How Funk Manufacturing Company Transitioned from Aircrafts to Powertrain Components
Today, Funk Manufacturing Company is renowned for being a worldwide leader in their manufacturing of transmissions, axles, pump drives, and other off-highway drivetrain components; but back in the 1930's the brothers Howard, and Joe, Funk were far away from manufacturing drivetrain components. In 1934 the Funk brothers built their first flying aircraft and subsequently built 60 more while working out of the back of their parent's grocery store. Finally, in 1939 the Funk brothers realized they needed more space, so they secured funding, and the Akron Aircraft Company was incorporated. But, just one short year later, a major flaw was discovered in their design, and they filed for bankruptcy.
Howard and Joe were bailed out by a couple from Coffeyville, KS, and relocated the brothers. It was around then that the company's name was changed to Funk Aircraft Company, and ultimately Funk Manufacturing, after the brothers. They continued the production of airplanes in 1941 and 1942.
During WWII, production was halted and redirected to producing parts to support the war effort. However, the production of airplanes continued from 1945 through 1947. In 1948, after aircraft sales dropped off, Funk discontinued manufacturing airplanes.
The First Funk Conversion Kit
Farmers wanted more horsepower during this time, so Ford made the 8N Series in 1948 with more horsepower. However, farmers still insisted it wasn’t enough, and they needed more horsepower in the 8Ns.
That same year Ollie Grover of Grover Equipment contacted the Funk Brothers regarding making a conversion kit to adapt Ford’s larger engine into the 8N. Funk Manufacturing engineered, designed, and developed the parts to connect the 95 horsepower, 6-cylinder engine to the original 8N transmission.
Ford continued to promise a larger, more powerful tractor, which resulted in the discontinuing of the 8N in 1952. This also resulted in the end of the conversion kits for the 8N. Records show that Funk made over 6,000 conversion kits for the 8N Tractor over four short years.
John Deere Coffeyville Works (Funk)
Ultimately, Funk Manufacturing was purchased by Gardner-Denver in 1969 and 10 years later merged with Cooper Industries. Finally, in 1989, Deere & Company (John Deere) purchased Funk Manufacturing and started designing and producing DF (Deere/Funk) powershift transmissions.
In 2005 Funk was renamed John Deere Coffeyville Works, although the name Funk is still used in some situations. John Deere Coffeyville Works designs and builds drivetrain components, including transmissions and pump drives, continuing the legacy of Funk.
Originally published 8/24/2021