Review: Allis Chalmers DD Model grader

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  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

The number and types of blokes we meet who are involved in the earthmoving industry never ceases to amaze me.

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Recently, I was on one of Ronnie’s Road Trips when I came across a really old Allis-Chalmers  DD Model grader sitting in a paddock. Not to be deterred, I opened the unlocked gate and drove directly to the farmhouse located about 500 metres on top of the furthest hill.

I was greeted by a ‘hippy’-looking fellow, greying braids and beard, laidback, cool as they come, and a face that expressed a permanent big smile.

Hippy by name and hippy by nature as it turned out … lovely bloke. As we sat down and exchanged yarns and a cuppa, my conversation turned to the old grader sitting across the flat in the other paddock.

"Well, that belongs to a mate of mine," hippy said. "He came here and cleaned up my roads before the floods came in and buggered it up again but he can’t get back for a while yet … he is having an extended holiday at the expense of Her Majesty."

Classic bush comeback if ever I heard one. No questions asked from me but we both gave each other a ‘nod and a wink’ and left the rest of the morning to yarn about other things.

With the cuppa and biscuits all gone, we turned our attention to the old grader. What a classic era of earthmoving machinery. However, I wouldn’t swap it for anything we have around today because you would need to be a grader driver tragic to contemplate making any big money out of this old girl.

Allis -Chalmers -vintage -grader

HISTORY

Hippy could not tell me much about the previous owners of the machine other than his mate bought it many years ago, did a bit of rural road contracting and clean-up work but somehow got on the wrong side of the law and is now enjoying his stint – albeit with a striped suntan.

Hippy could tell me that the machine was going and operational when his mate parked it up but, after a bit of a closer look at it … well, maybe not in the last few years anyway! Exposure to the weather certainly takes its toll up here in Queensland although, through the engine bay covers, one could see that it had indeed been running as there were a few old oil leaks that were still quite prominent from the engine itself.

Surprisingly, the wasps had yet to take over the secured cover of the engine cowling and, due to the lack of a cab and being completely exposed to the elements, there was little other covered areas for the pests to get a hold of.

Although we may be limited on the history of the little grader, we are not limited on the history of Allis-Chalmers or Tutt Bryant, the dealers and distributors in Australia of the Allis-Chalmers earthmoving brand. Allis-Chalmers tractors and their predecessor, Monarch Tractor Co., were represented in Australia since the 1920s but had little impact until Tutts took over and pushed the market – especially after World War II.

Allis -Chalmers -vintage -grader
Allis W Speed Patrol grader

It was when Leo Tutt took over in 1938 by importing crawler tractors, and then the W Model speed patrol grader, that things started to change in the affirmative. However, when the larger AD3 and AD4 Graders preceded the medium and very popular D Model Graders in 1947, that’s when it kicked into gear.

After World War II, Tutt Bryant retrieved Caterpillar, Buckeye and Allis-Chalmers equipment from the American Armed Forces in New Guinea by loading them onto the ship ‘Reynella’ and transporting them back to Australia for refit, refurb and resale. The American Soldiers armed with the task of selling and moving the war excess machinery were overrun with cigarettes of which they freely gave to the Aussies involved in the machinery purchases.

Knowing full well that contraband was illegal, and in true Aussie spirit, a few of the boys decided to run the risk with a quick ‘grab for cash’ by smuggling 100 cartons of cigarettes into the tube of a Buckeye Scraper. Fully repaired, and the scraper clearly marked with chalk for easy identification, the boys sat back and only had to wait until the machinery arrived in Australia to ‘make a killing’.

However, on the return voyage, the captain of the boat (although fully unaware of the ‘dirty deeds done dirt cheap’ scheme)  decided to charter himself through the reef only to run aground, decimating the front hold of the ship, destroying the cargo and the contraband. Bugger!

Allis -Chalmers -vintage -grader
Circle and Mouldboard

WALKAROUND

The diesel D motor grader is a small and compact little grader in comparison to today’s graders and was represented in Australia in two models; the D being the petrol version and the DD being the diesel version.

As one would expect, there are a few signs that tell us that some serious welding maintenance has been done on the grader over 50 years of heavy work. One area in particular is the front tubular-designed steel cross member.

It has a unique feature being the 10-inch diameter by three-quarter-inch thick tubular-designed steel cross member to strengthen the fork in the chassis at the base of the cab. When this dimensional tubular frame was not available in Australia, Tutts redesigned the frame with a solid 10-inch square steel billet instead; this gave more strength and weight over the blade, which proved really advantageous to the design and performance.

The local Aussie market took to the little grader so much that some innovative design was required to keep up demand.  The D Model was designed to have a five-foot-diameter circle made of cast steel segments – however, it was found that local manufacturer Comsteel made tyres of the same diameter using rolled steel for rolling stock. The local graders therefore picked up the outers left from the manufacture of these wheels. Cost effective, strong and locally available ... win-win-win.

It wasn’t the first or last of the locally designed improvements pushed into the D Model and credit goes to Don Nugent,  the engineers and others that continually searched for improvement during this time.

This little grader, although not used for some time, would (believe it or not) fire up quite easily with a new battery and half a day’s persistence. It certainly appears all there and complete, minus an operator’s seat and battery, as even the keys are still in the ignition.

The D Model Grader was on sale here in Australia from 1952 to 1974.

Allis -Chalmers -vintage -grader
Nice operator conditions with full air conditioning

FROM THE CAB

Needless to say there is no cab but you would be putting in a big day operating one of these in the Queensland sun without cover of some sort. But that’s how it was done in those days and the boys never thought a thing of it.

Plenty of all-round vision here. A possible problem is if you were standing operating and hit a log or rock you may actually ‘go overboard’. There is no operator protection or cold comforts here.

Operation of the rig was quite simple and effective for its day but underpowered in today’s market. The 50hp diesel engine slotted into the market and became very popular in its time, pushing the grader through a manual gearbox with a maximum speed of 35mph (after modification). The mouldboard controls were on the outside and right of the console; backward to lift and forward to lower; the six-tyne scarifier was the third lever and again back to lift and forward to lower; wheel lean was left-hand lever; and again backward to right and forward to left wheel lean.

As with all graders, you will have to ensure that the mouldboard and the scarifier positioning does not clash when adjusting. The controls are all hydraulic and telltale signs are evident that most of the hoses have been replaced many times over the years.

The dashboard is a simple as it can get with hand throttle, sparse gauges, stop lever and lights all positioned downward and to the right side of the operator’s seating; clutch and brake are floor mounted and foot controlled; and lights are fitted on top of the frame but either non-existent or broken off if there were ever any forward of the cabin and lower in the main frame.

Allis -Chalmers -vintage -grader
Engine bay and the six cylinder diesel engine

UNDER THE HOOD

The engine bay is firmly secured by two large swinging doors that keep out a lot of the day-to-day crap that’s just waiting for a free ride during the day’s work. There is nothing worse than having either an oil or diesel-leaking engine and finding the engine bay is filled with dust, leaves and branches so those covers are a godsend and believe it or not still in good nick.

The 50hp, six-cylinder naturally aspirated diesel engine pushes out about 50hp and is located over the rear wheels for good balance and weight distribution, and was a very popular grader of choice in its day.

Allis -Chalmers -vintage -grader

THE BOTTOM LINE

It would appear in today’s society that this little grader would be a dinosaur but in fact it still holds the same principles of graders of today. Technology has overrun us at all points associated with earthmoving equipment but the principles are still the same, merely becoming more fine-tuned as the years wear on.

Personally, I love the old girl as most of the old machinery I get to be involved with, either by operating and reliving my past life’s experiences or just living new ones, has a place in our history and should be preserved – if not physically, at least by guys writing about the history of the machines and how they evolved and performed in their day. This old girl is just another classic example.

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