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During a study of paint colors used on American farm tractors, I found some interesting information regarding the Battleship Gray used on several makes of tractors, manufacturing machinery, tools, park benches, etc. I had always heard the term “government surplus” when referring to this color, but never really understood exactly what it meant. Post World War 1, during peace time, world nations attempted to control Naval Arms Races by enacting an Arms Reduction Treaty in 1922. The resulting Washington Naval Arms Reduction Treaty caused a building holiday that halted the construction of thirteen battleships, and lasted ten years through 1932. Many of these incomprehensibly vast vessels were over 700 feet long and weighed in excess of 50,000 tons. The government had already issued enough Battleship Gray paint to cover 10,000 feet, and 700,000 tons of ships that would not get constructed! Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Co. had been painting their tractors this color prior to the treaty, but now they could purchase Battleship Gray in large quantities for pennies on the dollar.


Twin City tractors appear to be Battleship Gray through 1932 when the Arms Reduction Treaty was canceled. Tractor production was extremely limited in 1933. In 1934 the new Model JT was introduced along with updated KTA, MTA, FTA, and appeared in darker shades of gray from unknown suppliers through 1938. A tiny fraction of late production JT, KTA and MTA tractors may have been painted Prairie Gold from the factory. The heavyweights have a red chassis and wheels, silver radiators and green power units. The automotive styled 16-30 had a red chassis and wheels. Power units were green and the body is shown in original photos and literature as being red on some and gray on others. You may contact me for details on these models.

AVAILABLE PAINT: Battleship Gray became an industry standard and is still available from Coronado Paints in a line 31 rust scat # 109. This affordable alkyd base enamel has been improved with polyurethane and is a good budget choice. Call 800-883-4193 for a dealer in your area.

Battleship Gray is also available from Benjamin Moore & Company. They have a line of industrial maintenance coatings that should also be a good budget choice. Their P22 Urethane Alkyd Gloss enamel comes in a Battleship Gray #75. To find a dealer in your area try benjaminmoore.com

Another popular choice for early Twin City is PPG Ditzler #31953 City Of Montreal Gray. This is an expensive, high grade, acrylic enamel.

The Minneapolis Moline Collectors Club assembled a paint committee in an effort to analyze surviving original MM-TC paint colors. Many hours were spent by their panel to duplicate original paint colors that are approved by a large group of enthusiasts. Finally we can all start painting our Moline and Twin City tractors the same color!

Sherwin Williams has formulated the only known source for 1934 through 1938 MM-Twin City tractors. Ask for MM-TC Gray. Contact them at EquipmentColor.com or call 623-931-2421

HOW IT HAPPENED: I was contacted by the Minneapolis Moline club Paint Committee to help duplicate gray paint for TC restorations. I have invested a great deal of time in the past looking for and comparing gray TC paint samples. It is well known that paint quality and continuous supply of matching color was very poor during the entire time that TC tractors were produced. For this reason original paint samples do not always match exactly.

For a brief period some of the MM-Twin city models have original appearing gray paint with a noticeable blue cast to it. This color was not chosen to be duplicated because it is not constant. TC Gray available from Sherwin Williams was color matched from a large group of new old stock parts and well preserved original tractors with surviving original paint samples on them. This color was fairly consistent and shows up most of the time from 1934 through 1938. Majority rules when you can only have one color to suit collectors’ needs.

Battleship Gray was very easy because it became an industry standard many years ago and is still used today.


DECALS:
The decals for all models of Twin City and MM-Twin City tractors are available in a good quality die-cut vinyl. Decal sets for the heavyweights are rarely needed. There are a couple of sources that retained patterns for future references. The popular large red TC logo that was used from 1918-1934 comes in two styles. 1918-1922 had the “Twin City” letters written in scripture. Later versions were printed in capital block letters. It is difficult to tell exactly when this change took place, but the likely answer is approximately 1923. 1934 through 1938 MM-Twin City FTA, KTA, MTA and JT tractors had an MM shaped Minneapolis Moline–Twin City decal in red, white and black. You may contact me for details on any of these.

Twin City Tractor Paint Chart
(Revised 1-11-14)
Year Model   Notes:
1918 - 1926
1920 - 1926
1926 - 1935
1926 - 1935
1926 - 1935
12-20 TY
20-35 AT
17-28 TY
27-44 AT
21-32 FT
Battleship Gray
Battleship Gray
Battleship Gray
Battleship Gray
Battleship Gray
3
3
3, 4
3, 4
3, 4
1929 - 1934
1930
1930 - 1934
1934 - 1938
1934 - 1938
1935 - 1938
1934 - 1937
1936 - 1937
1936 - 1937
KT
LT
MT
MTA
KTA
21-32 FTA
JT
JT Standard
JT Orchard
Battleship Gray
Battleship Gray
Battleship Gray
MM - TC Gray
MM - TC Gray
MM - TC Gray
MM - TC Gray
MM - TC Gray
MM - TC Gray
3
3
3
1, 2, 3
1, 2, 3
1, 2, 3
2, 3
3
3

Notes: 1. 1938 tractors had cherry red wheels.
2. A few late 1937, '38 tractors may have been PG1*
3. Red lettering on radiator tanks and PTO covers.
4. Late 1934, '35 tractors may have been the darker gray shade     known as MM-TC gray.

Tractor production had droppped sharply by 1933. The exact date of color change from lighter Battleship Gray to new suppliers of darker MM-TC Gray is not clear. Some models may have been either color during this transitional period.

*PG1 (note #2) refers to Prairie Gold #1. It is the first in a series of yellowish gold colors used on Minneapolis Moline tractors from 1937 through 1947.


Email for more info or comments: rustywheel@deskmedia.com

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