U. S. Court of Appeals for 6th Circuit, 613 U.S. Post Office Courthouse, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202
As a long-time subscriber but small-time collector, I always look forward to the arrival of GEM and find enjoyment in scanning its pages from cover to cover. It doesn't take long to absorb news concerning the engines in my small collection, of which an excellent Foos Jr., on trucks, is my favorite. However, I find the articles on tractor restoration to be of particular interest. It occurred to me that my own experience in that area might be of interest to other readers.
I own an 80 acre tract in a nearby county which some might call junk land-but they'd better not let me hear them say it! Having had difficulty keeping a couple of acres mowed around the house and outbuildings on what I laughingly call my 'farm', a friend gave me an old Harvester International Cub with a Woods mower which was nearly as decrepit as the farm itself. That poor old tractor, which had spent its best days being abused by highway department employees of a rural county, had been left outdoors, untouched by human hands, for some years. Getting it into operable shape proved to be a prolonged and not inexpensive undertaking, but the old fellow did its level best to do a job for a dozen years.
Last year two of my sons convinced me that I was waging a losing battle with my vintage machine, and one of them located an identical Cub at a so-so price. It had been used exclusively for snow plowing and was equipped with a blade rather than a mower, but the engine had been recently ovehauled, and in general it enjoyed better health than my creaking invalid. I bought it, and Jim and Ched began the slow process of converting the two machines into one excellent tractor and another not so good-but not so bad either!
The 'boys' (I call them that, but no one except a father or an elderly uncle would) undertook the chore, intending to simply put all the best parts on one tractor, the more worn on the other. For example, the rear wheels and draw bar of the second tractor were badly pitted by the salt used in snow removal, so they went on the 'not so good' unit, while the tires stayed on the better machine. As work progressed, however, my sons' enthusiasm in the pursuit of excellence got the better of them, and they went far beyond original expectations.
Both tractors were totally disassembled, and I do mean totally. All parts, from big ones like fenders to little ones the size of your thumb, were sandblasted and sanded, then spray painted with primer, and followed by several final coats. The hood of the better tractor ended up with a finish competitive with that on any luxury automobile.
The color is authentic original HI red, and this might be a good time to mention that, like that paint, every part needed was found to be available through a local implement dealer. These tractors were 1949 (Serial #94769) and 1951 (Serial #142566) models and I was pleased to find that every part we needed, no matter how important or insignificant, could be purchased either over-the-counter or by catalogue. It should be added, however, that son Jim has a basement machine shop superior to that of most hobbyists, and was able to turn or otherwise fabricate some of the needed parts. In reassembling the better tractor, and in most instances in the other one also, all new bolts and nuts, bushings, gaskets, seals, bearings and other such parts were used. New batteries and belts were provided, and new front tires (largely for cosmetic reasons) were put on the better unit. A brand new electrical harness was installed, and both generators and starting motors were redone. One headlight lens and one rear lens were needed, and again, duplicates of the originals were found to be over-the-counter items.
An acquisition of considerably greater importance may be worth mentioning. The old tractor's muffler projected straight up from a pipe extending direct from the manifold through a hole in the hood. This position of the muffler was a considerable nuisance wherever low hanging branches existed, and made mowing in my small orchard plot a virtual impossibility. As a questionable remedy, I had put in an elbow so that the muffler lay back just over the hood. However, since this directed the emission right at the operator's face, it would be understatement to say that the cure was worse than the disease. Jim procured from the implement dealer a fascinating pre-formed exhaust pipe with more dips and bends than a chorus line. It barely missed a lot of things on the way down, but repositioned the muffler under the floorboard. The hole in the hood, incidentally, was fiber glassed over and is now entirely undiscernable on the beautifully finished hood mentioned above.
Neither engine needed a full overhaul, but both were pretty well worked over. Both transmissions were opened and all of the gears checked. Interestingly, even after all those years of use, and hard use, after being cleaned up, most of those gears, even on the older unit, could have passed as brand new. Rather surprisingly, neither clutch required serious attention.
The Woods mower was in even worse shape than the older tractor. One skid was broken and half gone, and we replaced both while we were at it. The pulley and clutch assembly were in sorry condition, and somewhere in history a marginal mechanic had improvised repairs out of his junk box. Once again, however, our implement man came up with parts. This might be a good time to give a tip of the hat to the men in that trade. We had to cross the Ohio River to Campbell County, Kentucky, but like other farm implement dealers we've dealt with over the years, this one went far beyond the call of duty in offering suggestions, providing answers, and being generally cooperative. It would be great to find an automobile supply house half as friendly!
I have no illusions about the Cub as a work-horse. I have a '52 Ford with a Mono trailing mower which will of course run rings around the Cub when it comes to heavy work, and I also have two Sears tractor/mowers (one 11HP, one 12) and a Jacobson (12HP) which will go through far heavier grass and growth than the Cub. Just the same, for plain old fun I'll take the Cub any day. Cruising along on its bouncy seat high above the flying severed leaves of grass gives one a 'King of the Mountain' weekend feeling that relegates the frustrations of the preceding five days to the forgotten past.
I mentioned earlier that restoring the first tractor turned out to be 'not inexpensive,' and certainly this more recent procedure was not cheap. The older unit was priced for a quick sale so didn't bring top dollar, and parts cost money. Truthfully, I am never going to try and figure out just what my 'new' tractor has cost, and when I dwell on the matter I have the sinking feeling that for my total investment in the two tractors I might well have been able to purchase three. But I have no regrets. We have had a lot of fun out of all of this, and, like a kid at Christmas, I have a nice bright and shiny new toy! When it goes to work this spring on my 'farm', remote from the view of human eyes, the creatures of the woods and fields will be simply dazzled by its brilliance!