Friday Tractor Registry


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I have been the owner of this Friday tractor for about a year, during that time, I have been subjected to the same question on numerous occasions, “Friday, huh, was that the day of the week it was made?” Observers viewing the tractor have made unfavorable comments about its appearance, but it is very likely the fastest production tractor ever made.

Orchard tractors have been produced by many major manufactures. These types of tractors were built low and narrow, which allowed them to pass through rows of orchard trees doing minimal damage to limbs, fruit, or blossoms. The Friday orchard tractor was manufactured in Hartford, Michigan by a man named David Friday. The Friday was produced from the late 1940’s until the late 50’s.

David Friday built one of his first tractors in 1939, using parts from old vehicles. He commented that he couldn’t afford to buy a tractor, so he decided to build one. This tractor ended up being called the doodlebug. Mr. Friday entered his doodlebug in a local plowing contest, competing against many well-known tractor manufacturers. He plowed the allotted half-acre in 22 minutes. This was two minutes faster than the nearest rival and accomplished on less fuel.

When World War II came along, David Friday took over and built the Love orchard tractor, which was named after Jabez Love. Many of these tractors were similar in appearance to the Friday. At the conclusion of the war, Mr. Friday made a deal with Love, whereby he took over servicing the Love tractors and established the right to build his own improved model.

David Friday’s small post-war manufacturing plant employed fewer than ten people. The Friday family, including David’s father, operated a sizeable orchard at the same location where the tractors were built. When the time came for the fruit to be harvested, the men in the shop helped with the harvest.

Available information indicates that there were 143 Friday orchard tractors built that were serial numbered. The serial number for my tractor is 5112. This indicates that it was the twelfth tractor built in 1951. Friday tractors produced over 100-horse power and had a five-speed transmission with a two-speed rear end. The tractors were built using Dodge truck components, such as transmission, rear end, and flathead six cylinder engine. The Friday Tractor Company would build the tractor with any accessory the customer wanted, such as power takeoff, hour meter, hydraulics, dozer, tachometer, retractable lights, radio, or even a cigarette lighter.

The Friday tractor can reach speeds greater than 60 mph. Mr. Friday wanted a tractor that would deliver the fruit from the orchard to market without having to load a truck. Typically a wagon was pulled through the orchard while the workers would load the wagon with boxes of harvested fruit, when the wagon was full, the boxes were then loaded on a truck and hauled to market. By building a tractor that could reach road speeds, the process of getting the harvested fruit to town was streamlined by eliminating the need to load the truck.

My Friday tractor was purchased from a gentleman in Muskogee, OK. The previous owner told me that arrangements had been made to purchase one of two Friday tractors that another individual in Michigan owned. One of these tractors came with a speeding ticket to be included in the sale. By the time the gentleman got to Michigan, that particular tractor had been sold, so he bought the remaining tractor.

A 1947 magazine article related that one of the first Friday tractors built was being used to groom a horse race track. A comment was made that the tractor was going around the track faster than some of the plugs furnishing the entertainment. This statement brought the retort that the tractor folks should put up or shut up. A wager was made, and one of the fastest horses was positioned at the starting line beside the tractor. The horse was so afraid of the tractor that it was decided to race each separately against time. The tractor went first and completed the half-mile lap in 45 seconds. The horsemen conceded the race and took their steed back to the barn. Dave Friday did not install governors on his tractors until the last couple of years of production, often joking, “You never know when we will have to save face in another horse race.”

David Friday was a prolific inventor who designed and built other orchard equipment such as forklifts, hydraulically operated tree shakers for harvesting fruit and straw spreaders. One such invention was a self-propelled power hoe that was used to work soil close to trees and bushes. It was steered with the feet while the hands guided the cultivator shovels. Mr. Friday owned his own small plane and used it to deliver parts to his customers. If there were inadequate landing place, Mr. Friday would signal the customer to observe where his part landed by buzzing the property. He would then drop the part on his next pass.

Although David Friday passed away in 1988 at the age of 79, my wife, Linda, and I recently had the opportunity to have an enjoyable visit with Beverly Friday. She is the widow of David Friday. This 87-year old lady shared many stories with me as well as newspaper articles she had in her scrapbook. The visit I had with Beverly is something I will never forget.

Side note about myself—

My name is Terry K. Lockner. I live near Black Hawk, SD. I am 62 years old and retired. I grew up on a farm near Wessington, SD. I used to enjoy restoring cars but enjoy the tractor hobby much more because of the interesting people that I meet.

1/2006 - Reprinted with permission from the author. My sincere thanks to Terry Lockner.