Restoring The OS-6 McCormick-Deering

McCormick-Deering OS-6 orchard tractor

Kim C. Spaulding of Pepperell, MA recently restored this McCormick-Deering OS-6 orchard tractor. For the complete story.

Content Tools

5 High Street Pepperell, MA 01463

I got this tractor in January of 1985. I bought it sight unseen other than a photo that was taken from a distance. My advice to you is never buy a tractor sight unseen, unless you get a real good buy, or can trust the person you are buying it from. When I got to the place to load the tractor, I would have turned around and gone home if I had not already paid for it. It really was nothing more than a parts tractor. I have restored a few antique tractors, but this one was what might be known as a 'basket case'. When we tried to move it, the right rear wheel was locked up and stayed that way until I took it apart. This made for a tough job loading and unloading it, especially in the snow. When I got it home and unloaded it, I took the plug out of the crankcase and nothing came out, it was ice. I took a punch and broke the ice and let the dirtiest oil I ever saw out of the crankcase. With this now known and the overall appearance of the tractor, I scratched my head in amazement that I was so foolish.

The following couple of months found me taking the tractor apart down to the last nut and bolt. I put this tractor on the shelf so to speak in May of 1985, because I got a W-9 that I restored the summer of 1985. I also got a WK-40, McCormick-Deering at the same time and took it apart also. I have the WK-40 back together with the exception of the engine. I had to get a new block etc. so I went back on the OS-6 to finish it up. I will explain just how bad this tractor was as follows, starting with the hood which had a hole punched through it on the top to allow for a vertical exhaust, similar to the Farmall. The exhaust on an OS-6 comes out between the governor and the radiator as visible in the picture. This hole was driven through the perforated section of the hood and would be very difficult to repair, so I used the hood from the O-6 parts tractor that I had purchased for parts. The air cleaner pipe was missing and also the spring and adapter on top of the air cleaner. Both the oil and temperature gauges were broken and the carburetor heat deflector was missing. The battery box was not salvageable and the cover was missing. The sediment bowl was broken and no gas line at all. The choke rod was missing and the cover for the gas cap was also missing. The splines on the rear wheels were worn so bad that one would almost have time to get the cows in between forward and reverse directions. I corrected this by drilling with a hand fed drill through splines on each wheel and inserting a ?' round stock as a dowel. I was surprised to see the results of drilling half the hole in the hardened axle and the other half in a cast wheel but that is what I did. Needless to say new tires and tubes were needed all around. The drawbar and all attaching braces were bent. They must have done a lot of heavy work with the drawbar. The bolts must have kept loosening up because all the bolts were welded to the brackets, probably so they would not loosen. There were also broken studs where the drawbar brace is supported on the rear end cover and for that matter there were broken bolts and studs all over the tractor. The foot brake locking rods were bent with broken springs. New brake linings were needed, also new left brake drum. A bearing in the steering box needed replacing. Springs in the over center clutch were broken and the adjusting ring was broken in two places. It needed a new clutch release bearing and pilot bearing. The drag link was bent and had to be straightened. The radiator had large holes in it and both tanks on the radiator were all dented in, so I replaced them. The grille was bent and broken so I used one from the parts tractor. The front axle and one of the steering arms were bent and had to be straightened. The axle support was also bent and the ball had loosened up so I had it welded. The socket support for the axle wishbone was broken in half so I replaced that. The tie rod was bent with all the grease fittings broken off. As I said earlier the crankcase had ice in it so I was suspicious of a cracked block which was a fact. It was cracked between cylinders noticeable from the bottom only. The O-6 parts tractor had a good block so I had the crank turned and put new rings, bearings, and did a valve job on it. I did not put in a sleeve set because the sleeves were still in good shape. Also, the old motor had a terribly bent-up pan on it and the head had been cracked and welded, in one of the worst welding jobs that I have ever seen. The water pump on the old motor had the drive pins broken off. I feel quite sure this motor had been run with these pins broken from the way they were worn. You can just imagine how hot that poor old engine was run. I put new seals in the transmission and rear end and had to replace a few bearings. The rear end casting had been broken through, probably from a broken gear pushing through from the inside out. There is one tooth on the bull gear that has a chip out of it so this probably all happened about the same time. They had welded it from the inside and then put a tin patch over it which was held in with something like a seal-all. What a horrible looking job! I stripped all the gears out of the rear end, turned it over, routed the crack out and welded it, then filled it with body filler and smoothed it off and you cannot tell that there was even a crack in it. All of the supports for the platform and fenders were bent or broken. The P.T.O. shield had a hole cut through the top of it with a cutting torch for who knows why. The seat and the supporting pipe was bent from backing into something or something running into the tractor. The hand clutch lever had about 2' side play so I had a bushing made for it. The magneto kill switch was missing and the steering wheel was all broken. The ammeter was broken and there was no wiring whatsoever left on the tractor, not even battery cables. The starter, carburetor, generator and magneto were also missing. The radiator brace rod was never put back on when they worked on the engine so that was missing as well as the clutch compartment cover under the tractor. The fenders were all bent, torn, dented and parts of them missing. This tractor was used and abused and abused again, but with all this abuse the McCormick-Deering nameplate was still on the front of the grille, even if it was bent and dented, but salvageable. The crank was missing, but I was lucky to get a crank with the parts tractor. I got the new decals from a Harvester dealer in California and also a set from Mr. Hiniker. What would appear to be a real easy thing to find was not. The hood and grille are attached with 3/8' fine threaded screws on the OS-6 tractors. I could easily find 3/8' coarse threaded screws, but fine threaded was another thing. I finally found some with a little doing.

It goes without saying that there was no battery. I purchased a booklet published by Austin Farm Salvage which lists many salvage yards around the country. I called everyone listed that had toll free numbers and also the ones in the areas of the country that I thought might have orchards looking for a pair of fenders. I found two folks in New Hampshire that had OS-6, but neither of them would sell their fenders. One of the fellows took his fenders off and let me use them for a pattern. I found a guy in Massachusetts that would make a pair of fenders for $3,000. I told him I did not want the whole tractor made, just the fenders. I had a W-6 given to me which is a parts tractor. The fenders were a little jammed up at the bottom but not all that bad. It dawned on me that those fenders could be altered to fit the OS-6 with a little doing to the inside flat side of the fenders which I did and you cannot tell them from the originals.

Well as the saying goes, 'live and learn', I guess you would have to say never buy a 'pig in a poke'. After all the trials and tribulations, I have a good tractor that is not all that common and I am real pleased to have it restored. I sure like to hear those old four bangers purr. It is music to my ears and a lot of you folks also, I am sure.

I would be interested in corresponding with other International Harvester enthusiasts.

'What a horrible looking job! I stripped all the gears out of the rear end, turned it over, routed the crack out and welded it, then filled it with body filler and smoothed it off and you cannot tell that there was even a crack in it.'