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Old Iron: Oliver muscle tractors of the ’70s

Lance Phillips for Progressive Forage Published on 28 March 2018
Oliver 2255 with 3208 Cat diesel engine

The 1970s turned out to be the end of an era in farm machinery manufacturing with White Motor Company taking over the Oliver Corporation, Minneapolis-Moline and Cockshutt, forming White Farm Equipment.

However, some of the biggest, most powerful and best-looking muscle tractors produced during these years were wearing the classic meadow green and clover white of Oliver. There is a bit of a twist that throws in some prairie gold that we will cover later. The Oliver plant at Charles City, Iowa, had been producing tractors dating back to the Hart-Parr days.

In 1976, the Oliver 2255, with its 3208 Caterpillar V-8 diesel engine, was the end of the road for Oliver tractor manufacturing and was the last Oliver to roll off the assembly line of the historic Charles City tractor plant.

I am somewhat biased since these two Oliver tractors, the 2255 and G1355, are part of our collection, but it’s really hard not to be fond of these special machines. My dad, David, was the first to decide that we just had to have a 2255. It got really serious after we attended the Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors Association (HPOCA) national summer show in Wooster, Ohio, several years ago.

On the way home, I could tell the search was on, and about four months later, he had an Oliver 2255 with cab, front-wheel assist (four-wheel drive) and the 146 power takeoff (PTO) horsepower, 3208 Cat V-8 diesel engine. It was in good running condition, but we still had a lot of work to do to get it to where Dad wanted.

The cab was in pretty rough shape; it had an issue with the steering motor, and we had to add the three-point hitch as it was a bareback tractor when we got it. After locating a good, restorable cab and several other parts, the 2255 was finally headed in the right direction.

We still have a ways to go as far as finishing up some odd jobs and switching the rear tires from 34-inch to 38-inch. I really look forward to the finished product, if we ever get to that point.

The G1355 came along as a bit of a surprise. One Saturday morning, a collector friend texted to say that there was an Oliver G1355 listed for sale online just over an hour away from home. I thought there was no way a tractor of this caliber could be that close, so I called about it and set up a meeting to check it out. We went to look, and I could tell it was going to need some work, but at least it cranked and ran well enough to load itself.

I could tell that the massive 142-horsepower, 585-cubic-inch Minneapolis-Moline in-line six-cylinder diesel engine wasn’t performing like it should. It had an issue that was allowing diesel fuel to get into the oil pan, and it seemed to need some injection pump work also.

The umbrella seals on the shaft of the injection pump were bad, and the pump timing had been altered. I had the pump rebuilt while we had it off and installed a new set of injectors. With the correct timing setup, that thing cranked right up and ran like a champ.

One very interesting thing about the G1355, is the paint you see under the meadow green, which is the prairie gold of Minneapolis-Moline. Now, I’ve tried to reach out to a couple of fellow Oliver collectors to verify what happened here, but they were unavailable. My understanding is that sometimes farmers would raise a stink at the dealership about the Minneapolis-Moline version.

They didn’t like the color, so the dealership would convert them to Olivers with meadow green paint and different badging on the sheet metal. I can only guess that’s what happened to mine; it must have started its life as a Minneapolis-Moline G1355. This tractor was also offered as a White 2270, and was red and white. I’m not sure how many true Oliver G1355s were made compared to the Minneapolis-Moline version.

Something else of interest, is the G1355 is actually the same as the 2255 from the clutch housing to the back of the tractor. They both have the over-under-direct hydraulic-shift drive which gives three speeds in each gear, including reverse.

They both have category three, 6,000-pound lift capacity three-point hitches, as well as 540 and 1,000 rpm PTO capabilities. The cabs are very similar on each tractor, but an option this G1355 has that the 2255 doesn’t is the 38-inch power-adjust rear rims.

Olivers are definitely my favorite when it comes to vintage machines, and I enjoy being able to share my thoughts about the manufacturer that was, in so many ways, ahead of its time.  end mark

PHOTO: This is a great example of an American-made muscle tractor of the 1970s: the Oliver 2255 with 3208 Cat diesel engine. Photo by Lance Phillips.