1965 Cockshutt 1550 Wheatland
Even if we don’t know the term, we’ve all seen badge engineering at work. Take a vehicle platform of one brand name, change it up a little, add new paint and a different badge and call it something else. Typically, it’s done within one large manufacturer that shares a platform among several brands. The Chevy Uplander minivan, for example, was sold as the Pontiac Montana, Buick Terraza and Saturn Relay. Back in the day, it was also done with tractors but in this case, it highlighted the sad end of a storied tractor manufacturer.
James Cockshutt started in the ag business way back in 1870 by buying the rights to manufacture an American plow in Canada. The business grew and remained in the family with an expanded line of products. When the internal combustion engine age came in the early 1900s, Cockshutt jumped on the bandwagon by selling rebadged American tractors. They did so until after World War II when they fielded all-news tractors designed and built in their own facility, the 1947 Cockshutt 30 being the first.
Several other all-new Cockshutts were introduced through the late ‘40s and into the early 1950s and continued the expansion. Regrettably, that expansion came at a time when the ag market was contracting. As a result, Cockshutt stock shares, which had been soaring, plummeted. In 1958, a mysterious group of corporate raiders bought up all the stock and took effective control of the company away from the Cockshutt family.
The business continued on a straight course for a while but just after the ‘60s dawned, several really nefarious stock trades occurred that put the company in serious jeopardy. The end result was significant degradation of the occurred and the Cockshutt was bought by the White Motor Company in 1962. White had been buying up ailing ag equipment manufacturers with the eventual goal of using them to jumpstart a new White-branded line of ag products.
White bought Oliver in 1960 and Minneapolis-Moline in 1963, just a year after Cockshutt. Oliver and Minneapolis-Moline operated subsidiaries for quite a while but the Cockshutt tractor factory was almost immediately shut down. From there, White began a gradual homogenization of the three brands and the reutilization of each company’s dealer network and manufacturing facilities. Oliver had the most up-to-date tractors and facilities so many Oliver models survived the cut. Oliver was chosen as the “headline” name for the time being.
Cockshutt was a powerful brand name in Canada and it was utilized to sell tractors there. Painted red, Oliver tractors were rebranded as Cockshutt and sold through the existing dealer networks. In ‘63, that was the Oliver 660 and 770. Later other Oliver models were added, painted in the last scheme used by Cockshutt, a red belly with Harvest Gold upperworks. The same Oliver model numbers were retained. This was a full circle moment, as Oliver had been one of the tractor makes bought by Cockshutt for rebranding before World War II.
In 1965, Oliver began debuting an updated line of tractors, most designed and built in the Charles City, Iowa, plant. The Cockshutt name still had some power, so many of those new models got the red paint and the Cockshutt badge, though retaining the Oliver model names. One of those was the 1550, which debuted in that 1965 timeframe.
The 1550 was the smallest of the Charles City-built 50-series, a line that debuted in late ‘64. Some call it a beefed-up 770 and that’s not far from the truth. The Cockshutt 1550s were all in red, which simplified painting on the assembly line, with the badging applied similarly to the Oliver. It was in that ever-popular 50 hp range and it sold well as an Oliver and presumably as well as a Cockshutt. It came as a rowcrop, utility (A.K.A. rowcrop utility) and wheatland with gas, LPG or diesel-fueled engines. Oliver offered an industrial version as well. The rowcrop model came standard with a narrow front axle but an adjustable wide front was available. The utility had a fixed-width wide front axle that was set back to deliver a tighter turning radius on a shorter wheelbase 84 vs 99.25 inches. The wheatland used a heavy fixed-width axle.
There were a lot of reasons for Canadians to be unhappy with the way one of their home-team tractor manufacturers ended, and to be bitter against the south-of-the-border moneymen that caused it to happen. All that said, the tractors they got to replace the true Cockshutt built tractors were good units. In some ways… and Canadians please don’t burn us in effigy… better than the ones they replaced. The Cockshutt name wasn’t long to live, however. As White consolidated their tractor lines into one brand, it faded away. The last Cockshutt branded tractors are listed to have been built in 1975. So ended a great name but one that has not been forgotten, north or south of the border.
1965 OLIVER 1550 WHEATLAND
ENGINE: 6-cylinder Oliver-Waukesha
DISPLACEMENT: 232 ci
BORE & STROKE: 3.625 x 3.75 in
*RATED DRAWBAR POWER: 53.5 hp @ 2200 rpm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 16.5:1
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, 2-speed Hydra-Power optional
WEIGHT: 7,000 lbs.
WHEELBASE: 89.5 in.
LXWXH: 147.1 x 81.5 x 98.25 in.
FUEL CAPACITY: 27.5 gal.
TIRES: Front- 9.00-15 Rear- 18.4-34