The family car was at times the truck and tractor

Mom's car was not off limits when sheep and ducks needed to make it to market.

The 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX "comfortractor" was not one the author's father could afford upon its release.
Source / Wikimedia Commons, Trekphiler

Minneapolis Moline executives thought they had a huge hit on their hands when they introduced the 1938 Moline UDLX tractor-car. More than 12,000 farmers gathered at its unveiling.

Minneapolis Moline , a Minnesota-based company, had a solid reputation as a tractor maker and thought the UDLX and its innovations would be the thing to increase market share.

It was billed as a "comfortractor" equally good for field work as going to church. It was constructed using a tractor chassis and included a cab, fenders, dome light, heater/defroster, rearview mirror, radio, clock, and a jump seat for an additional passenger. As a tractor, its top speed was approximately 20 mph and as a car about 40 mph.

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The reasoning was sound — a tractor that could be used to take the wife to church. In its promotion, Moline urged farmers to park their cars and pickups and use the UDLX for all transportation needs after purchase.

Other manufacturers had considered marketing a similar product for several years, but Moline was the only one who took the plunge.


The UDLX failed with only about 125 built.

The main roadblock was that the model was more expensive than tractors with similar horsepower. The UDLX price tag was $1,900 and a comparable John Deere tractor sold for $1,000 and a Ford sedan could be had for $725. Price was important for farmers who were just beginning to escape the Great Depression and many had grown used to purchasing barebones, build your own tractor making kits that were powered by car engines.

Dad certainly couldn’t afford a UDLX — and in any case used the family car for dual purposes. When calves or coal was purchased, the backseat was taken out. It took some getting used to. A car in winter that hauled didn’t necessarily smell bad until the heater warmed the interior.

Despite Dad being a life-long farmer, he never owned a pickup.

My brother owned a basic Studebaker pickup that I used to haul hog feed from the local cooperative elevator. It was equipped with fancy gauges and nobs, which were impressive. However, my brother insisted that it was nothing more than a hunk of junk.

He eventually moved on to a small and less expensive small pickup of the sort that were popular following the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970s. He drove it until the rust took over its body, and then gave it to me.

It served me well until the floorboards rusted to such an extent the road could be seen beneath my feet. The fear was our two young girls would fall through them.

It was at this moment consideration was given to purchase a pickup. Kathy — to her credit — balked at the notion. She thought a van would be a better option.


We purchased one and I was left with a compact car. The car was nice but not much good for hauling a lamb to the butcher. I loaded the animal in the car, drove to town and bought gas.

It was amazing how many people in our small town saw the lamb and soon enough I grew tired of hearing jokes about it.

A pickup crossed my mind again when a dozen ducks were to be taken to be dressed. They were tossed in the backseat of the good car and secured as best as possible.

It was done without her knowledge and made worse when a few unruly ducks escaped restraint. Although convinced that Kathy would be none the wiser the next day, she returned complaining about an awful smell in her car.

It’s possible you might have hit a skunk, I said while hoping the explanation might pacify her. It didn’t take her long to realize the skunk in question was her husband.

None of it would have happened if I owned a pickup or a UDLX.

Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.

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