Restoring a W-9

Antique tractors on display

This story starts at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers show in 1985. While admiring the many finely restored antique tractors on display, my wife Pat and I noticed a WD-9 owned by Harris Billigmeier.

Don R. Petersen

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Route 1, Box 124 Lake Benton, Minnesota 56149

Harris did a fine job on the tractor. When we got home I thought it would be great to restore one of these tractors. First I had to find one. I could remember that a farmer about 4 miles south of me had a W-9 in the early 1970s. I had done some custom hay baling for him and they were using a W-9 to plow stubble in an adjacent field. The farmer's name was Stewart Terhart. His son, Brad, and I were school class mates.

So one evening after milking, my four sons and I went to visit Stewart to find out if he still had the tractor. He said, yeah, he still had it, but didn't think he wanted to sell. The boys, Stewart and I walked down to a slough where it had been sitting since 1972 when the radiator gave out. A large sow had a litter of nine newborn pigs between the front and rear wheels. When Stewart saw how much the W-9 had deteriorated he decided to sell it for $250.00-less the pigs!

After fixing the flat tires my sons and I pulled it home the next day. As we left the yard Stewart told me that third gear was out of it, as if there weren't already enough problems, having water in the engine to the top of the exposed exhaust pipe.

A couple of weeks later we had a spell of wet weather so the boys and I tore the engine apart. The engine block was ruined, water had stood on top of two pistons and when it froze it had broken the cylinder apart. However, the cylinder head was not cracked, so that was a pleasant surprise. During the winter and spring of 1986 I visited four salvage yards trying to find a good block radiator and grill for the 'nine'.

Gene's Antique Tractor Salvage of Russell, Minnesota, had a grill from a '600' IHC that was mint and I got a good block from a 1945 model. When I began to overhaul the engine I learned that the center main thrust bearing on a 1945 and older W-9's is different from later model tractors, and let me tell you that it is impossible to obtain that center main anywhere because I have tried.

To rebuild the engine I had the crankshaft rod journals ground .010 undersize. For the mains I put a new standard size front and rear bearing with a .002 shim under the bottom half. I then put the old center main in with a .005 shim under it. By using plastigauge I was able to obtain proper oil clearance of .002 on all three mains. We then put in new camshaft bushings that I got from Rice Equipment in Clarion, Pennsylvania.

We then put new rings on the old 43/8' cast iron pistons. The sleeves were not worn enough to warrant replacement. I got new valves, clutch disk, oil pump, governor parts and gasket set from International Harvester. That completed the engine. The radiator was a different matter. Seems that is a weak point on a W-9. After removing several radiators at numerous salvage yards, I finally located a good one at Watertown, South Dakota and even that one needed repair work done to it. In the spring I painted it with genuine IHC red paint and the decals we got from John P. Hiniker at Manhato, Minnesota.

We used the tractor to grind feed and also belted it up to our 28' Belle City thresher for our annual threshing show. It ran quite well so we entered it in a local antique tractor pull at Ivanhoe, Minnesota. It pulled in the 7,500 pound class. My son Kenneth drove it and placed third. An R John Deere and a LA Case beat the old W-9 easily.

Our future plans are to replace third gear and also to replace the bull pinion bearing that is also shot. We enjoy having the W-9 in our tractor collection, which includes 7 M's and SMTA's, 2 H's, and an F-20. Unlike many enthusiasts we use these old tractors extensively on our livestock farm just as they were meant to.