With this, we will have covered three of the four Sheppard tractor models built from 1949 to 1956. We covered the SD-3 in the March 2016 issue. The super low production SD-1 was presented in the October 2020 issue and here is the SD-2. Once we find an SD-4, we’ll hit you with that one to complete Sheppard’s history building tractors.
Engine Builder By Trade
We won’t cover the entire Sheppard story again. You can read the details in earlier stories on the SD-1 and SD-3 online at the links below. Just to overview it, Richard Sheppard designed and began manufacturing diesel engines starting in 1937 and was soon manufacturing engines from 5 to 100 horsepower with one to six cylinders. They were mainly intended as stationary or marine engines but R.H. Sheppard Company was happy to sell engines for any purpose and they were adaptable to most anything you could imagine.
On to Tractors
World War II broadened Sheppard’s manufacturing footprint considerably and after things wound down, the engineering team looked hard at the agricultural market. Their first foray there was a repower kit for the very popular International Harvester Farmall M tractors. In 1948, you could get a kit to install the Sheppard three-cylinder, 188ci diesel into the M. Strangely, because the M was offered with an optional diesel, it was a popular tractor for such conversions. Several engine manufacturers did the same thing, including Cummins. Sheppard didn’t sell many of the $1200 kits.
Sheppard one-upped himself in 1949 by debuting the first of a new three tractor lineup. The one-lunger SD-1 was the bottom of the line but after the ‘49 intro, it soon became clear it wasn’t going to fly and was quickly discontinued. The SD-2 (2-cylinder) and SD-3 (3-cylinder) turned out to be the “meat and taters.” The SD-4 (4-cylinder) came along later.
Post World War II wasn’t a great time to start a tractor company but a bunch of small tractor manufacturers sprang up anyway. Sheppard was one of a plethora of small “indie” companies but they were the only one with an all-diesel lineup. Their tractors were better than most of the other indies and comparable to parts of the big guy lineups. They had a shot…but timing and some mismanagement kept them from the success the tractors deserved.
The uniqueness of the Sheppard line attracted a fair number of dealers early on but most of them were small. To avoid being stiffed by “here-today-gone-tomorrow” small businesses, Sheppard had a strict agreement that essentially required the tractor to be paid for in full before it was shipped, including the required floor models. On top of that, the retail prices for the SD line were above what the market would easily bear for tractors in their class. Another obstacle Sheppard faced, maybe the biggest one, was the relatively low level of diesel acceptance in the ag market at the time. That acceptance had grown during the war due to many farmers and future farmers being exposed the diesels in the military, but ‘49 and ‘50 were slow, transitional years for the acceptance of diesel powered tractors in the ag market.
The Sheppard SD-2
The SD-2 was intended to be the middle entrant in an initial three tractor lineup. The Sheppard engines were modular and shared a common 4 x 5-inch or 4.25 x 5-inch bore and stroke. The SD-2 had the Model 13E engine with a 4.25 x 5-inch bore and stroke, displacing 142 cubic inches and making 32 horsepower at 1650 rpm on the flywheel. Sheppard tractors were not successfully tested at Nebraska. One historical source claims an SD-4 was sent for tests but it did not make the advertised power and was withdrawn.
Sheppards were built with many outsourced parts, the final drive being the main one. Used for both the SD-2 and SD-3, it was developed by Wisconsin Axle (Timken) and was nearly identical to the unit used in the Cockshutt 30 tractors. It was a good unit and included a 2-speed range box that offered 8 forward speeds and 2 reverse, plus a live PTO (rare in the day). A side-mounted belt pulley was optional.
The SD-1 was available with wide or narrow front axles. Hydraulics were on the options list, as a three point hydraulic hitch and a lighting system. You didn’t get a whole lot of extras for the base $2695 price tag. One industrial style SD-2 was built and equipped with a loader. Sheppard also had a small selection of tillage tools and implements, some designed and built in house and some sourced outside the company.
The Sheppard Lineage
R.H. Sheppard discontinued building tractors in 1956 after having built 1,608 units, including only 212 SD-2s. The SD-3 was the most successful model, with 1,209 built. The SD-4, built from ‘54 to ‘56, 177 made, was the best and most modern Sheppard. The SD-4 was offered with power steering and that development coincided with Sheppard’s entrance into that realm of manufacturing. In 1957, they moved into building power steering systems as the primary form of manufacture and that took over the company. They are still in business building steering systems for trucks and tractors.
1949 Sheppard Diesel SD-2
Engine: 2-cylinder IDI, Sheppard 13E
Displacement: 141.7 ci
Bore & Stroke: 4.25 x 5 in.
Advertised Flywheel Power: 32 hp @ 1650 rpm
Advertised Drawbar Power: 24 hp @ 1650 rpm
Compression Ratio: 22:1
Transmission: 4-speed x 2
Tires: Front- 6.00-16
Rear- 11 x 38
Weight: 5,100 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 15 gal.
Top Speed: 10 mph