That 'Open-Geared F-20'

The Story of Our 1926 Farmall Regular

| October/November 1998

7223 Highway 42'57, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin 54255

One day last summer, a month before our local Thresheree, we got a call from Scott Weckler, a friend of ours who paints cars and who wanted to try his hand at restoring a tractor. He was interested in a faded red Farmall F-20, and had worked out a trade with the owner 'If you paint my WD-9,' the man said, 'I'll give you both those cripples.'  He pointed to the red one and a much older, rusty one sitting next to it. And so the WD-9 got a shiny new finish, and Scott got what many would consider nothing more than a couple heaps of scrap iron.

Scott had never tried restoring a tractor before, and called Brian Schultz and me to see if we wanted to take part in the project. My boyfriend of three years grew up living next door to his grandfather, Carl Sixel, who is one of the better-known antique power restorers around Door County. Brian naturally took on the hobby earlyas young as four he was seen driving the little John Deere H in local parades and helping keep the gas engines running at the Thresheree. In the last three years, he's even gotten me hooked on tractors. At 21 and 19 years old, he and I are some of the younger antique power enthusiasts around here.

Scott was more interested in the newer of the two, so he offered the older one to Brian in return for some expertise. Brian thought there wasn't much hope for the old tractor, and didn't know if it would be worth fixing, but we needed a project. And we knew if worst came to worst, there would always be some readers of GEM in need of some spare parts. He accepted, and the next evening, we had two old Farmalls in our back yard.

The 'old F-20' had been sitting idly in the man's field for over a decade. It was a strange one, considering it had open steering gears instead of the usual enclosed gearbox. The man told us that between the two of them, the older one would be worth more fixed up, but it looked so far gone that nobody really wanted it. What was left of its sad hulk had all blended into one shade of pitted, rusty brown. Its front spindle, wheels absent, had sunk into the ground over the years. The rear wheels were once all steel, but like so many other steel wheels, they had been cut down and welded to pitifully small rims. The magneto was gone, and milkweeds grew so thick around the tractor that the rest of it almost disappeared as well. At first glance, it seemed the only reasonable place for the tired beast was on the back of the scrapper's trailer. And after experiencing a troubled and expensive fixing of a 1949 Farmall H (a story in itself!), we were having doubts about plunging headfirst into a new basket case.

One evening, while wondering about how much it would cost to fix what we knew the tractor needed, I was looking at a book about Farmalls. I came upon a tractor that I had never heard of the plain old Farmall, commonly known as the 'Regular.' It was the very first Farmall in fact, it was the first production row-crop tricycle design to ever hit the market. From this first 9-horsepower design evolved the F-20s that are still abundant today, along with the rest of the popular F-series (not to mention the whole Farmall line, remaining essentially the same from 1924 to the late 1950s!). This tractor exhaust pipe came out on the bottom of the massive manifold into a bulb-shaped muffler, instead of the usual stack through the hood. There was a small tank holding gasoline for easy starting mounted behind the main kerosene tank. The air cleaner was much smaller, the carburetor was made of brass, and only the later Regulars had Purolator oil filters. And when I saw the open steering gears, I looked no more I showed Brian, we ran to the backyard as fast as we could, and sure enough, that rusty thing was no F-20! It was a Farmall THE Farmall.