Rt 2, Tamarack Rd. Whitewater, Wisconsin 53190
Yes, this is another tractor story. You've read this story a hundred times before. A man finds an old tractor rusting away somewhere, and after a few months, a few phone calls, and usually a few hundred dollars, he owns it. But you'll read this one too, because each restored tractor means something special to each of us. If it didn't we wouldn't spend untold hours, and untold (at least to our wives), dollars to restore a tractor just to haul it to shows on the weekends.
This tractor story started in March of 1990. I was visiting a not-so-local implement dealer for some parts, and I took my usual cruise through the back lot, and came across a line of ten old tractors. Now, I was born and raised an Oliver man, spent many hours on an 88 and 1900 GM, and recently restored a 60 RC, so I recognized the 60 and 70 Olivers right off. But what was that huge standard tread tractor with the Oliver Hart-Parr cast in the radiator top tank? As I rubbed through the grease on the identification tag on the block, the numbers 28-44 appeared. Now I know I have no excuse for this, but these numbers meant nothing to me. (Hey, it was built 24 years before I was born. Heck, my grandfather was only 30!)
So I wrote down the serial number and headed home to start my education. As my wife puts it, I spent every night in my Lazy-Boy with 'That - tractor book.' And after purchasing a few more books (you can never have too many), I learned that this hulk was a 1936 Oliver/Hart-Parr 28-44, one of only 8917 ever built. So, after several trips back, I finally owned my first 28-44. She was, as my great uncle put it, 'rough but restorable.' The engine was free, and with the exception of the one gallon starting fuel tank, all there. I took a picture of it where it sat and proceeded to load her up.
I wanted a little air in the tires for the trip home; the tire mechanic looked very skeptical and stood his distance as we tried for 10 PSI in the rears. We got an easy 20 in the fronts. As we pushed her up to the loading dock, the tire man said he thought we were about to experience tube failure. I said I wasn't concerned with the quarter sized bulge in the front tire. He said he was talking about the football sized bulge in the rear tire on the opposite side. I was very careful to stay clear of that side while chaining her down, hoping to avoid a calcium chloride shower. The front tire blew with a bang while I was in paying the bill, and the rear tire blew about five miles down the road. The rest of the trip was uneventful
I was able to work on her occasionally over the summer, enough to discover four stuck valves and a fuel tank bottom that resembled baby swiss cheese. The fuel tank was saved with solder and tank sealer, but one valve remained unyielding.
January rolled around, so I pulled the head and ground the valves. I found the cylinders in fine shape, although one had obviously had something banging around in it at one time. I had the mag rebuilt at Branson Enterprises, and got a head gasket from Olson's. A few new gaskets stopped the constant flow of fuel through the carb, and some welding managed to save the exhaust manifold. I pulled the pan to clean out any sludge and check the rod bearings and to pound out the evidence of a close encounter with a large rock.
Then I filled the crank case with oil and, with the plugs out, cranked until I had oil to the rocker shaft. Then I put the plugs in and was ready for the magic moment: park brake set, gear shift in neutral, fuel on, throttle set, spark retarded, stand clear, watch your thumb (as all the old timers had told me), then pull! My God! This was the first time I had cranked it with the plugs in and all the valves working. At 110 ci per cylinder, you've got to have the technique! After a few cranks, I learned the trick-get all the momentum you can at the bottom-and after a few more, she took off. What a wonderful noise to hear her beller after untold years of silence!
Having proved she would run, and with no knocks or major leaks, I turned to the wheels. The tractor was on cut steel, and I held no hope of finding original rubber rims, so I had to work with what I had. The rear rims were terribly rusted from calcium, and too narrow to start with, (a 13.6 tire on an 8 inch rim). These rims had a very deep drop center, so if I cut the welds off the spokes, they would be about one inch too short in the new 28' rim. So I set up the torch on a stand to cut the old rims off at 26' OD. This left a part of the old rim about 3?' wide and 1' high, to slip inside my new 12' x 28' rims. I welded them in and filled the weld with polyester filler. Now I had a nice looking, double drop center rim. The front rims were 20' truck rims, and they had welded some ? x 1? flat irons along side the old spokes to extend them. A real butcher job. I had an old set of 6' x 18' rims that I cut the centers out of. I decided that it was easier to cut the old spokes off ?' from the hub, and weld new ones on, and then weld the rims on. New tires all around, and then it was time for paint.
I sandblasted everything, then zinc chromate primer and three coats of DuPont Centari on all the cast. The hood was beyond repair, so I built a new one, and then straightened the wrinkles in the rear fenders. Again, zinc-chromate, three coats of Poly-Prime, (a liquid Bondo product). Sanded this down and all the pits were filled in. Then three coats of lacquer primer, wet sanding, and three coats of Centari.
The original radiator cap nut was solid brass. I thought that would look nice polished. It did, but that made the fuel cap look bad. I had it brass plated. That looked so nice, that old black exhaust pipe had to go! A trip to the local brass bed company yielded two feet of 3' brass tubing, and a few hours of polishing later, wow, a matched set! The only thing left was the decals (from Lyle DuMont).
Finally, she's restored to her original glory. My dad was talking to a neighbor and he said his dad had a 28-44 when he was a kid. They thrashed with it. He said the biggest thing he can remember about it was that 'It took a MAN to start it.' I mentioned that to my grandfather and he said, 'Well, HE never had a Fordson'!
So this article is over, go on to the next one, you've probably read it before also.