Huber Mfg. Co. produced the Model B from late 1936 to mid-1943. The company incorporated many changes over this period to improve the tractor's design and quality and to reduce manufacturing costs.
By restoring five of these tractors, I could see that the company actually instituted value analysis projects to bring about these changes. The projects to reduce production costs included redesigns of the timing cover, foot brake, axle, transmission, and operator deck, while frame changes improved strength and quality.
Despite the initial investment in a good tractor design and subsequent improvement measures, Huber's sales were not good. Only about 250 to 270 units were sold per year through most of the production period, and those numbers trailed off in the last two years. Conversely, the large tractor manufacturers went into production with their streamlined models in the late '30s, and they sold approximately 30,000 to 40,000 two-plow models per year. According to a 1939 price book, the Huber B was priced at approximately $1,095, which is believed to be slightly more than the competition.
I believe it was difficult for Huber Mfg. to compete against the larger companies for the following reasons:
Pricing—International Harvester and others had obvious volume pricing advantages on materials considering the huge differences in the number of units sold.
Sales and service networks—International Harvester, John Deere, Oliver, and others had large networks with dealers and repair services in most sizable towns and cities. The key was "parts and service." Farmers did not have the time, tools, or knowledge to make their own repairs quickly and efficiently, and a busted tractor could shut them down for several weeks.
Engines—The larger manufacturers built their own engines. Huber had a foundry and probably made all its own castings, but the company always purchased its engines from other manufacturers, such as Waukesha, Buda, Steams, Midwest, Hinkley, Continental, and Hercules, as shown in the Huber Tractor logbooks. This would keep factory costs high.
The Model B was Huber's last attempt to survive in the farm tractor business. Dwindling sales and material and parts shortages due to World War II forced the company to shut down farm tractor production in mid-1943. Huber shipped its last farm tractor in September 1943, although it returned in 1950 with the Global model for export only. Approximately ten of these were produced before the project was discontinued. Huber continued to build road equipment, such as graders, maintainers, and rollers, for another 30 to 40 years.
In the mid-'30s, farmers were in the market for a machine that would pull a two-bottom plow, and most tractor manufacturers had good, established models in that size. At the time, the Huber Mfg. Co. of Marion, Ohio, was best known for larger tractors, but the company decided to offer a model that would capture a share of this popular market. Huber's design and development on the Model B were completed in 1936, and production started late in the year. The first tractor built was serial number 11941, and it was completed on December 3, 1936.
This model represented Huber's last tractor design to go into production, and it was its first true two-plow tractor of the conventional in-line design. Previous models had a smaller engine bore and were designed to pull three-bottom plows, and these features did not allow Huber's tractors to be competitively priced with other brands.
Huber Mfg. expended a considerable amount of planning and design work on the Model B, and the result was a compact, streamlined tractor with a turning radius equal to its own length. It developed 22hp on the drawbar and 28hp on the belt and had many notable features and available options.
This was one of the industry's first streamlined tractors. The modernized sheet metal—on the hood, side panels, nose, and fenders—was intended to improve appearance and marketability. Yellow lettering, yellow wheel circles, and yellow striping on the frame were decorative accents that were also designed to improve the tractor's looks. Only Oliver preempted Huber by introducing a streamlined tractor one year earlier.
Huber used a Buda 205ci 4-cylinder engine for the Model B. Its crankshaft was heavy duty with five main bearings instead of three. It was a flathead engine with either magneto or distributor/coil ignition.
Huber's model B was a tricycle-type for mounted cultivators. The rear wheel discs were convex to allow wheel spacing changes from 56 inches to 70 inches for cultivating by reversing the convex orientation for each wheel. The tractor featured a hand clutch with a pulley brake, left and right foot brakes, a belt pulley, and a four-speed transmission with a range of 2.2 to 10 mph.
The company sought customer acceptance by offering a choice of numerous options in the purchase package: full electrical systems with a starter and lights, wheel weights, a hand parking brake, a muffler, pto, 8-inch-diameter headlights, steel or rubber wheels, a power mower, a high-compression cylinder head, a canopy top, an orchard model (OB), a standard model (4B), and hand, mechanical, or hydraulic lift cultivators. Steel rims or rubber tires were interchangeable on standard wheels because of Huber's new design.
The color scheme for 1936 and 1937 was a dark green body with red wheels and a yellow nosepiece. In 1938, the colors were changed to gray sheet metal with red wheels and a red nosepiece. In 1941, the body and wheels were painted red and the nosepiece was yellow. The changes were probably meant to increase customer interest; however, by 1941, it may have been a combination of customer requirements and the economy of using one less paint color.
I became aware of the Huber B in the early '90s, when production had ceased more than 50 years earlier. I did not see any of them at the shows and auctions that I attended, so I decided to search for a few and try to restore them.
After a while, it became obvious that every Model B I found would be in bad shape. From 1994 to 1998, I acquired a total of five Huber Bs—all of them worn out junkers with the usual stuck engines, bad manifolds, bad rubber, and deteriorated sheet metal. Two came from New York state, two from Indiana, and one from Ohio. I was going to use one or two for parts, but within a few years I found an extra engine, radiators, fenders, wheels, a gas tank, a transmission, and other parts—mostly from Hein and Son Salvage in Mishawaka, Indiana. This allowed me to restore all five tractors.
I acquired all the valves and head gaskets from Tom Underwood at Parts of the Past in Lawrence, Kansas. Other items, such as generators, starters, breather tops, carburetors, and magnetos, were common items used on other brands of tractors, and I found them at auctions and parts swap meets. Even so, it took a lot of searching to find all the necessary parts.
All oil seals, bushings, and bearings numbers were determined from shaft and bore sizes, and then purchased from various bearing distributors. I made use of rebuilders for the magnetos, carburetors, pulleys, and steering wheels, and I used the services of others for re-pouring babbitt and rebuilding a crankshaft. The generators on all the tractors were changed to 12-volt systems.
This Model B restoration project spanned nearly 12 years. I enjoy discussing Huber tractors and listening to restoration stories. Let me know about your experiences or information needs. My mailing address is P.O. Box 208, Princeton, IL 61356; my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. A