THE HALF-A-FORDSON TRACTOR ENGINE

Fordson Engine

#1: As found.

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3437 Blue Ball Road, North East, Maryland 21901

About two years ago during the late summer, one of my engine/iron buddies, Dave, had just seen several really rough Fordsons roll into the scrapyard we frequent on Saturdays. Dave took one of the better ones home, I helped him dismantle the usable parts from the others. Better to rescue another tired old Fordson than to see it get chopped up. Several weeks pass, Saturday rolls around again, and we're back at the scrapyard. I'm digging through a particularly large #2 pile where I spot what looks like the front part of a Ford-son engine about two to three feet down; probably some more pieces and parts. I pull some more metal off the top and the front of the cylinders are revealed. The carb and manifold are missing as usual. Might as well keep going-- this is much better therapy than paying to lie on some stranger's couch and cry the blues.

There are the first two cylinders. Hey, wait a minute, where are the other two cylinders? Hey, could this be a two-cylinder Fordson engine? I yell over to Dave that I think I've found a two-cylinder Fordson engine. He tells me I am full of schtuff and other things unmentionable. 'No, really, it truly is; come see.' So we wrestle the engine free from the pile and set it out on the dirt. About a minute of looking at it and there is a long pause out of the two of us and looks of utter disbelief. Another minute later there is a chain around it and it is being lifted into my two-week-old truck with nothing more than an oak pallet to sit on. I cringe as the bed receives its first scratches, but resign myself to the fact that it had to happen sooner than later; battle scars, I rationalize. This puppy is coming home with me.

Home with the half-a-Fordson engine, I snap some pictures with it next to my '23 Fordson. These pictures are to aid me putting the 'half back together. Pictures one and two show it sitting next to my '23. Usually I get so bird-dog enthusiastic about 'new iron' that I forget to take pictures in the 'before' state. The half is stuck with some rust in the bores. Not that bad, we have the technology, we can rebuild it! Walt, the local Fordson man, happens to be at Dave's for some parts that afternoon. Walt has probably the best running Fordson I have ever seen or heard. One pull to choke, one pull to start. Walt thinks nothing of hitching up a wagon to his Fordson and driving 15-20 miles to a gas engine show--or mowing 10 acres of grass with a five-gang reel mower for as long as I can remember. Walt is shaking his head saying he has seen model A's and Model T's cut in half, but never one of these. The consensus that day is that if I fix it up and take it to the shows, somebody might recognize it or know something about it. It is a long shot, but stranger things have happened. The sun is going down now, so some tranny fluid is poured into the bores to anoint the rings and loosen the pistons.

Two weeks later, the half-a-Fordson is sitting in my garage where the pan is pulled to see what makes it tick inside.

Picture #3 shows what was found inside. Lots of black goo and oil in the pan; good sign. The first thing which jumped out were the counterweights which were welded to the crankshaft--nice job. Whoever performed the amputation had a lot of spare parts and a lot of skill as a welder. It appears that all the welds were made with a stick. The engine has a serial number which dates it at 1921. I pull the caps and remove the crank--well, the half crank. The builder used the front half of the block and the rear half of the crank. A copper flange seal and extra lip welded to the flywheel flange seals the rear of the crank. Recall that Fordsons had the flywheel and clutch run in oil so there was no seal. The entire ear of the pan was hammered out of  3/32' sheet steel and welded to the cast iron pan. The block top half supports the other top half of the rear seal which slides nicely into the bottom forming an oil-tight, mechanical seal.

Picture #4 shows the crank with the extra throws welded on and the flange/seal on the rear end of the crank.

The entire rear end of the block has been blanked off with ?' sheet steel welded in place. The camshaft and valve cover were also halved. The two tanks on the pan were as it was found. Possibly one was a reserve oil reservoir and the other was a place for sediment. I couldn't figure out the original oil pump; perhaps it was operated manually every few minutes with a few turns. I found an old 'oil-vac' pump which is driven from a fanbelt and used to pump oil to the dips in the pan. Probably overkill on my part. To replace the missing cylinder head, I took one of the scrapyard cylinder heads and cut it in half with a hacksaw, deciding to use the front two combustion chambers. After squaring up the head on a mill, I heated the front half in my garage oven to about 500 degrees F and welded on the plate to seal the water jacket with my MIG welder. I have been very successful with this method of welding cast iron. The cutting operation with the hacksaw tore up my shoulder for a few days. Eventually I bought an old flat belt Racine power hacksaw from about 1915 to prevent the shoulder problems from recurring.

After the crank was out, the pistons soon followed with some firm whacks via a 3x3 piece of oak. The pistons were removed with surprising ease and the bores cleaned up nicely with a light hone and some kerosene. Most of the parts were now in my basement shop getting repaired, refitted or painted. I welded up a cart to place the engine on and fitted an old brass water pump I had at my dad's since I was 12 onto the front of the cylinder head. The cart is junkyard fodder all the way, except for the Model T spindles I used for steering which I had from a previous project. After about eight months of part-time effort the half-a-Fordson is hoisted on the cart and bolted down. Don across the field comes down with his skid loader and we lift the engine out of my basement through the 'Bilco' door minus the steps.

Without a manifold, I decided to make one from some one inch pipe fittings in my scrap box. The trick I stumbled onto was to take a piece of 1x3' channel and bore holes in it where the intakes and exhaust ports were. Then it was relatively easy to locate everything for welding so that the gland rings would line up and seat. The flat channel face made a nice surface to seal to. I fixed up an old brass Tillotson updraft carb (MV-1B) to use with the manifold to get the engine running. I could not have foreseen the manifold part of this story.

Initially, I had a side mount Robert Bosch mag driven by a chain and right-angle drive to fire off the engine. That mag was rescued from a Fordson which was set on fire in a field.

Later, I just had to get cute and cut an original Fordson coil box in half to run off of a timer and the buzz coils. A 105 mm shell casing looked like it would make a nice water tank. I did not need to bother with a radiator, as this engine would only lope along at shows from now on. As it turned out, the engine held about four gallons of water. The gas tank was a piece of a water filter cartridge, also from the scrap bin. The caps for the water and fuel tanks were genuine Ford model T hub caps which seemed to coincide with the general Ford motif. On the buzz coils, it starts up on two to three pulls most of the time. The engine fires 90 degrees of crank rotation and coasts for the other 270 degrees, much like a John Deere. If I turn it off and it stops between compression strokes, it will magically start just by turning on the buzz coils. I tell people at shows that this engine has 'electric start.'

I took the engine to Wilhelm's show last June. There I got a lot of head shakes, compliments, and 'never seen one of those' looks. About midday, a young guy named Jared Schoenly walks up and looks over the engine. He says the engine looks like one that an old Fordson man had up his way. Jared wanted the engine, but the man was a purist, said the thing 'wasn't natural' and that Jared could not buy it or have it. The old man eventually scrapped out the engine rather than giving it to Jared. I told Jared where and when I got it and he just grinned reeeeal large. 'I'll bet he still has the head and manifold for this engine,' Jared says. By this time my pulse races at the thought of getting the missing manifold and head. We shake hands and he says he'll call back.

That evening the phone rings; Jared. Says he has the head and manifold and that he'll bring it to Coolspring and that I can have it! Flash to Coolspring, here comes Jared, walking down the aisle with the head and manifold on each arm and a big smile. What luck, a Holley 280 vaporizer setup and cylinder head, cut in half. Better still, THE manifold and head--cut in half. The head is the back half of a head turned around with a water connection on the front; exactly the opposite way I envisioned it. This sort of luck is kind of like winning the lottery, I think to myself. Hooda'thunk!

I dismantled the Holley vaporizer setup in September of 1998 and found the mixer to be rusted to where it was unusable--darn. A month later I find a nice mixer at Hershey for twenty bucks--sold. Flash ahead to November. One of the local farmers has a private engine/car show/barbeque/last gasp before winter. Two days before this event, I install the vaporizer setup and with a little tinkering, get it to run. Minutes later, I get it to perform that Deere-ese blatt-blatt...blatt-blatt. I took the engine to that show and it ran all day on the vaporizer and never missed a beat-beat. The parts were at long last reunited to become one, or should I say half, again.

I would be interested in hearing about similar Ford conversions on Model T's, Model A's, and even Ford-sons, from other GEM readers. You can contact me at the above address or e-mail me at: pgray@dol.net.