My $20,000 1938 Case RC Tractor

Tractor out of the brush

Tractor out of the brush.

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3121 Creek Road, Kingsville, Ohio 44048

In mid-September 1994, the Ashtabula County Antique Engine Club, of which I am secretary, agreed to hold a mini-Antique Engine Show at the Debonne Winery at Madison, Ohio, in exchange for a generous gift to the club. On cue, six of us arrived at the winery with our restored tractors and hit and miss engines. Later that day the owner of the winery mentioned that he had an old tractor up in the woods that we could have. There was no discussion at that time, but a few weeks later I had occasion to go by the winery with my wife and we decided to see what the tractor was like. We hunted around the 'woods' but could not see any tractor, so we headed to his dad's place to find him and ask directions. Tony Debevc and his dad, Tony Sr., were outside and they said it was well hidden and they gave us a scythe and lopping shears to get through the multi flora roses to it. In passing they mentioned that the Case had been sitting in that spot for at least 20 years.

We finally found a semi-clearing above where the tractor was supposed to be and started cutting our way in. We finally located it in the middle of the fifty feet of rose bushes. It was in sad shape, but all there, as far as we could tell.

On August 10th, a fellow engine club member, Bob Pifer, and I headed to the winery with my large tractor on the trailer. We unloaded the big tractor, but still couldn't get to the old tractor be cause of the roses. We spotted an employee of the winery driving a large tractor that had been fitted with a front end loader and had huge weights on the rear. We asked him to back through the roses to mash them down so we could pull the Case out, which he did.

We then took the log chains up to the Case and hooked them onto the tractors and started pulling. It moved and started down the hill, but soon the front rubber tires came off the rims, and in another ten feet, the rear steel wheels collapsed. We pulled (slid) it down to the trailer, but then couldn't load it. Tony came by and saw our predicament and went after the tractor with the front end loader. He just picked it up and set it on the trailer. After chaining it down, we headed for home, 40 miles away.

Now the problem was how to get it off. I remembered a neighbor, Stanley Rutkowski, had a back-hoe so I went to see if he would come over and lift it off, which he agreed to do. In fifteen minutes he arrived and chained the Case to the bucket, but couldn't lift it, so we decided to drag it off down the loading ramps. We did, but we now had the Case about thirty-five feet from the barn. I said good enough, and headed back to the winery to get my tractor that we used to pull it out.

I started sandblasting the Case where it sat, but my hose wouldn't reach to the back of the Case. After blowing it clean of sand, the wheels were the most important thing in order to get it into the barn. Bob Pifer said he had a dolly that would hold it and he brought it over and we jacked up the Case and slid the dolly under it, hooked up the riding lawn mower and pulled it into the barn.

Another member of the club, Joe Blaha, said he could roll new sections to repair the rear steel wheels, and a second club member, George Nicholas, said he had a parts Case RC with fairly good front wheels.

When the front wheels were re moved and the hubs taken off we found the bearings were shot. A week and $85.00 later I had the bearings. Next the seals were torn up and new housings were not available. Had to have Gorden Pifer, Bob's son, mig-weld a new backing in the seal housing. Then had to cut sections from the old rims and braze them onto the newer rims where they had rusted out. It was my first attempt at brazing but I was surprised at how easy it was, of course, they were sandblasted first.

Rear wheels were next, cutting out the sections that had been at ground level and rusted out. Four sections were cut, being careful to cut just before the spokes, which were hot riveted to the rim. Had to cut out four spoke sections and weld new sections in them. I had to grind the nuts off of the spade lugs to get them off the rusted out sections. I even welded the new rim sections in place with fair results, as I have never really learned to weld.

During this time the engine had been drained of oil and water. Three of the cylinders were full of water. I put a cup of penetrating oil in each cylinder and let it sit for a month. I took a block of wood that I turned to just fit in the cylinder and gave each piston a whack with the eight-pound sledge every week. They wouldn't move, so I re placed the head, made a zerk adapter from an old 7/8 inch spark plug and started pumping grease to the #2 cylinder. I put all the pressure I could muster from the grease gun and let it sit for another week. Tried again, and again, until finally grease passed the rings. But the piston still wouldn't move. I decided to remove the valves; they were all frozen in place. I broke three valve guides getting them out. The pistons still wouldn't move.

The next job was to separate the front of the tractor from the rear so the engine could be removed from the frame casting that also serves as the oil pan. Thank goodness a friend, Ladimer Kubichek, showed up to help Bob and me. Ladie had at one time worked for a Case dealership. With his guidance and help it only took a few minutes.

I decided to take off the governor. It was rusted so badly it wouldn't turn. The camshaft was also frozen in place. Thank goodness, another club member, Arnold Howard, had a long heavy brass rod and we drove the camshaft out. The magneto gearing was also frozen in place by rust. Now the pistons finally moved.

The rest of the story is rather straight forward. I took the engine block to San born Motors for crankshaft grinding, piston bore honing, new bearings, piston knurling, new valve guides, one new valve seat, etc....$880.00 and three months later everything was done and it was ready to reassemble. I had PPG acrylic enamel mixed to match the original Case RC grey and red. The magneto, a Bosch, was taken apart, cleaned and a rebuild kit installed. Then it wouldn't fire and I found that the magnet had lost most of its charge. So, another few dollars ($105.00 to be exact) and another week and it was firing perfectly.

I was able to make a new hood using what was left of the old one as a pattern. I cleaned (sandblasted) the carburetor, put in all new hoses, clamps, and a lot of work on the radiator.

By June 1995 it was ready to start, but so stiff from the rebuild that I couldn't crank it! I have no land so I had to load it on the trailer using the electric winch and take it to Bob's where we pulled it around his field. It 'putted' but wouldn't run! Back home I unloaded it and pushed it into the barn. Took the carburetor off and apart, and discovered that, in my haste, I forgot to clean the passage from the float bowl to the main jet.

By now, show time was here, and I loaded it onto the trailer and took it to the July 1st and 2nd show. Of course, it rained that Friday night, the front tire went flat, and since I work at the office all day, there was no chance to try to start it. Upon getting it home the next Monday, I found the rain had rusted the carburetor and the high-heat paint on the manifold was dissolved, and the manifold itself was rusty.

On Friday I got the sandblast outfit running and recleaned them both, along with some parts that Cecil Lewis had brought over for me to do. Saturday I painted the manifold and this time stuck it in the wife's oven to bake, as per the instructions on the manifold paint. I even got it back on the tractor and ready to try to start it again.

Sunday is a day of rest, and of course, church. While in church my back and leg started to hurt. As the day went on it got a little worse, and by bedtime it was pretty bad. At 6 a.m. I finally gave in and let my wife call the emergency squad. They started me on oxygen on the trip to the hospital and there they gave me an IV to lessen the pain. I won't go into the details of the next month and a half, except to say that the bills added up to nearly $18,000! The doctors think that in lifting the sand into the sandblaster hopper I pinched the nerves in my spinal column. That, along with the $ 1,900 in parts for the tractor, make the tractor cost me nearly $20,000!

Yes, we finally got it running in November. Lee Robishaw, another club member, brought his John Deere over and with a belt from club member, Dale Fobes, it started. After an hour of running it was loose enough to be cranked, and now it usually starts on the first pull!