The Farm Jeep at 75

It has been 75 years since Jabez Love introduced his hydraulic implement lift and made the Universal Jeep a player in the tractor market. We plan to celebrate the entire year of 2021 with a look back at some of the important early milestones, as well as exploring the Farm Jeep’s later years, with an emphasis on the CJ5 and the Stratton Hydro-Implement Lift.

Cover of Love brochure
Cover of Love Lift brochure and installation manual

Our hope is that 2021 will see us back at farm and Jeep shows and that we can resume our research into the history of this remarkable machine. Work is already underway on a story about the company that built the Stratton lift. It will be the center piece as we look at the last decade of the Farm Jeep.

Stratton lift brochure
Stratton lift brochure

To get us started, here is a short piece on the PTO (power take-off) option that was available on the first civilian Jeep.

To a Warm and Safe Christmas and a Happier New Year

It has been a tough year for everyone. When Dave at eWillys posted this ad featuring our favorite Santa Jeep (featured in last year’s Christmas post), we were reminded that there have been many hard times that have been part of the Jeep’s history. The ad, from very early in the war, is a clear indicator that the Jeep could provide comfort and joy even in the worst of times.

Click Santa to read the ad

This is where we would normally recount the wonderful things that have happened during the year and there have been a few. They give us hope that the New Year will be merrier. This year will be remembered for what we lost. There is no way around it.

One high point and the very lowest point of the year involved our friend John Ittel. In April, an article, Farm Jeeps At Work, was published, that featured the demonstration John hosted each year. Then came the terrible news that John had lost his battle with cancer.

Next year, we will dedicate oursleves to recording the stories and histories that help us remember the past and to celebrate the friendships that we have made.

For now, stay warm and safe. We are looking forward to a Happy 2021.

Barry & Evan

Jeep Trenchers

The Jeep-A-Trench was one of the first “special purpose” accessories added to the CJ2a. We normally think of the trenchers, as belonging to the “industrial” branch of the Willys Jeep story. But these special machines played an important role in agriculture and so we are giving them there own page.

Our friend John Ittel

Our friend John Ittel lost his battle with cancer. We don’t want to dwell on that sad fact. We would rather talk about all that John has done for us and for the hundreds of people who have been touched by his generosity.

John loved to talk about Jeeps, but not about himself. So we were happy when he agreed to share his story with us. You can read it here and we hope you will do so. John also loved to introduce people to all the things that Jeeps could do. Thousands of people have seen the working Jeeps demonstration held on John’s family farm, as part of the Willys Jeep Rally each spring. Barry wrote an article for the Farm Collector magazine about the demonstration. John didn’t really think he needed to have his name appear so many times. He wanted to make sure that his friends from the Willys Jeep Rally got equal billing. We knew how his friends at the Rally felt – they were thrilled to see him get the credit he deserved. The article is here.

The first time we met John in person was at a Spring Willys Reunion near Cleveland. We were admiring the Newgren “Farm Tested” decals on his lift. We asked John where we might find them and he said “I’m not sure. I had those made and I have some spares. Give me your address and I’ll send them to you.” He wouldn’t accept any form of payment, “Except maybe an ice cream sundae at some future date.” That ice cream sundae never happened and we suspect that we owed him at least a dozen.

A few years later John, another visitor at the demo, and we were discussing some Jeep part the visitor was missing. John said “I think I have a spare in the machine shed. Let me see if I can find it.” and headed off on his golf cart. He returned a few minutes later, dejected because he couldn’t find the part. The visitor, said he understood and would keep looking. John said “I just can’t find it now, I’m sure it is there. Give me your address and I’ll send it to you.” We are sure he did. We have heard dozens of testimonials over the years of similar acts. John was always generous with his time and was a gentleman in very sense of the word.

Barry was lucky enough to get to visit with John in late August. While it was necessarily a short visit, and they were following strict pandemic guidelines, Barry managed to get a tour of the farm and to visit some of John’s favorite spots in Hueston Woods. Before he left John said he wanted our help researching a brochure covering a late 1940s Jeep event that happened in southern Ohio. John and Barry talked about doing an article and that when John’s treatments and the pandemic were over, they would do a research road trip.

We plan on doing that research road trip when we get through this pandemic. John won’t be at our side, but he will be in our hearts.

Barry & Evan

Stratton Lift Builder Found (Us)!

And they are still in business.

Stratton lift brochure
Stratton lift brochure

The following note was received a few days ago with the subject Stratton Equipment –

“Stratton would sub their work out to a small fabricating shop on Cleveland’s Westside. It was Sedalack Machine then bought out and called E & K Products. I know this because E&K is the family business. My Grandfather, Dad and now my Brother Dave and Uncle Lee run the business today. I remember helping build the implement lifts, paint them red, apply the Jeep Approved equipment decal and then help crate and ship them… I was young but if I remember correctly E & K got the rights for the implement lift when Stratton left the business… Let me know if there is anything I can do to help or if there would be interest in possibly resurrecting some of those Stratton parts. Ernie Klimek III”

Stunned, I read the note twice. Was it really possible that we could finally answer all the questions about the last “Jeep Approved” hydraulic lift? Was it really possible that Stratton lift owners could buy OEM(!) replacement parts? So many questions.

First, I want to thank Ernie and his local Jeep dealer

I immediately responded that we were indeed interested, but I had to know first why Ernie had sent the note. Ernie replied that he had been in his Jeep dealer’s waiting room while having his wife’s vehicle serviced. On the wall were several pictures of vintage Jeeps, including one with a caption stating the “Jeeps were used on the farm.” He said to himself “Yes they were and I helped build the Stratton lift.”

Ernie went home and did a search on farm Jeeps and Stratton. He found our site and our incomplete Stratton history. Evan and I will forever be grateful to Ernie for taking the time to write us. It has ended 5 years of frustration. We knew that there had to be someone out there with knowledge about the Stratton Lift.

What happens now?

Ernie, who now lives near Seattle, has been in touch with his brother and they are looking for documents, including blueprints related to the lift. E&K Products made other products for Stratton, so there is a lot of material to review. E&K is a busy place these days, so it may take a while to determine what components they might be able to produce.

E&K Products Stratton files

Ernie and I are working on an article that will cover the history of his family’s business and the making of the Stratton Lift. Evan and I will be rewriting our version of the Stratton lift history.

We will also post updates on what and when E&K may be able to produce replacement parts. We just couldn’t wait to share the news.