Panzer tractors originated with an engineer named Jim Clark. Jim worked for a precision instrument manufacturer named Ahrendt Instrument Company. Jim had just built a new house in the Washington suburb of College Park Maryland and he rented a walk behind garden tractor to help him with the landscaping.
Landscaping with the walk behind proved to be more work than Jim thought it should be and the tractor was not much help. Jim felt he could build a better product, so he talked to farmers, gardeners and members of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Maryland and with their help came up with a design.
A proto-type was built in 1953, but was soon scrapped. Jim redesigned a new model that featured a used narrowed Dodge or Plymouth automobile rear end, individual rear brakes and a belt tightener/reverse disc (Gledematic) drive system. These features remained as features of the Panzer throughout its existence. Jim's boss became interested in the tractor and thought it had sales potential so they formed a company called COPAR (short for College Park) to manufacture the tractor. A contest among the employees of Ahrendt Instruments was held to name the tractor and PANZER was the result. 1954 saw the start of production with about 350 tricycle Panzers built at College Park.
In 1955 COPAR moved to a refurbished plant in Laurel Maryland where it remained until 1960. Various models were built at Laurel including 4 models of tricycle and 4 models of the 4-wheel version of the tricycle. All featured 16" rear wheels and a 9hp Briggs and Stratton engine. Copar also introduced a light 4-wheel garden tractor in 1958. It featured 12" rear wheels and either a 4HP Clinton or 5 ¾ HP Briggs and Stratton engine. All College Park and Laurel tractors were painted red/yellow except the first model (all red) and the last (turquoise). Less than 10,000 tractors were produced in Laurel.
Copar was sold to Virginia Metalcrafters (VM) of Waynesboro Virginia in 1960. In 1961 VM redesigned the light tractor and eliminated the larger tricycles and 4 wheelers. All Panzers produced after 1960 were painted turquoise and from 1961 to 1963 all grills just read PANZER. Sales, quality and the number of attachments increased dramatically under VM ownership. Panzer became very competitive in the marketplace.
In 1963 VM purchased Pennsylvania Lawnmowers, one of the oldest manufacturers of lawnmowers in the world. Pennsylvania Lawnmowers dates back to the 1870’s. The company was renamed Pennsylvania Lawn Products in 1964 and the tractors were slightly redesigned and renamed as Pennsylvania Panzer.
1966 saw a major redesign to a square hooded model renamed the Pennsylvania Meteor. Early square hoods featured increased horsepower, a wide seat and one of the first hydrostatic (automatic) transmissions to be used on a small garden tractor. The price was just under $1000.00 for a tractor with no attachments. The Meteor with the hydrostatic transmission proved too expensive and so in 1968 the older belt tightener Glidematic drive returned, the name Meteor dropped and the Panzer name returned.
In 1970 Pennsylvania Products was sold to Schenuit Industries of Baltimore, Maryland. Schenuit also owned Jackson Manufacturing (Jackson Wheelbarrow) and the company became the Pennsylvania Products Division of Jackson Manufacturing. They also moved all production facilities to Martinsburg, West Virginia. All Panzers were discontinued and the new company focused on sheet metal riders and rotary walk behind mowers.
In 1971 Schenuit Industries went bankrupt and Jackson Manufacturing was sold in the settlement, but Pennsylvania Products was closed. Machinery in the Martinsburg plant was sold to A.M.F. (Homko) and parts, foundry patterns, blueprints for all Pennsylvania and Panzer products sold to a new company Dandy Sales, Inc. The actual number of Panzers built is unknown, but almost certainly was under 50,000.
This article was originally posted on the Dandy Sales website. With their kind permission it is here for your enjoyment!
Article by: Jim Haynes
- Dec 24, 2014 08:14 AM
- by GTTinkerer