50 years of success

THE BOBCAT has become such a familiar presence at the modern farm that it is difficult to remember a time before its existence. However, it has been only about 50 years since a small Midwest manufacturing company named Melrose first demonstrated its compact loader for the public at the Minnesota State Fair in 1958.

This brief but eventful history of Bobcat is captured in a new book written by Marty Padget and entitled Bobcat Fifty Years. The book is a handsomely illustrated and briskly written history of how an obscure North Dakota company emerged as a world leader through timely innovation and marketing.

The author recounts why farmers could see the benefits of an affordable, compact loader for a multitude of chores. One person could now complete repetitive hauling jobs with a fraction of the time and labor previously needed. Much has changed, but this book demonstrates how one great idea continues to be the basis of 50 years of business success.

Price: $34.95. Contact Motorbooks, Dept. FIN, Box 1, Osceola, WI 54020, 800/826-6600, www.motorbooks.com. — John Kestner

100 years of tractors

FOR MANY farmers, tractors are more than machines; they also invoke fond memories and inspire brand loyalty. A recently published book by longtime tractor photographer and historian Ralph Sanders recognizes this emotional aspect of the machine's identity. Sanders' work, entitled The Farm Tractor: 100 Years of North American Tractors and published by Voyageur Press, also comes close to earning the elusive label of “definitive.”

This large-format, beautifully photographed book is perfect for general browsing. After a smartly written first chapter hailing the rise of the tractor as an example of “muscles to motors,” Sanders provides thorough histories of the major and minor tractors organized by manufacturer. Readers are free to peruse the text, enjoying the engaging mix of old advertising and color photographs of restored vintage tractors.

The photography is first-rate and Saunders' prose is clear. The chapters on such stalwarts as Allis-Chalmers, J. I. Case, International Harvester and John Deere are impressive surveys that clearly demonstrate how the most successful companies constantly innovated to meet future needs. Yet the reader is also drawn to those companies that are no longer around. These “orphan” tractors provide fascinating glimpses into agriculture's past.

All told, The Farm Tractor: 100 Years of North American Tractors is an excellent book for those who know that tractors embody more than metal.

Price: $40.00. Contact Voyageur Press, MBI Publishing Company, 380 Jackson St., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55101, 800/458-0454, www.mbipublishing.com. — John Kestner

Green machines

THE POPULARITY of the John Deere tractor has led to the publication of scores of books on the venerable machines of green and yellow. Entering this library is a new book simply entitled John Deere Tractors written by Scott Webb and photographed by Andy Kraushaar.

The book's compact design allows readers to find a specific John Deere model simply by glancing at the upper-left edge of the pages. Webb's brief but effective surveys highlight the major changes in Deere's tractor design, production and marketing. Kraushaar's color photography is also very crisp, allowing the reader to see how the machines have changed over the last nine decades. Specification charts summarize such mechanical vitals as engine and transmission for every major model.

Ultimately, John Deere Tractors is a good introduction to the subject. The reader can enjoy it whether at home or “in the field” searching for vintage Deere machines.

Price: $14.95. Contact Motorbooks, Dept. FIN, Box 1, Osceola, WI 54020, 800/826-6600, www.motor books.com. — John Kestner