Wheel Horse Company

Industry:       Power equipment

Fate:             Acquirred

Successor:  The Toro Company

Founded:     1947

Defunct:       1986

Products:     Lawn & garden tractors

Parent Co:    American Motors (AMC)


Wheel Horse was a manufacturer of outdoor and garden power equipment, including lawn and garden tractors.  The company's headquarters were in South Bend, Indiana.

The business was started in the two-car garage of Cecil Pond in 1946.  Pond began building two-wheel, self-propelled "Walk-Away" garden tractors that were sold under the Pond name.  Due to a naming conflict with another company, the company's name was changed to Wheel Horse.  The name not only evokes tractors generally doing tractive work with wheels, but also the connotation of a steady, dependable worker.  Pond's son Cecil E. Pond continued to develop and market the company's products.  The framework was typically simple angle or channel iron and various surplus motorcycle and automotive parts were used.  In 1947, a four-wheel tractor, the "Ride-Away" model was introduced for garden use.  It was also made from crude parts and without a hood for easy service access.

The demand for garden tractors was rapidly increasing as households with small gardens found them rather inexpensive, practical to use for a variety of chores, and they were economical to maintain.  By 1956, the business had become very successful.  The company began to build a range of small to large lawn and garden tractors, in addition to a line of riding lawn mowers.  A characteristic of the products was their standardization through the years.  the most popular model and year was the R-J58 Wheel Horse 1958, it came without a moving deck, but one could be added.

A new model was produced in 1958, which included a three-speed transmission.  This transmission is called the Uni-Drive transmission that Elmer Pond designed in 60 days. One tractor model was named Rj-58 and included a Clinton B-1290 or a Kohler k-90 engine. Rj-35 used a Clinton B-1200 engine with a belt driven transmission.  When equipped with a Briggs & Stratton 2.5 horsepower engine, the model of the tractor became RJ-25.

The attachments remained the same for the RJ series.  From 1956-1957 wheel horse changed the color of the wheels from black into an almond color.

The demand for these little tractors grew so much by the end of 1959 that they could not keep up with production. 

In 1960 the were significant style changes.  However, the engine location immediately in front of the operator and the 12-inch wheels stayed the same.  Two models of tractors were introduces this year: the model 400, with a 4 hp Kohler engine and the model 550, with a 5.5 hp Tecumseh-Lauson engine.  These tow models were known as the "Suburban" tractors.

In 1965, Wheel Horse was among the first to introduce tractors with a hydrostatic drive system, the model 875 and 1075 "Wheel-a-Matics".

To expand snow removal options beyond the dozer blade attachment for its tractors, the company also added snow blowers to its power products with the "REO" snow thrower line.

In 1968 Ranger was a high-end 6hp rider with big rear wheels, "husky front suspension", and featured a two-year warranty.

There were eleven models in four lines of lawn and garden tractors by 1974: the 8 hp "economy" A Series with standard 32-inch mower and electric or recoil start, the "compact" B Series with a four-speed or automatic transmission, the C Series offering four models (the C-120 and C-160 automatic, and the C-100 and C-160 8 speed and the C161), as well as the top-of-the-line D Series featuring automatics in D-160, D-180 and the D-200 powered by a twin-cylinder, 19.9 hp engine.

The business was acquired by American Motors (AMC) on May 24, 1974.

In 1982, Wheel Horse was spun off from AMC to Munn Investment Group. During this time some cosmetic changes were made, but frame and attachment design remained the same. In mid-august 1986, Wheel Horse was sold off from Mann and purchased by Toro.  Tractors were built under the Toro banner for the next two decades.  Under their new owner, economically priced Wheel Horse tractors shared the same pressed-steel frames, attachments, and other parts used in bargain-built Toro family equipment.  In fact even larger garden and compact tractors were "cookie cutter" units identical in construction to New Holland models built under contract by Toro.  The Wheel Horse name was eliminated from production after 2007.

The Wheel Horse brand has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in recent years, such that in 1999 the "Wheel Horse Collectors Club" was formed and has gathered annually in June at the South Mountain Fairgrounds in Arendtsville, Pennsylvania.  Owners exhibit their machines and participate in "Horse" trading.

Several members of the Old Steam & Gas Club,  own, display and pull Wheel Horse garden tractors. You can visit these displays at our annual Colony Square Mall Show in Zanesville, Ohio April 30-May 7, 2017. And the Muskingum County Fair in Zanesville, Ohio August 13-19, 2017.

The larger part of this information was acquired from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.