The Cletrac Model R was the brain child of a man from Cleveland, Ohio, who went by the name of Rollin H. White. This man was born to the owner of the White Sewing Machine Company, which later operated alongside the White Motor Car Company then ultimately became the White Motors Corporation. Under this umbrella, brothers Rollin H. and Clarence G. White set their sights on manufacturing tractors. The name under which they operated again changed, this time to the Cleveland Motor Plow Company in 1916.
To be more specific, their tractor focus had shifted to building crawlers, similar in design to those created by C.L. Best. Rollin White himself owned a C.L. Best tractor and improved upon the design by adding a new type of steering Rollin White invented himself, giving power to both crawler tracks at the same time. The crawler he created would go on to be known as the Cletrac under yet another company name change, this time to the Cleveland Tractor Company.
Sometimes referred to as a "Tank Type Tractor" in advertisements, the Cletrac design was built upon until several versions were available, such as models H, W, and the Cletrac 100. The tractor that started it all, however, was the Model R.
The Model R was built originally with a Waukesha engine that was later changed to a Buda. This engine had two forward gears with one reverse gear and was billed as a "12-20 horsepower" thus it is sometimes referred to as the Cletrac 12-20. It was said that this tractor was able to plow 8-10 acres per day, chugging away on tracks built of flat bar and angle iron with controlled differential steering. This type of steering was revolutionary at the time, allowing for track speed compensation when turning without a loss of power. Production of the Model R ran for approximately two years with 1,000 tractors made, which makes them a rare acquisition in this modern day and age.
By 1920, more powerful crawler tractors were highly desired, and in 1933 those went on to become diesel powered. By 1937, the appearance was altered to give the tractors a more streamlined look. Finally, in 1944 the Cleveland Tractor Company was sold to a company by the name of the Oliver Corporation. Then, in 1960, the Oliver Corporations was sold, bringing the Cletrac name back under that of the White Motors Corporation.
It goes to show that when you have a great idea, it can be sold under any name, or multiple names. It is reputation and innovation that count, and Rollin H. White had both. With the creation of controlled differential steering, Mr. White made a name for himself, even if the name he worked under was frequently changed. A good machine is a good machine, no matter what you call it.