1706 24th St., Central City, Nebraska 68826
In mid-October 1987, my son Jeff and I were on our way to southeast Kansas to pick up a load of starting fluid for our parts store. On the way home we ran the back roads to look for old tractors. We have discovered that you can find a lot of old tractors and engines in the small towns if you just take the time to cruise the back streets, etc. One town, in particular, caught our eye as we were rubbernecking around. I spotted what looked like a lot about two blocks west of the highway that was full of tractors. Coming to a very abrupt halt we decided to go back and check this out, as it was soon going to be dark.
When we arrived at the lot we could see that most of these tractors were what we call 'users' and were probably not for sale. An E3 Co-op tractor caught Jeff's eye and he said we should check this out. Across the street a lady was doing yard work, so we went to ask if she knew who owned the tractors on the lot. 'Yes, they belong to my husband. He is around the other side of the house.' We thanked her and around the house we went, Jeff in the lead. The man (we'll call him Frank) was digging up fall bulbs. Needless to say, he was a lot more enthused about talking tractors than digging bulbs. The E3 was not for sale but 'did you see the one back in the trees that I was using for parts? I might consider selling that one.' Jeff was already headed back across the street to check this out. Well, there was one there all right, or let's say, most of one. I walked around the pile and shook my head. I walked around in the trees to see if there was anything else interesting laying there. Nope.
By the time I got back to the tractor, Jeff was in the middle of deep negotiations. I saw him get out his billfold and money was being counted out. He had bought the front half of this Cockshutt 30 and the rear wheels, tires and fenders. 'What do you think? Did I fall on my head or not?' Well, the tires were in pretty decent shape on the back. The grille and tin work were excellent and it did have an arched non-adjustable wide front. Jeff quickly took the grille shells and center name strip off to take them home with us. We had put 110 cases of starting fluid in our El Camino so we didn't have any extra room.
I don't mean to sound skeptical of this purchase. I have made a lot of impulse buys myself but Jeff had been working on a Minneapolis Moline RTI. This little tractor had dealt both of us lots of frustration. He finally sold it to a fellow who wanted to finish it for the '88 Camp Creek Threshers Show. Minnie was to be their feature line in 1988. I was hoping that this tractor was not going to end up the same way. I have restored several tractors of my own and some for other folks. Jeff said he wanted one of his own, that he bought and paid for all the parts himself, and did all the work also. He has been restoring Briggs & Stratton engines for several years. He does an excellent job of this but this tractor was a whole different ballgame.
On the way home the subject was Cockshutts, of course. I had owned several of these tractors in the past when we lived in Iowa. We came to the same conclusion, that we had never seen a Cockshutt tractor really restored the way it should be. Jeff said, 'I believe I'll take this tractor and really put the whammy on it. We need something different at these shows besides all the green and yellow.'
The next weekend Jeff contacted Frank to make arrangements to go retrieve his part tractor. I had asked what he was going to do for a transmission and rearend assembly. I was assured that this wasn't going to be a problem. Okay, I remember hearing this somewhere. Jeff had already contacted one farmer outside of town who had several of these tractors that he used. He had two for parts but they were completely out of reason. When we returned home with the front half and rear wheels, Jeff's friends just stood there and laughed. They could not figure out why anyone would want to buy a rusty piece of junk like that, let alone work on it.
A couple of weeks later Jeff and I went on a Saturday afternoon cruise to see what we could find for Cockshutt parts. A stop at the junk yard in nearby Silver Creek turned out to be very interesting. The fellow had lost his lease or something and had to get everything cleaned up by the first of December. Back in the corner, Jeff had spotted a Cockshutt 30 or what was left of one. No wheels, radiator, tin work, steering, drawbar, seat or other vital parts. 'This is just what I need,' Jeff said, and was off to hunt up the owner. He came back in a few minutes and informed me that we needed to go home and get the trailer. When we came rolling back into town with this load of wreckage people were really beginning to wonder if we really did know what we were doing. At this point, I was wondering myself.
I consented to let Jeff use a portion of the machine shop in the back of the store to work on his tractor. I should probably point out, at this time, that we had only lived in Central City for about 18 months and people still didn't know how to take us for sure. I had taken over this parts store and machine shop after selling out my repair business in Iowa because of heart trouble. Anyway, Jeff cleaned out a spot and began to completely rip all his pieces apart, you will notice I didn't say disassemble.
The two frames were run through the hot tank and then inspected to see which one was better. The other went into a pile outside the door. The transmission and rearend assembly was dismantled to look for bad bearings and gears. The brake linings were sent off to be relined and the brake drums turned. All new seals were installed in the rear end and transmission. I helped Jeff make a stand to hold the rear end, then the frame was reattached; this way he could work around it without the rear wheels in the way. The front axle was next, which proved to be a bit of a challenge, as all the thrust bearings on the spindles were shot. After a lot of measuring and looking through the BCA book we found some that would work without much modification. The front axle and steering box were then assembled to the frame. Jeff then grabbed the air grinder and proceeded to deburr the frame and axle housings, also, any other unsightly parts. Charlie, a fellow who ran one of the local body shops had become a good friend but thought that we had completely flipped out when he came in one day to find Jeff filling castings flaws in the cast frame with body putty. After all, we were working on a tractor. The brake pedals were badly worn, as was the clutch pedal. The clutch pedal was reamed out and a Chrysler wrist pin bushing installed, then honed to fit the new clutch shaft we had made. The brake pedals were honed out on the pin hone until the hole was round. We then made an oversize shaft in the lathe and welded it into the original bracket. After several other trips to various parts yards we had a drawbar and seat assembly.
By this time it was Christmas and Jeff had decided that the chassis would be ready for paint on New Year's weekend. He lined it up with Charlie to use his paint booth. The wheels had been sandblasted and new tires put on the front. On New Years Eve day we took the Cockshutt to the body shop and prepared to paint this much of the tractor. Everything went well and Jeff had a very bright red and cream tractor chassis.
The chassis was taken to the store and put under covers while work began on the engine. Both engines were in very sad shape. First of all, they were stuck. All hopes of freeing one of them up was abandoned and the pistons and sleeves were knocked out together, then the sleeves were busted off the pistons. The best block was cooked and bead blasted, the crankshaft was turned, new piston pin bushings were fitted and new sleeves and pistons. All new bearings were installed. The cylinder head was another mess. The only thing that was good about it was that it wasn't cracked. All new valves, seats, guides, springs and retainers were installed. Of course a good planning was done also. I think Jeff was practicing running the machine. Jeff completely assembled the engine himself with a new water pump and clutch. He turned the flywheel and rebuilt the distributor and carburetor. The engine assembly was now ready for paint.
With the rush of spring work and other tractor hunting expeditions the engine was not painted and installed until June. He had the radiator cleaned, rebuilt the starter and an alternator was installed. Although not quite original, we feel that this is a must as these tractors don't get run long enough at a time to keep the battery fully charged and there's nothing worse than a nicely restored tractor that won't start. With new wiring, gauges, battery and a temporary gas tank the Buda motor turned over about four times and started and ran great. A small problem was encountered with an oil pressure relief valve but this was taken care of with no great difficulty.
Jeff had set July 16th and the Camp Creek Show as the debut for his 30. Time was drawing short and the heat was on in more than one way. Jeff loaded all his sheet metal pieces and took them to Charlie's body shop to sandblast them. Then he brought them home to be primed, sanded, primed, a little putty, straightened a piece or two, more sanding. Then seventeen coats were put on the fenders, hood and grille and each one sanded off in between. Finally, he was ready to paint the tin work after all the coats of primer. So back down to the paint booth. This time things didn't go as well. We had to do the hood over with Charlie lending a hand.
With all the tin work installed, lights wired and finally decals applied, the Cockshutt was ready for Camp Creek with one whole day left for touch-up and final detailing. How about that, no problem, WRONG!
On Friday night, before the show, Jeff had his masterpiece in the driveway for everyone to see, and they were all very impressed. He decided that he would drive it downtown to put some gas in it and I suppose maybe to show it off just a little bit. My wife, Linda, and I were sitting on the front porch waiting for Jeff to come back. We were discussing the fact that we had about driven her nuts with this affliction of getting this done for Camp Creek. Then I heard Jeff coming down the street about two blocks away. He idled up for the corner, turned, nailed the throttle, a loud pop and here he comes down the street on three cylinders. By the time he got to the driveway it would hardly run and he was about as pale as a ghost. 'What's the matter, I didn't do anything to it. What are we going to do!' With some calming down we drove it into the garage and proceeded to analyze the situation. We found it had no compression on number three cylinder. I told Jeff that the hood was going to have to come off so we could take the valve cover off and fix whatever little thing was wrong. Reluctantly he agreed and we carefully removed the hood and valve cover. There it was, #3 exhaust valve was stuck open, now how could this happen? Of course, by this time Jeff was in a state of hysteria, all his efforts seemingly shot. I finally convinced him that the head was going to have to come off, as all my old Indian tricks to get a valve loose had failed. By the time we had carefully removed the head to try to salvage the gasket it was 11:45 p.m. We all decided to just go to bed and the little 30 would just have to stay home. After 10 months of work I didn't want to see this problem ruining Jeff's efforts, so at 5:00 a.m. I was at the store reworking a Buda head. I couldn't figure this out. Why were all the valve stems scuffed? Sure we had fit them fairly snug and put on good valve seals but this just didn't make sense. Luckily, we had two extra guides left over and the stuck valve could be saved. I installed the two new guides, polished all the valve stems and reseated the valves but why did this happen? It was 8:30 when I returned home with the head. Jeff had been cleaning up the block surface. We installed the head, adjusted the valves and started the tractor. As it was sitting there idling I saw the problem. Jeff had forgotten to put the little restrictor tube in the rocker arm shaft. All the oil was coming out of the hole instead of oiling the rockers and valves. A quick trip to the store, we found the tube, reset the valves and put it back together. Jeff was rinsing it off in the driveway at 10:00. We loaded my Oliver and his 30, then we cleaned up and were headed for Waverly at 11:00. When we got in the truck, Jeff said he had a feeling that this was going to be the quickest 100 miles that his Cockshutt would ever travel. He was right. Linda had decided not to go, as she has more sense than the rest of us.
We arrived at Camp Creek about 1:00 and signed up for the parade. Jeff's little Cockshutt 30 was an instant hit. It attracted a large crowd before we even got it unloaded. When he was in line for the parade, one old timer told him that the paint was so bright it would blind a fly. Needless to say, the applause and whistles Jeff received when he passed the reviewing stand were plenty payment enough for a 14 year old boy's ten months of hard work. That's right. Jeff is 14, did most all the work himself and paid for all the parts him self. His friends don't laugh anymore at his tractor. Since Camp Creek we have hauled it to several other shows and he has received praise at each one and also, one trophy for 'Best of Show!'
Linda and I are both very proud of his efforts and we think that if more kids today would take an interest in something like this to give them a challenge and a little pride in themselves, the country could be better for it, instead of all this 'gimme' attitude we have today. By the way, while all this was going on Jeff worked one hour before and three hours after school at the parts store and full time during the summer. This was of his own choosing.
Jeff has since purchased a Cockshutt 50 diesel, which he says is for future restoration. He also picked up a Cockshutt 20, which he is in the garage working on right now! So, I guess, here we go again!!