Wagner to Big Bud
4WD Tractor Pioneers

Peter D. Simpson

Wagner to Big Bud, 4WD Tractor Pioneers

Peter D. Simpson and Jon Lundwall
Toy Farmer
Larry O'Brien
60 minutes

Manufacturers: Big Bud, John Deere-Wagner, Rite by Curtis, Wagner

Models: Several Wager models. John Deere-Wagner models WA-14 and WA-17. Big Bud, including the 16V-747, HN 320, KT 525, and 450. Curtis-Rite tractors, including the 2460 and Rite 750 "Earthquake".

Data: Video of tillage, seeding, and general operation. Interviews and historical perspective. Current usage of tractors.

Wagner to Big Bud, 4WD Tractor Pioneers describes the origins of articulated four-wheel drive tractors beginning with Wagner and continuing through the related brands. Wagner built some of the first successful four-wheel drive tractors starting in the mid-1950s. When they signed a deal to provide tractors to Deere it led to the end of Wagner, but led to the creation of Curtis and Big Bud.

Wagner to Big Bud opens with a historical overview. As the American West changed from cattle range to crops, farmers struggled to find machinery that could work the rolling hillsides and vast fields. Crawlers were used often, but farmers began experimenting with connecting multiple wheeled tractors to get more power to the ground. Footage of a tandem John Deere 820 shows what these early experiments were like. The story moves to Wagner tractors, with historical footage and interviews with former employees. The Wagner-built John Deere WA-14 and WA-17 tractors are explored with commentary from an owner.

When Wagner became a supplier to John Deere the former Wagner dealers found themselves without a product to sell. This problem became opportunity for two Montana dealers, launching new tractor brands. Dave Curtis built a number of custom tractors with the Rite name, and continues to do so. Interviews with owners and Mr. Curtis himself tell the story of these machines, including the Doerfler Farm's Rite 750 "Earthquake" with its V-12 Detroit Diesel. At the same time, in Havre, Big Bud became synonymous with the largest farm tractors in the world. Footage of the entire line of Big Bud tractors is accompanied by commentary from company owner Ron Harmon.

Wagner to Big Bud, 4WD Tractor Pioneers provides an excellent review of these early four-wheel drive tractor manufacturers. Interviews with key figures provide insight into those developmental years while owners provide commentary on what it is like to operate these massive machines. Current video footage not only shows the tractors in field work, but also maintenance operations such as the Big Bud 450 folding back its hood and cab to reveal the entire engine and drive line. Wagner to Big Bud is recommended for anyone interested in large four-wheel drive tractors and their development in the latter part of the 20th century.

Peter D. Simpson, the video's producer and author of several tractor books, welcomes your feedback at peterffa@dsl.pipex.com.

Disclosure: Toy Farmer provided TractorData LLC with a review copy of the Wagner to Big Bud, 4WD Tractor Pioneers DVD.

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