Call it a restart, a resurrection, a death-bed career change. Whatever, call it odd. Allis-Chalmers, the former $2-billion manufacturer of such machinery as farm tractors and diesel engines, is, for all intents and purposes, a new business. Its new product: women's shoulder pads.

The Milwaukee giant filed for Chapter 11 protection in 1987, sold off just about all its assets, and metamorphosed last year into a sliver -- 1/625 -- of its former self: 50 employees and $3.2 million in revenues from its one remaining equipment-repair operation.

The company's biggest "asset," however, remained $371 million in net operating loss carryovers, good to offset future profits. With a fresh crop of investment money, the new persona of Allis-Chalmers went hunting for profitable ventures to acquire. First stop: B.R.B. Industries, in Hoboken, N.J., a $7.6-million manufacturer -- of clothing shoulder pads and stuffing for bras.

"New management says it doesn't matter what the product or service is, as long as it looks like a good investment," says A-C spokesman Dennis Thisted. "This is different, certainly." Certainly.

-- Leslie Brokaw