7075 Rickreall Road Independence, Oregon 97351
I grew up on a small acreage in Salem, Oregon. Some of my fondest memories are of helping my grandfather,. George Averett, in the farming of his land. He was an orchardist, and grew filberts. One of my main duties was helping in the maintenance of his tractor, a Cletrac model HG-42. He purchased this tractor new on November 14, 1945 for the sum of $760, replacing his failing Cletrac model F. A common task for me would be to grease the undercarriage, lower rollers and front idlers, and hook up the pump and hoses when it came time to spray the trees. After my grandfather passed away, the tractor was eventually sold, as the orchard was no longer tended.
About ten years ago I set about trying to locate one of these crawlers. I was actually able to locate my grandfather's tractor about ten miles from where I grew up. It had seen good care since we sold it; the new owner had even installed a blade. Unfortunately he was not willing to part with it. After much searching I was able to locate another one only five miles from my home. As it turned out, it is also a 1945 model. It was in sad shape, the engine having been dismantled several years before and the rest of the tractor being in various stages of disrepair. After trailering it home I began what was to be a very long restoration project.
Even in the process, even before I actually purchased the tractor, I began to stockpile NOS parts. They were becoming harder and harder to locate, and 'no longer available' became the stock response from the parts man. After I located all of the necessary parts, I began restoration by rebuilding the Hercules engine. I had the block bored .020 over, the head, block and manifold were resurfaced, valve seats reground, and crankshaft turned. I replaced the main, rod and cam bearings as well as installed new oversize cast iron pistons, pins, valves, tappets, and cam shaft. I had the radiator recored, a necessity given that this tractor has no water pump, relying on the thermo-syphon method of cooling. An original optional water temperature gauge was located and installed. I rebuilt the Tillotson carburetor and Wico magneto with NOS parts and installed an original optional under-hood muffler. The Autolite starter and generator were both rebuilt using new bearings and brushes.
Having finished with the engine I turned my attention to the remainder of the drive train. I resurfaced the flywheel and replaced the clutch, pressure plate and throw out bearing. I rebuilt the propeller shaft with new universal joints. Having the transmission, PTO, and final drives open I replaced every ball bearing, bronze bushing, gasket and seal I came across. I replaced the steering band linings with original friction material. I rebuilt all six rollers and both front idlers with new bushings and seals using special jigs I had machined for that purpose. The bull gears, pinions, drive sprockets and tracks were amazingly in as new condition. Having restored the drive train to 100% of new I was able to fully appreciate Cletrac's patented 'Controlled Differential Steering.' This tractor steers like butter and is a true pleasure to drive.
Each part of the tractor was chemically stripped of paint as it was refurbished. This worked very well until I stripped the gas tank. The stripping process attacked the solder in the tank seams and I had to resolder the entire perimeter of the gas tank to eliminate leaks. I was able to locate a DuPont dealer who had an original formula for Cletrac Orange paint in synthetic enamel. I primed each part and applied three coats of color before reassembly. The bucket seat is covered with an original horse-hair seat pad and is upholstered in the same manner and material as new. I located an original under-seat tool box and a complete set of original wrenches for the tractor. I replaced all of the wiring harness with cloth covered wire and cloth wire looms in the colors and appearance of the stock pieces. I had the reflectors in all three original lights resilvered. I was even able to locate a company who reproduced the original tar-top six-volt battery, a perfect complement to the stock battery cover I was able to find.
I finished the tractor the evening before the 1992 Great Oregon Steam-Up at Antique Powerland in Brooks, Oregon. They coincidentally featured Oliver and Cletrac tractors at that show. I received many compliments at the show and my entire family showed up for the noon parade. Perhaps the greatest compliment I heard was from my uncle, Bob Averett, stating that 'it looked like it had just been delivered to my grandfather's farm in 1945.'
I'd like to thank Michael Schlag and Ron Burns of River City Machine in Salem for their help in this project, as well as Jim Napp of Portland, Oregon, and Landis Zimmerman of Ephrata, Pennsylvania, for their assistance in locating needed parts.