversed its motion.

The balance of the conversion was fairly straightforward, and braking was handled by using the emergency brake and lever. The long hay rake of wooden and metal construction was raised and lowered by the use of the long handle located to the left of the steering wheel that incorporated a locking mechanism, and a forked linkage.

Share with us what you find of interest in the photos courtesy of the Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts.

14 responses to “Ingenious Automobile Conversion Moves Forward While Going Backward

  1. I’d like to know what’s going on with the cooling system. At first glance, I assumed the tank mounted above the motor was a fuel tank. But it’s attached to the motor’s top water inlet and seems to bypass the radiator. Unless it also feeds into the radiator filler neck — it’s a little hard to tell what’s going on behind the superstructure.

    It looks like this is a reserve water tank of some kind, adding several gallons to the coolant capacity. Was that to prevent overheating, given that the vehicle was probably running at low speed most of the day? Given that the fan is still hooked up and the motor is exposed, I’m surprised it was necessary.

  2. The rear, in this case front, spring grease nipple on the side of the splash apron indicates it has 3/4 elliptic springs, which were abandoned 1924, and the radiator seems to be the taller type which was introduced in 1922, this would make it either 1922 or 1923 model.

  3. If the building behind the rig is a barn, it is certainly a nice one. The doors seem to indicate that it is that but the upper story looks more like it might be a house.
    Maybe it is both.

  4. The language “Pitman arm pointing upward” reminded me of an amusing situation we had in our shop a few years ago when we had an urgent call from a client who’d taken his SP250 Daimler to one of the original Dodge Brothers franchisees in South Salem, N.Y. for some steering box work.

    To cut to the chase, when they’d taken the cover off the end of the ‘box the caged ball bearings slipped their cages and panic must have ensued because they quickly bolted it back up with net result of about 12″ of steering free play in the straight ahead position.

    Well, like a lot of things on those cars the steering box was for all intents & purposes Triumph TR3 , but like the Dodge Brothers contraption pictured above , the Pitman arm was on the top. In furtherance of making a workmanlike repair we pulled the steering shaft & worm gear from a far better used TR3 steering box and put everything back together, only to discover that we’d turned the Daimler into a perfect vehicle for a Shriner’s Parade, because when you turned the steering wheel to the right, the car turned left, and when you turned the wheel to right !

    After rolling around on the floor in laughter for half an hour or so, we put the old steering shaft back in.

  5. That is an interesting cooling system. From what I can see and presuming what I can’t, the tank on top is connected to the radiator filler and the hose connection on the head. The upper radiator outlet must be plugged. I assume the bottom radiator hose remains in place. Probably the overflow has also been plugged. Now the cooling system has this extra ten-gallons or so of water and no overflow loss. because the car (dump rake?) is running backwards, there is minimal air flow through the radiator. The extra water would help overcome this deficiency. Quite an ingenious way of solving the problem.

  6. Many similar although less complicated conversions were done here in west central Ohio with the results refered to as “buck rakes”.

  7. It’s not an uncommon machine at all in hay country. For the record it is called a “Hay Sweep” someone else would run a rake and then the sweep takes the windrows to the stacker. Many old cars and many more early tractors were reversed like this and some are still in use to this day in the sandhills of Nebraska

    • The vacuum tank is still there, so the gas tank is probably still in the back. Which is now the front.

      What could go wrong?

  8. Jon, that tank connected to the engine and radiator indeed increases the cooling capacity.
    The large tank probably aids cooling as well. Too bad they didn’t try to baffle the cooling fan.

  9. I was in the Air Force stationed in Rapid City, SD from 1961-65. I spent most Saturdays scouring the prairie for old cars. I encountered several ranches where these sweeps were lying about, most of them on longer in use. They were always accompanied with a cache of spare cars of the same make as the sweeps. They were usually squirreled away in a woodlot down in a gully out of sight. Dodge and Studebaker were the most popular marques. I was most interested in Buick but never found them. Had I stayed in Rapid I would have needed 40 acres to pile up the stuff I found. Great fun!

  10. These conversions were called ‘buck rakes’ in ranching country. They were used to push hay into piles. The rear axel was flipped so you had 3 speeds going backwards, They did not go fast so cooling was not a problem. Many were build from old cars and trucks during WWII when tractor production was stopped. I had one made from a 1925 Lincoln touring car.

  11. We still see a lot of them around here as stacked hay is not totally gone. I have a friend with a complete 261 Chev engine that he built for racing, later sold to a local rancher who ran the engine for 10 years in a similar set up and then gave it back .

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