The story behind Speedex and Strongland
I have received different corrections to the Speedex story. I was not around for most of the story so I don’t know who is correct. The history before 1997 is from the original Speedex website. I’m going to stick with their version of history. I have seen posts were people complain about my version of the history after 1997. Numerous people who claim to be in the know, have sent me their version. Unfortunately many contradict each other.
The SPEEDEX Tractor Corporation was founded in 1935 by Harold Pond, who is considered the developer of the first four wheel riding garden tractor in America. Harold Pond was associated in the late 1920’s with Stanley W. Shaw of the Shaw Mfg. Co. in Galesburg, Kansas, who fabricated walk behind garden tractors and outdoor power equipment from reclaimed motorcycle and automobile parts. Harold Pond, Elmer Pond and Glen Heilman all worked for Shaw at one time. These three dispersed to Ohio and Indiana to form their own companies and develop their own tractors. Harold Pond developed the Speedex line of tractors in Ravenna, Ohio. Harold’s brother Elmer and his son Ceicel developed the Wheel Horse line of tractors in the South Bend, Indiana area. Harold’s brother-in-law Glen Heilman developed the Garden-All line of tractors in Mishawaka, Indiana. Glen was married to Harold’s wife’s sister. These three, who grew up in Galesburg, Kansas, were responsible for many innovations in the Lawn & Garden Tractor Industry.
While Harold was working for Shaw he was assigned the territories of Ohio and Pennsylvania. During that time he developed the SPEEDEX walk behind tractor. In 1935 he founded SPEEDEX Tractor Co. and began making a riding tractor called the Model B SPEEDEX. It had tiller steering, a Briggs & Stratton Model ZZ air cooled engine, and the tractor utilized a Ford Model A transmission and a Ford Model T rear axle which was narrowed to suit the tractor.
The SPEEDEX Model B was the first riding 4 wheel garden tractor with an air cooled engine and pneumatic tires.
According to a letter from Mrs. Harold Pond: “When Harold brought out his first riding tractor, the SPEEDEX Model B, it outsold his walking model by far. He started a national advertising campaign on his new riding tractor and they sold like Carter sold pills. We were married in March 1939 and did not take our honeymoon until the slack season commenced.”
During this period Harold also developed a larger tractor, The Model FG, Farm and Garden, which used the Ford Model A 4 cylinder, 200 Cu. In. Engine.
In approximately 1948 Henry Ford called Harold and told him that he was competing with his tractor business and Ford would no longer sell them components. At this point Harold developed his own transmission and rear axle. which were in the Models M16, M23 and M25 tractors.
All of these early SPEEDEX tractors are highly Prized by collectors.
After 20 years of success and growth, Harold Pond sold the business in 1955 to Maury Foote and Jerry Stowe. Jerry was a school teacher and a successful potato farmer, specializing in varieties for the potato chip market. Maury, a graduate of the Eastman School of music, was a teacher, then a manufacturer of road sign hardware, then a structural engineer, fabricator and salesman. They further developed the line of garden tractors. They adapted a front mounted mowing deck which was attached to the front axle. This was the first four wheel riding mower in America. They continued improving their design and adding new tools and implements. Their production reached the optimum capacity of 1000 units a year and remained stable until they sold the company.
In 1969 SPEEDEX was acquired by General Combustion in Alliance, Ohio. General Combustion subsequently merged with Mechtron International which was located in Orlando, Florida. These companies were operated by the E. J. Elliott family. The company under their direction developed many new models and increased production up to a peak of 1500 units per year. They developed the first full floating mower deck design and later introduced the Model 832 which was the first diesel powered garden tractor to be manufactured in America.
In 1997 SPEEDEX Tractor was acquired by Trans Tech International, Ltd.
Speedex history until 1997 was from the original www.speedex.com from 1997. See the links section to see the original Speedex website. The rest of the story I recently learned and there are some gaps. If there are any errors please let me know.
Somewhere in here the Speedex name went to Mexico and Armstrong Company bought out the Speedex parts, and equipment. They moved from Ohio to Pennsylvania. They started the Strongland tractor Company. The Strongland tractors were based on Speedex prototypes. They used most of the same Speedex parts. Strongland made around 350 tractors. They were partnering with a company in Western Europe. My understanding is that the the goal was to get the tractors established and move them to Western Europe.
Strongland had some legal issues. My understanding is that they put to big of a mower deck under the 18hp tractors. To use the deck the tractor had to be run at full throttle. This caused the tractors to overheat, melt gas tanks, and vibrate pieces off. The problems were resolved in the 25hp versions. It did not help that the hydraulic pumps they used had a defect. When we talked to the company that made pumps looking for parts, they admitted their was a defect in the original pumps. They claim the current pumps have the issue corrected. Add this to a 10 year warranty, they ran into legal problems over warranty issues. The unexpected death of the owner forced the company out of business. Another company tried to revive the Speedex name back in Ohio, but it did not last very long.
Due to those legal battles the Strongland inventory set in storage for a few years until New Alexandra tractors bought out the parts to sale and salvage. He sold a number of the Strongland tractors. My dad purchased the remains of the Strongland inventory from New Alexandra Tractors in March of 2009.