Serial Number: FS131489 (1938)
This is my first tractor rebuild project. The purpose of this page is to share my experiences in the hope that others involved in similar projects might learn from my mistakes, pick up tips on sources of parts and information, and, hopefully, share their experiences and contacts with me.
|I was born in 1950, retired from the Navy in 1990 and am well into a second career as a computer consultant and network administrator. I was raised on a small farm in central Michigan and have many hours in the seats of a ’49 John Deere B and a Fifty-something McCormick Super W-6. I now live in a small village in Downeast Maine, with 25 acres of land, chickens, turkeys, sheep and a 1988 John Deere 750 utility as my working tractor. You can take the boy off the farm, but ….|
|Being a farm boy, I have a fair bit of experience in "shade tree mechanics" and know my way around engines and such fairly well, although I am by no means an expert. I am fortunate enough to have a reasonable, if eclectic, assortment of hand tools, the basic air-tools, an oxy-acetylene rig and a MIG welder. Finally, I consider myself most fortunate to have a garage large enough to allow me to leave the tractor in one stall until I’m done with it.|
I stumbled across this tractor parked in the weeds behind a house where I was doing some consulting. It was in sad shape, but appeared to be complete, and reasonably straight. The owner parted with it for $100, stating that it had run when he parked it 5 or 6 years ago. I picked it up on May 31st 1997. After winching it onto my trailer by brute force, I brought it home, shoved it into the garage and began the tear down. Here’s what I found:
The Bad Stuff
Front tires in tatters and one rim rotted beyond repair
Brakes frozen, engine stuck
Top radiator casting broken at air cleaner mount, bottom casting broken at both frame mounts Radiator cap missing
Left frame rail cracked at transmission end
No exhaust pipe, manifold rotted beyond repair
Head had been cracked and welded, block cracked at water jacket on left side and patched
About 5 gallons of water in transmission, crankcase okay
Jury-rigged electric start, motor on right frame rail, sprocket welded to clutch output shaft and a chain drive.
Clutch throw-out fork broken but brazed back together, throw-out bearing in pieces
Outer brake shoes broken at pivots, oil seals leaking, drum covers missing
Crank starting assembly missing entirely
Starting fuel tank on hood missing
Steering wheel covering (bakelite?) completely shot
Seat not original
Rear wheels/rims not original (appear to be from an H)
The Good Stuff
In spite of the water, the transmission appears to be perfect, with no evidence of gear wear, rust, pieces-parts in the oil or other indicators of expensive problems. Apparently, the water didn’t get above the sump.
The rear tires have so little wear, the mold flash is still present between the lugs. Just a little weathered.
The engine came unstuck with a breaker bar after two days of penetrating oil in the cylinders
Virtually everything came apart with no broken bolts or resorting to the "heat wrench". The only exception to this was the radiator, which is understandable.
The gas tank is solid and rust-free. The hood is dinged but not mangled.
Breaking Out the Checkbook
I know my mechanical skills are not up to rebuilding the magneto and carburetor, so off they went for a professional overhaul. The magneto went to Jack Chandler at Magneeders (email@example.com) and Clyde at Berkshire Implement (219-643-3115) did the carb for me.
The manifold was obviously beyond repair, so a I ordered a reproduction unit from Don Livingston at Rusty Acre (firstname.lastname@example.org). Don also came up with a front rim, pieces for the clutch/transmission coupler, a couple of valve-train parts and the brake shoes.
Tom Hoffman (email@example.com) provided the parts necessary to replace the crank starter.
A trip to the machine shop showed that the head was warped and needed valves, guides and seats. Considering that it was cracked and welded, I decided to try and find a replacement. I was fortunate to find a NOS head from Don Livingston (see above) for less money than rebuilding my tired unit. The NOS head was sent to the machine shop to have the cosmoline boiled out and the valves lapped in.
The news from the machine shop was no better for the block. It’s badly cracked between the #2 and #3 sleeves and the water jacket. Although it has been nicely repaired with pins through the webs, the sleeves must be replaced (they’re .012 out) and the machinist didn’t think the block would survive having the old sleeves pressed out and new ones pressed in. The good news is that the crank is okay.
Three months of posting ads on the ‘net and making phone calls finally produced a useable block from Tim Casson (914-855-9026). Tim is legally blind, but loves old tractors, and has restored several, two of which are on display in museums. What a super guy. I have yet to make the trip to pick up the block.
With the intention of playing with the counter man’s mind a little, I inquired at the local NAPA store about a rebuild gasket kit for the engine. (For a 60 year old tractor…yeah, right!) I just about passed out when he said he could have one from Boston in two days! Further investigation revealed that he also has sleeve kits (sleeve, seal, piston and rings) for $88 per hole, and most of the necessary bearings! Who’da thunk it?
Up To My Elbows In Grease
In and around all the above, I disassembled the tractor to the point that the transmission tub was sitting on jack stands, and literally everything else was reduced to component parts. From June ’97 to January ’98 I tackled the task of scraping, degreasing, sandblasting, priming and painting every part of this puppy. Also, I prevailed upon a friend who just happens to be a world-class welder to weld up the broken radiator castings and repair a minor crack in one hub. Details and Pictures
As of March 28, 1998, I have reassembled the frame, front bolster, hubs with new bearings, wheels with new 3 rib tires, steering, radiator, air cleaner, front and rear tank mounts, steering wheel support and rear wheels/rims/hubs. I used all new fasteners. Everything except the transmission tub and the engine has been painted.Go here for pictures.
My focus here is to rebuild the tractor as a mechanically perfect unit for light work and parade duty, not to restore it as a museum piece. To this end, I have decided to retain the incorrect H wheels and rims and the odd-ball cast iron seat. I have scrutinized every picture of an F-12 or F-14 I can lay my hands on, and am positive that this is not the original seat. I suspect that it is from a horse-drawn implement of some sort. Also, I used commonly available hex-head hardware of appropriate grades during reassembly. I know the square head hardware is correct for the period, but under the circumstances, I didn’t feel it made enough difference to be worth the expense. I would like to get the correct wheels on the rear at some point, if I can find a set.
|The Rest of the Story||What it cost (updated 10/98)||Where I got stuff|