The Empire Tractor Corporation designed a general purpose 2-bottom plow light duty farm tractor and began manufacture of the design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania starting in 1946. The innovative feature of the design was that the design made use of a number of war-surplus components from the Willys Jeep, including the engine. Jeeps had been manufactured in very large number during the Second World War. The war ended suddenly as result of the employment of the atomic bomb on the Japanese result. As the atomic bomb was kept very secret, contracts to produce war material including jeeps were not cut back resulting large amounts of material including jeeps and jeep components suddenly being surplus.
There were 2 models of Empire tractors. The first model produced, the Model 88 Empire, used mainly war surplus Willys 134 cubic inch 4 cylinder engines, Warner Gear T84 four speed transmissions, Spicer model 18 transfer case with high & low range, a PTO output with dual levers and Willys rear end. Some Ford 134 cubic inch 4 cylinder engines were used as well.
The later model 90 tractors used the civilian 134 cubic inch Willys engine with the improved Warner Gear T90 transmission. These models also used the model 18 Spicer transfer case, a single lever PTO output and Willys rear end. A chain reducer was used to lower the speeds to the rear wheels and individual disk type rear brakes were used. The tractor came with rear belt pulley, large steel deck area, tool box, headlights, rear light and spring-shock seat. Instruments included a temp gauge, amp meter, oil pressure gauge, starter button, ignition switch and motor speed governor “T” handle. The straight bar hitch pulled from under the center of the Empire making an overturn nearly impossible. With the high-low range transmission, speeds were such that the tractor could be used for low speed farm work or make a high speed trip to town for supplies. The model of the Empire changed from 88 to 90 about serial number 3,000 in early or mid 1947. Most model 90 tractors had stamped on the data plate “88-90” as the company was using up the extra 88 serial number tags. The major change between the two models was the switch from military surplus to civilian engines and transmissions.
The tractor was originally made for exportation in the Lend-Lease Program after World War II and perhaps 2,000 were sent to South Africa, Argentina and other South American countries by early 1947. The original plan was to export all production with no intent to compete with existing US tractor manufacturers. However this plan fell through and the company was left with a large number of tractors in inventory. In the end the tractors were moved at fire sale prices to distributors in North America. 6,587 Empire tractors were built during the life of the company.
The Empire tractors suffered from being too expensive compared with small tractors, and being unable to put all their power to the ground compared with larger tractors. By 1948, Empire had stopped production and the company filed for bankruptcy.