The January/February 2018 issue of Antique Power magazine will be available in subscriber mailboxes and on newsstands soon. Our latest cover tractor is a 1950 Sheppard SD-3, which is owned by Dave Gerlach of New London, Wisconsin. This diesel tractor with its searing orange paint is a striking beauty.
Resurrecting a Pioneer Diesel
Dave Gerlach saw a lot of potential under a snow-covered pile of 1950 Sheppard Model SD-3 parts.
by Karen O'Brien, photos by Al Rogers
When Richard H. Sheppard started tinkering with diesel engines in 1933, he may not have envisioned using them in farm tractors. Having graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the inquisitive Sheppard experimented with different configurations of diesel engines and was awarded several patents for fuel injection pumps. In 1937, he founded the R.H. Sheppard Co. and bought a manufacturing facility in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The company would go on to produce diesel engines, generator sets, steering systems, and farm tractors.
Sheppard’s first inclination toward farm tractors started in 1949 when the company offered kits to repower International Harvester Model M Farmalls with Sheppard 3-cylinder diesel engines. Sheppard soon introduced its own tractors, built as Models SD-1, SD-2, SD-3, and SD-4. The model numbers designated the number of cylinders. They were offered with wide or narrow front axles and in orchard and grove models.
Although innovative in the use of diesel fuel, the expensive, handcrafted Sheppard tractors were surpassed by the more economical, mass-produced offerings from other companies. Sheppard stopped making tractors in 1956, which makes them scarce today. The company produced 14 SD-1 tractors, 257 SD-2 tractors, 1,441 SD-3 tractors, and 231 SD-4 tractors, for a total production of just 1,943 units. R.H. Sheppard was purchased by Wabco Holdings Inc. in 2017 and continues to manufacture steering systems today.
Understanding the rarity of Sheppard tractors, one can imagine Dave Gerlach’s surprise in December 2006 when he read an ad for one in a Wisconsin paper.
“It was just by chance that I saw the ad,” he said. “It was 80 miles away, and I got my trailer and headed to upper Door County. It was sitting in a cow pasture and was in pieces—lots of pieces. What wasn’t rusted was broken, but it was a Sheppard. I dug up everything I could find and hauled it home in a snowstorm.”
To read more about the story of our cover photo, pick up a copy of the January/February 2018 of Antique Power magazine!
Other articles in this issue include:
- Cross-country Titan - Nate Bolduc trekked nearly coast-to-coast to pick up a 1918 Titan 10-20. (by Rick Mannen, photos by Nate Bolduc)
- A New Kind of Beast - The Reynolds-Alberta Museum’s 1922 Bates Steel Mule Model F helped farmers retire their animal power. (by Candace Brown)
- The Queen of the Flambeau Fleet - The Jacobs family’s 1953 Case Model 500 was a diamond in the rough that proved to have a regal lineage. (by Chad Elmore)
- The Quest for Prairie Gold - Restoring his Minneapolis-Moline Model ZTN brought Jerry Grant back to his roots. (by Jerry Grant)
- Canada Connection: The Essex Tractor Co. (by Rick Mannen)
- Gallery: 1947 Case SC (by William and Stephanie Pieper)
- Letter from the Editor: Horses, Fords, and Fergusons (by Rick Mannen)
- Letters to the Editor
- Of Grease & Chaff: Powder Puff 9N (by Ted Kalvitis)
- Photos from the Attic: IH Mogul (by Don Harner)
- Tech Tips: Pipe Dreams (by Ted Kalvitis, photos by Emily Erekaife)
- Tractor Show: Readers show off their favorites