Tractor Rescue

Oliver tractor

Content Tools

Five Veterans Row Westbury, Tasmania 7303

This little saga started in July 1985  when we had a display of about six tractors at our annual steam day (our collection has grown to fourteen since then!) and a passerby remarked how he had heard of an old Oliver tractor in a water hole about ten miles from our home. Both my father and I laughed a bit about this one! We had seen a 10-20 Titan with a tree growing through it, but a tractor in a water hole?

After a number of people told us this was true, we found the property and approached the owner who broke into a large grin when I asked if by any chance there were any tractors submerged in his many watering holes. He replied laughing, 'There is, but I didn't put it there, the original owner did!' He continued by saying the tractor was an Oliver but he was unsure of the model.

We journeyed a short distance to the water hole and all we could see was about 2 inches of exhaust pipe above the water line (photo 1).

We looked long and hard at the situation. The water was black, cold and uninviting and none of us felt like diving in with a wire rope to hook on it. My mate who tagged along (featured in the photos) scratched his chin thoughtfully and pondered over the idea of trying to pump the dam out to a respectable level, the farmer agreed enthusiastically (it seems he was just as anxious to see what was in there as we were) and he offered the use of his tractor to power a pump, charging us only for the diesel we used and giving us the Oliver.

Next weekend we borrowed a 5 inch Ajax irrigation pump and set off in ideal conditions (fog, frost and ice!) at 6:30 AM when any normal person would still be asleep. By nine o'clock we were pumping water as fast as we could, and as the water level receded we could not believe the junk thrown in there! Rolls upon rolls of bailer wire, two headers which had been dismantled and thrown in, the chassis of what was a 1930 Chrysler 6 and more indescribable goodies! The waiting was agony for my mate, who decided to try and wade out and find which way the Oliver had been put in, but he got about ten feet before sinking in sludge up to his neck! (see photo 2) He finally got out there, and shouted back that we indeed had a '70' and that everything still opened and shut on it, although he couldn't see much from the driver's seat! (photo 3).

We pumped the water for thirty more minutes until we could see the best way to pull it out with the wire rope, (4 & 5) it looked like the Loch Ness monster surfacing as it dragged half the weeds and junk from the dam as it was towed backwards up over the bank onto dry land for the first time in six years (6 & 7).

The first thing to hit us about the Oliver was the acrid stench of slime, rust and oil. The tires on the rear were still inflated and inexplicably, the engine was not seized. We had actually thought of putting the 'thing' back in the hole, but if we could get good panels we might just be able to get it going; and further inspection revealed the correct amount of oil in the gearbox and believe it or not clean oil in the air cleaner!

Word of the rescue brought onlookers from miles away, one of whom had worked for the original owner and explained how he sold his farm, but not the Oliver and he drove it into the dam to get rid of it! Imagine our surprise when we found our Allis Chalmers 'U' came off the same farm, and was also going to be 'drowned' until a neighbor bought it after the auction where the Oliver failed to sell!

We worked solidly for three months on the Oliver as it started to deteriorate rapidly out of water. We used the original bearings and block and really only replaced the bodywork. When 'fire up' day came around, we were besieged by onlookers who told us we were mad at first and then got interested themselves. Imagine the satisfaction we felt when that 6 cylinder engine purred into motion!

Restoration was not yet complete as we were missing side panels and and half a grille and the whole thing was in Killrust enamel undercoat, but we loved it!

The actual paint job was a bit of disaster as the paint dried with absolutely no shine at all, the first time that's ever happened to us, even so, the Oliver was a hit with the crowd at this year's steam day and one chap even had the side covers for us!

The future now sees a new paint job for the Oliver and more vintage tractors for us!