My Elec-Traks - The Idea!

I've compiled a real brief history of the G.E. Elec-Trak Garden Tractor here from the bits and pieces I've learned over the years. Over the years I've been able to contact many of the almost 300 employees who worked for G.E. on the project as well as former dealers and original owners.

We would really welcome any additions anyone can make to the story, especially those who were there and helped design, manufacture and sell these tractors. Please me if you have information, documents and pictures to add to this history. Your memories are more important than you think!

Chapter One: 1968-69 Product Design & the Business Plan...

The beginning of the Elec-Trak Garden Tractor really started in 1968 when General Electric demonstrated an experimental electric car the "Delta". The Delta had a top speed of 55 miles an hour with a range of 40 miles. It was approximately ten feet long and was designed to carry two adults and two children. The project was headed up by G.E.'s Bruce R. Laumeister. Although the Delta was ultimately determined to be impractical Laumeister realized the very things that made the electric car impractical were benefits to an electric tractor. The weight of the batteries was an enemy of the automobile but was an advantage to a tractor. Limited range was not a problem as garden tractors were rarely used for long periods of time and less batteries meant fewer recharging times.

G.E. Delta Electric Car

The G.E. "Delta" experimental electric car

After a few months of research and development, the birth of the Elec-Trak came virtually overnight. After approval to test the market for electric garden tractors in December of 1968, prototypes of the G.E. Elec-Trak were shown to dealers and customers in 1969 to test the market. The photo below was actually taken in 1969 at a show in Indiana. General Electric engineers began pulling together the business plan during late summer of 1969. By September 1969 the project took on the new name of the "Outdoor Power Equipment Operation" (O.P.E.O.) and was transferred from New Business Development group in the G.E. Research & Development Center to be a stand-alone operating unit of the Transportation Systems Business Division (TSBD) headquartered in Erie, PA. In September 1969 the new operating unit already had 40 employees. With Laumeister in charge, by early 1970 they had built the entire plant and had models going down the assembly line even though the original appropriation request called for a start up by late 1971! The long term business plan actually forecasted additional income from an electric sport vehicle as well.

The production facility in September 1969 was an empty high bay in a large industrial park approximately 200' by 200' in Building 702 in Scotia, N.Y. which still stands today. The only equipment was in a small tool room that had been set up with a couple of Bridgeports and an engine lathe along with related grinders, drill presses and other tool room tools. There were two toolmakers and an apprentice toolmaker about to graduate. Besides standing up the plant the prototypes still had to be debugged and there were still design issues that had to be closed. Joe Caruso was the Manager of Shop Operations who put in solid operating systems. The material handling system was similar to today's "Kanban" system. After the initial start-up plant improvements were made almost every month. By 1972 they had a state-of-the-art robotic paint line and a sophisticated assembly line that used the tractor shipping crate as the assembly fixture.

Associated Publications:
1969 Dealer Preview

Elec-Trak preview in Indiana, 1969

Click HERE to continue on to Chapter Two...