A BRIEF HISTORY
OF ECONOMY POWER KING TRACTORS
E. Turner, Sr., founded the Engineering
Products Company in 1946 and began producing small garden tractors
in his garage in New Berlin, Wisconsin. His goal was to produce a basic
tractor at a reasonable price, with the same durability as a regular
farm tractor. The timing of this venture was excellent, as the Office
of Price Administration (OPA), which allocated steel shipments after
World War II, gave preference to garden tractor builders. Also,
military surplus items were readily available after the end of the war.
Turner's tractor was
well received--especially with returning servicemen--and it was soon
necessary to move production to larger facilities in Milwaukee. Twenty-three tractors were built in 1946; by 1950, approximately 1,600 tractors had been produced. The Engineering Products Company moved to Waukesha (Wisconsin) in the late 1940’s or
1950’s, to Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) in 1990, to Mendota (Illinois)
in 1996, and finally to Jackson (Michigan) in 1999.
James E. Turner, Sr., continued as President of the company
until his death in 1977, at which time his son, James B. Turner, Jr., became President.
In 1988, the company was sold to the Sterling
Financial Group, headed by Martin Lebus.
Power King Products was sold
again in November, 1990, to Support Services International. At that time, the name of the company was officially changed to the Power
Inc., (Hart Carter Corporation) acquired Power King Products in
The final owner, the Yazoo-Kees Power Equipment
Company, acquired the Power King Products Company in February, 1999. Yazoo ceased production of Power King
products and retired the patents to
eliminate competition with its own products. Yazoo changed its name to Pug Power
in 2000 and filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in June, 2001.
Engineering Products Company began building tractors by buying and assembling parts produced by other
Engines, transmissions, wheels, tires, electrical switches, etc., were
Likewise, castings and machining were outsourced.
initial four-wheeled tractor was
called the Economy; it weighed approximately 700 pounds, and it could
The Economy tractor
was powered with either a Wisconsin AEH engine or
a Briggs &
Stratton ZZP engine. These engines each produced about six
horsepower--the Wisconsin engine a little more, the Briggs &
Stratton engine a little less. Later tractors were powered by Kohler
The Economy tractor had a six-inch, single-disc dry clutch and a three-speed,
transmission--both made by Borg-Warner and identical to those used in
the Willys Jeep. Tractors produced during the 1940’s
1950’s had Model A Ford automotive driveshafts and differentials, with
rear-axles. The company scoured salvage yards for the driveshafts and differentials,
and they were used through the 1960's, when an increasing scarcity
forced the company to purchase new Spicer units. The
rear-axles had bull-pinion gears which engaged larger bull-gears in
final drives. Early Economy tractors lacked brakes; these were offered as options in the late 1940's.
16-inch or 22-inch rear
rims were available; these were acquired from the
International-Harvester Corporation and were identical to those used on
Farmall Cub tractors. Eight-inch front wheels were standard. Early tractors had steering wheels connected to the front
with chain mechanisms; models produced from the late 1940's on had Ross automotive-type
systems. The tractors were unstyled, the only sheet metal being
surrounding the engines.
Economy tractors were outfitted with saddle-type seats
obtained from the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company; more conventional
metal bucket seats were introduced in the late 1940's. Economy Tractors
were painted orange--J.I. Case Flambeau Red or a comparable shade.
Five implements were available for Economy tractors:
a front-mounted snowplow, a ten-inch moldboard plow, a single-row
cultivator, a center-mounted belt-pulley, and an emergency generator.
the years, a variety of sales
methods were employed, including direct sales to customers via mail
through dealers, sales through distributors, and sometimes sales
combination of these methods.
Power King Tractor Company in
Milwaukee also built garden tractors. Power King tractors were
tiller-steered. They steered differently than other lever-steer
tractors of that period
the levers moved from side to side instead of forward and backward.
levers moved in the direction that the drivers wished to turn instead
opposite direction, as on other lever-steered tractors. In other words,
left on a Power King tractor, the steering lever was moved to the left.
Transmissions were the same as those used in Crosley automobiles, chain-reduction
used in final drives, and Power King tractors could
be outfitted with
either Briggs & Stratton or Wisconsin engines.
Hydraulic systems were options. The
tractors weighed about 750 pounds. Like
the the Economy tractors, Power
King tractors were unstyled.
1952, Power King tractors were
advertised as being produced by the Engineering Products Company.
the 1950’s, Engineering
Products offered Economy and Economy Power King brands; both
wheel-steered models were available.
As well as marketing its own its tractors as Economy Special and Economy Power King tractors, Engineering
Products tractors were
rebadged and sold by other companies. These included brands such as the Estate,
Country Squire, Red-E, National, Terramite, and Snapper. Some of these
companies sold rebadged Economy tractors until they were able to
own tractors; other companies built their own tractors but also sold
Economy tractors to fill a certain niche in the market.
regarding the company’s
production is limited, because the company did not maintain good
some records were later destroyed. Rebadged tractors rolled off the
line mixed in with Economy Special and Power King tractors. In most cases, the only
difference was in the names on the tractors. The tractors
assigned serial numbers in sequence, so it is not possible to
between Special and Power King and rebadged tractors by their serial numbers. This is further
complicated by the fact that the
company used up its inventory as it was available, so it was quite possible that an older-styled
have a newer serial number than a newer-styled one.
By the mid to late 1950’s, Economy
had hoods, grills and dashboards. Crosley T92 three-speed automotive
transmissions were used until the mid-1980’s. Also in the mid-1980’s,
metal bodies were replaced by fiberglass ones.
Power Queen was an Economy
tractor built low to the ground with the intention that
appeal to women. Power Queen tractor production was short-lived, as
the model did
not sell well, and relatively few were produced.
the years, the Engineering
Products Company built as many as twenty-five different model-number variations of
Economy tractors; however, only three had names--the Special, the Power
Jim Dandy. The Economy Special was submitted to the Nebraska Tractor
Test Lab in 1952 as Test Number 483 and performed flawlessly. The test
results are shown following this history.
Jim Dandy garden tractor was a
smaller tractor introduced in late January, 1957; it had eight-inch
wheels instead of the twelve-inch wheels used on Power King tractors.
Dandy initially was powered by a 9hp Wisconsin engine. By 1961, this
replaced by a Briggs & Stratton engine. During the mid 1960’s,
engine was replaced by a 10hp one, and by the end of the 1960’s, the
engine in turn was replaced by 12hp and 14hp Kohler engines.
1960, Power King garden tractors
had 9hp engines; they were available in two models—the 8-16 and the
variations were based on different-sized rear wheels. After
the mid 1960’s, 10hp, 12hp and 14hp engines
followed. By the end of the 1960’s, two trim styles were offered—the
and the Deluxe.
the 1970’s, four-digit numbers were
used to designate the various models; these numbers were based on
and horsepower. During
the course of the
1970’s, Engineering Products’ models included the 1612, 1614, 1616,
2414, 2416, and 2418. All models were completely gear-driven, with
transmissions. A second transmission was added to some tractors; this
in nine forward and three reverse speeds. At the time when the company
the four-digit numbering system, it also adopted the name Power King
for all of
its models. It was felt that the name Economy implied that the tractors
cheap and inferior.
Until 1974, the Power King Special
model had hand brakes, no lights or electric starters, and no sheet
the drive train—simply a tube around the drive shaft. Deluxe models had
outboard-mounted headlights, electric starters, and additional
metal. Styled tractors were introduced in 1974; production actually
1973. Hydraulic lifts, three-point hitches and dual transmissions were
available as options.
the late 1970's-early 1980's, Economy tractors reflected James E.
Turner's philosophy of consistant quality and gradual change.
Purchasers of Economy tractors appreciated their basic, no-nonsense
design, and their durability and reliability. After Turner's son, James
B. Turner, assumed control of the company, he had to deal with a
changing market and different demands. Potential customers wanted
automotive styling and enhanced comfort and convenience features. In
mid-1980’s, Economy tractors were restyled, and sheet metal was
replaced by fiberglass. Unfortunately, the Model 1200 Series Power King
tractors with fiberglass bodies
introduced in 1982 proved to be less durable than the older,
a three-year period, from 1982 to 1985, the Engineering Products
Company changed it's entire line in an effort to keep up with the
times. The company began experimenting with hydrostatic transmissions
in 1983. By 1985, the popular 1600 and 2400 series were redesigned to
incorporate the fiberglass styling of the 1200 series. In addition,
power steering and dashboards with instruments were available.
these changes did not stimulate sufficient customer interest, and
Engineering Products found itself at the verge of bankruptcy. The
company was sold to the Sterling Financial Group, headed by Martin
Lebus, in 1988. Sterling introduced the first hydrostatic transmission
in the Power King Model 1620 in 1989; however, this did not result in
sufficient sales to make the company profitable, so it was sold to
Support Services International, Inc., in 1990.
International made a valiant effort to revitalize the company. In 1990, it was moved from Waukesha to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, the name of the company was changed to the Power King Products Company, a new management team was organized, and the product line was redesigned and enhanced. The Command
Series was released in 1994; features included a more stream-lined body made of composite
resin, dash-mounted hydraulic controls for easy access, and a new hood
style for easy maintenance. Kohler engines continued to be used.
shifting markets resulted in the sale of Power King Products to HCC,
Inc., (formerly Hart Carter Corporation) in February, 1996--the 50th
anniversary of the Engineering Products/Power King Products Company. At
that time, the company was moved to Mendota, Illinois. Although HCC,
Inc., continued to market quality Power King tractors, sales weren't
deemed sufficient to support the company, and Power King Products was
sold to the Yazoo-Kees Power Equipment Company in February, 1999.
Although the Yazoo-Kees Power Equipment Company established a Power King Division at its plant in Jackson, Michigan, it never produced a single tractor. Yazoo ended the Power King Division and retired its patents to eliminate competition with its own product line. Yazoo changed its name to Pug Power in 2000 and filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in June, 2001.
A wide variety
of implements were
available for Economy and Power King tractors, including belly-mount
rotary mowers, plows, cultivators, planters, roto-tillers, harrows,
blowers, front blades, rear blades, log splitters, buzz saws, rakes,
loaders, back hoes, etc. Cabs
available for winter-time use.