The Old Rectory, Ashbrittle, NR Wellington, Somerset, England
I thought that others might be interested in my recent experiences following the purchase of another Cletrac Crawler tractor added to my exclusively Cletrac collection here in England.
The first photograph shows the tractor on a half-height container in the docks at Manchester, England, and the other photograph shows the tractor as new outside the Cleveland, Ohio plant in 1930.
It was shortly after placing a wanted ad in the G.E.M. that I had a letter from Bill Buffington of Willard Equipment, Willard, Ohio, who also advertises in your magazine, stating that they had a Cletrac 80. Following that a few Polaroid pictures were sent over and a deal was agreed to include delivery to the docks in England.
At this point I want to express most warmly my appreciation and faith in all you guys 'across the pond' and particularly everybody at Willard Equipment. You can imagine that buying a tractor in another country presents enormous problems and can result in terrible hassels and to the unscrupulous operator presents an ideal opportunity for me to be 'ripped off.' Bill Buffington of Willard Equipment could not have been more helpful, and everything he has said about the tractor proved to be correct. They all worked extremely hard to deliver the tractor to the docks at short notice to catch a sailing to England. They also were extremely careful to see that all small items were tied down so that they did not fall off in shipment.
Indeed, I may say that throughout my shipping of Cletracs to Great Britain I have always experienced the most tremendous amount of goodwill and help when dealing with people out in the United States.
You can imagine the excitement and how slowly the time went by while the tractor was on its way across the ocean.
In point of fact, great apprehension was experienced with the bad weather that we heard was sweeping the North Atlantic at the time when the ship made the crossing. Upon arrival in Manchester, U.K., there was the usual hassel and red tape with both the Customs authorities and the shipping company. However, by and large they all seemed to be extremely helpful and know that my collection is entirely genuine and that I am not smuggling in hard drugs secreted somewhere on the tractor!
The great day arrived when the tractor was to be delivered to our collection, and unfortunately the truck upon which it was to be delivered was too large to fit up the narrow lanes to our collection at Ashbrittle, Somerset. We had, therefore, to arrange trans-shipment of the tractor onto a smaller low-boy in Taunton, approximately 15 miles away from Ashbrittle. We all waited anxiously for the arrival of the truck in Taunton and the occasion was suitably recorded by television cameras and local newspapers. The 80 was craned onto the low-boy without any problems, and we then set off to negotiate the narrow twisting lanes to Ashbrittle, where it is most unlikely anything so large has ever been seen in the area. But eventually we made it without any problems. Naturally the Cletrac 80 was not in running condition so we had to use an equally large Cletrac FD with Hercules 6 cylinder diesel engine and Heil bulldozer blade attached to pull the tractor off the low-boy. The only place we could unload was approximately 1? miles from the workshop area and we had to tow the tractor all this distance with a small AD Cletrac with 4 cylinder Hercules diesel.
It was only a small tractor but seemed to manage hauling such a vast load quite well. We were anxious to see whether or not the motor was frozen and so on the way down we slipped the 80 into high gear and gently let out the clutch being careful not to damage anything. The engine seemed good and stuck so we decided not to repeat this performance again.
With a good deal of pushing and shoving we were able to negotiate the tractor back into the workshop and for the first time were able to have a good look at it.
It was in remarkably fine condition, the general bodywork being in excellent order, and we understood the tractor was kept under cover for most of its life until it arrived at Wil-lard Equipment. The engine was well protected since it was covered with about ?' of oil and dirt mixed together which had set hard like concrete. Once one scraped this off the original paint work in grey of the engine, this seemed to be in perfect condition. A tractor like this is quite unknown here in England and it is certainly something of a monster. The Wisconsin engine has a bore of 5?' and each pair of cylinders is cast separately which makes the disassembly of the engine much easier and lighter work. Having removed the heads we found that Willard Equipment had been quite right in saying that in their opinion water never got into the engine. We soaked the bores in diesel over night and removed the starter motor and having inserted a bar into the flywheel ring gear we were able to turn the engine over quite easily. We then replaced the starter motor and found that with a good battery the engine turned over perfectly.
This is the state of play at the moment and it is thrilling to actually own such a rare machine. I am now working furiously to remove years of neglect and to generally get the engine ready for its first run after a lapse of about 15 years (I am also looking for a friend who happens to own an oil well)! Over the next few months I hope to restore the tractor to a 100% condition, and it will then join what I consider to be the world's finest collection devoted to the best crawler tractor ever produced-The CLETRAC.
The collection has been formed by myself over the years and is considerably enhanced by the tremendous amount of original factory material that I have acquired such as workshop manuals, photographs, training films, spare parts lists and new spare parts.
All the Cletracs are lovingly restored and cared for, and take part regularly in local rallys which raise money for worthy charities in our area. I am always anxious to acquire any material to do with the Cleveland Tractor Company or tractors themselves and would be extremely grateful to hear from anyone in the States or elsewhere who might feel that they can help.
At the same time I am currently preparing a serial number listing of all Cletracs still 'alive' and if you would like your Cletrac to be added to the list I would be grateful if you could send me the following information as soon as possible: 1. Tractor model and serial number; 2. Your name and address; 3. Condition i.e. restored or unrestored, and a Polaroid color picture or other.
As soon as these lists are prepared I will then inform all participants so that they may have the opportunity to obtain a copy. Finally, I would like to once again express my great appreciation for all the friendly help and response I have had right across the U.S.A. Certainly another example of what I believe President Roosevelt referred to as the 'special relationship' between Great Britain and the U.S.A.