Just Do It

1943 Oliver 60 Row Crop

My story starts a few years ago, I don't know how many for sure. I just remember my dad pointing out this old Oliver sticking out of the weeds behind a barn a few miles from my home farm, in La Grange, Wisconsin.

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Rt. 2, Tamarack Road, Whitewater, Wisconsin 53190.

Years went by, and one day I saw a cute little Oliver '60', all restored, sitting at a local implement dealer. I stopped to talk with the owner and look over his handiwork. He told me his father had bought the tractor new, and he recently restored it.

A few weeks went by before I remembered the old Oliver Dad pointed out years before. In April 1989 I got around to going to see it. I knocked on the kitchen door and asked the woman if she would sell that old Oliver behind the barn. She laughed. She said her son was always going to clean up that junk, and I was welcome to take a look, and strike a deal with him. I went down to look it over and after a few phone calls and a few more weeks, I was the proud new owner of a 1943 Oliver '60' Row Crop (cultivator included).

My 85-year-old grandfather spotted me dragging it home. He wondered why I needed another cultivator. The first thing I did when I got it home was take a 'before' picture. You must do this the moment you drive in the yard. If you don't, the overwhelming urge to dismantle something will take over, and you may never get the chance for a complete 'before' picture again.

As the engine was tight, I then removed the spark plugs and filled the cylinders with Mystery oil, and parked it in the corn crib. I couldn't bear to see it sit outside any longer. Every time I passed the corn crib, I would give a little tug on the crank. Sometimes I'd even stand on the handle.

One rainy day I decided to take the cultivator off. Anyone who has dealt with the Oliver cultivator system knows it is an ingenious array of clamps and springs that made for a dandy cultivator, but was also responsible for more pinched fingers than any single source known to man.

By January of 1990, the crank still had not moved, so I pulled it into the shop and started disassembling her. I removed all the sheet metal, radiator, etc., and pulled the engine and bolted it to a rebuild stand. The tension was really starting to build. What was I going to find inside?

I pulled the head and found eight tiny, rusty, stuck valves. It's probably a good thing the pistons were stuck, or I may have bent a lot of push rods. Next, I rolled the engine stand outside, to tip it over and drain the Mystery oil out, which turned out to be floating on two inches of water on top of the pistons (well, Mystery oil seemed like a good idea at the time). I pulled the pan, and oil pump, and removed the rod caps and bolts to get the crank out with the pistons still in. Next I made an angle iron hold down to hold the sleeves in the block, and shaved down a chuck of fence post to fit the top of the piston. I drove the pistons down about an inch, then took a brake hone and cleaned the top of the cylinder (the pistons can't go out the bottom). Then I turned the engine over and placed a 2 * 4 on the rod, and drove the pistons out the top. The two center sleeves were corroded beyond repair. Other than that the engine was restorable.

I called all over to find two new sleeves, with no success. I found a salvage engine for $75 and used two sleeves and the distributor from that engine. I honed the best four sleeves I had, ground the valves, installed new rod and main bearings, and piston rings. I assembled the engine and then turned my attention to the rest of the tractor.

I sandblasted everything and primed it with zinc chromate primer. Then the pitted sheet metal got three coats of Feather Fill, a liquid bondo product that really fills the pits well. That was sanded down with a DA sander, then three coats of sanding primer, wet sand that, then three coats of DuPont Centari acrylic enamel, with a catalyst. Then bolt it all back together (you always put the first scratch in the hood while bolting it on). Finally my little '60' was restored to its original glory.

The moral of the story? Don't wait years to go see that old tractor behind the barn. It may be gone when you get there. A friend of mine brought someone by this spring to see my tractor. After talking awhile he discovered I had bought the tractor he had been driving by for years. 'I was always going to stop and see if he would sell it,' he said.

Just do it!!