Stuck on Struck Mini Dozers – Big Collection Focuses on Small Machines

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collection of struck mini dozers tractors on lawn
Jeff Malmberg has the largest pre-1990s collection of Struck mini dozers and equipment.
Jeff Malmberg

Since 1967, readers of Popular Mechanics magazine have been intrigued by one of its regular back-pages ads.

It promises the backyard do-it-yourselfers they can do the work of a contractor at a fraction of the cost with the Struck Mini Dozer. The DIY theme extends even further as the dozers come by mail-order kit that customers assemble.

Jeff Malmberg of Grand Rapids, Michigan, first saw the ads about 30 years ago and eventually found himself becoming the largest collector of pre-1990s Struck machines. Not only has the small company based in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, produced mini dozers, but all kinds of mini Jeeps, including amphibious and articulated models, tractors and even snowmobiles.

Malmberg has most all of them – as well as many that never went into production. Through his many search-and-restore projects over the years, he met and became friends with Charlie Struck, who founded the C.F. Struck Corporation in 1966 and has only sold his innovative mini inventions directly to customers from the factory, either by kit, preassembled or the plans only.

“I just like small stuff,” says Malmberg, who has a collection of 115 motorized mini pieces, about 30 of which are Strucks. “You can put a lot of it in a small place.”

1977 popular mechanics ad struck magnatrac kitAn ad from 1977 in Popular Mechanics for a Struck kit for its Mini Dozer, which had a variety of attachments available, including a backhoe.

Stuck on Struck

“What really drew me to it was the do-it-yourself concept,” Malmberg says, “go ahead and make it yourself.”

His first Struck purchase was a used early 1970s MD1207 mini dozer.

“I never bought any new equipment; it’s always been used,” he says. “The rougher the better, because it was cheap enough.”

He does a ground-up restoration on all his finds. It usually doesn’t take him long.

“Once I get going on a project, I'm gung ho.”

He keeps his pieces only for show. Once he gets them in top shape, he drains the fluids. He takes them to various nearby tractor events.

“They draw a lot of interest,” he says.

struck mini collection on shelves in storage unitOver the years, Struck has produced mini dozers, mini tractors, mini Jeeps, zero-turn mowers – even mini snowmobiles.Jeff MalmbergCrowds are attracted by their size, and some remember the Popular Mechanics ads. He does get some disparaging comments about the little Strucks.

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“Ah, you can't do anything with them,” they’ll say.

“My comment to them is, ‘You can build a road with a shovel. It just takes longer. It's a step up from a shovel.’”

He actually did some work with one of his Strucks. He leveled a backyard for a relative who had dug out a pool. He used the MT1800 Magnatrac dozer, which can also be fitted with a backhoe on the back. His only has the dozer blade.

For its size, he says, the performance was “fantastic.”

“Certainly it's no Oliver OC-3 or anything, but it can move dirt. I was very happy with what it did.”

(To watch a Struck RS1000 Magnatrac mini dozer in action, check out the video at the end of this story.)

“An Innovator”

Struck Mini-Beeps: MBA80 amphibious, MB1600 tractor/mower, MB-750 articulating in a lineJeff Malmberg's Struck collection includes the company's Mini Beeps: from left, the MBA80 amphibious, MB1600 tractor/mower and MB-750 articulating.Jeff MalmbergMalmberg first met Charlie Struck when he was using the company’s plans to build its six-wheel off-road vehicle.

“I couldn't go 5 feet without the belts burning,” he recalls. “So I called, and they put me in contact with Charlie.

“Charlie said, ‘That was the same problem we had. That's why it never went into production.’”

Malmberg explains that Charlie Struck is never sentimental about any of his inventions. He would come up with a prototype, place an ad in Popular Mechanics, and if people liked it, he’d build and sell it. But if there was no demand, it was on to the next project without looking back.

The company didn’t hang on to its older models. Over time, Struck referred customers looking for older parts and information to Malmberg. Charlie Struck also gave Malmberg a number of prototype machines to put together, some which never went into production.

“I've got many of them that nobody's ever going to get, because there was only one ever built,” Malmberg says.

Some of his rare pieces include the four-wheel Compact Tractor and the Big Job Tractor. Only 200 of them were made combined, he says.

He has the Mini Beep articulating Jeep, and one of the company’s first mini dozers built in 1968.

His favorite is a prototype tractor based on Ford’s N9, of which only two were made. He got his directly from Charlie Struck.

“Charlie told me he had this tractor; it was all in pieces. He wanted me to have it,” Malmberg recalls.

“So I went to the factory one day, and there it was sitting on the floor, all laid out like it was supposed to go together.

“He had a ladder there. So I got up on the ladder, took pictures of it. I got home, and I put it together.”

Malmberg calls Charlie Struck an innovator, always coming up with new ideas. Charlie Struck, now in his 80s, has since retired from inventing and his business. In March, the family sold the Struck Corporation to Greg Linsmeyer, who owns a fabrication shop in Niagara, Wisconsin, and plans to keep producing Struck equipment.

“The man is unbelievable,” Linsmeyer says of Charlie Struck. “He is a genius at what he created over the years.”

“He actually had a zero-turn lawn mower that he released back in the early ’70s that he had designed,” he adds. “The way he used the current technology of his time to build a product that everybody could understand and work on, I think that was a nice approach that he used, that he took with all of his products. And I think that's what made it so popular.”

Big Following for Mini Strucks

struck half trac tractorJeff Malmberg's rare prototype Struck Half Trac tractor.Jeff MalmbergThe Struck family decided to surprise Charlie Struck on his 70th birthday.

He didn’t know where he was going. His wife drove him to Malmberg’s home, where all of his Struck collection was lined up on display.

“He had never seen all his various pieces of equipment in one place,” Malmberg says.

Malmberg estimates his collection represents about 85% of Struck’s pre-1990s kit equipment.

“He's been very generous to me,” Malmberg says of Charlie Struck. “He just couldn't believe anybody had a passion for his equipment.”

The mini machines have become popular over the years, even though the company has mostly flown under the radar. Malmberg started a Facebook page where followers post their Struck equipment and seek advice for maintenance or any kind of general questions about the machines.

Linsmeyer has picked up on that loyal following and hopes to grow the traditional do-it-yourself market and bring down the price of the kits. The direct-sales model will also remain.

The company’s website is being updated. He adds that models are being improved, with some planned for industrial uses. His fabrication company serves the utility industry. He believes the mini dozer will be popular with some beefed-up power and lift capacity, to be used as a toolcarrier.

“What makes it unique – and they never lost that, and I'll continue that – is it fits in the back of a half-ton pickup truck,” Linsmeyer says. “That's very appealing when you're out remotely, and you need to carry something into the woods or down a power line.”

As for Malmberg, he’s keeping his eye out for new finds, but believes he’s got about all the vintage Struck equipment he desires. He plans to continue to serve as an information clearinghouse about Struck through his Facebook following and display his collection for the crowds.

“I love to show off and talk,” he says. 

Watch One in Action

To dispel the notion that Struck's mini dozers are just toys, check out the company's video below of a Magnatrac RS100 mini dozer: