Alone On The Plains

By Staff
1 / 2
2 / 2

P.O. Box 134 Dupuyer, Montana 59432

On a fall day in 1980 the old Oliver struggled to a stop; the
frustrated operator snapped off the switch and walked away. The
tractor was one of the most powerful tractors made when it was new,
but today it wouldn’t pull a fat man out of bed!

Unknown to the operator, the spring connecting the governor to
the carburetor had broken and fallen off, so that instead of
opening the throttle when the tractor came under a load, the engine

For 14 years, through winter blizzards and summer heat, the old
tractor sat alone on the northern plains of Montana. As they farmed
around it, the valves became stuck, the pistons seized in the bore
and the gasoline turned to varnish.

The owner passed away and left the tractor to his son, who gave
me a call in June 1994 after hearing I was interested in old
tractors. I drove out to his place and looked it over. It was an
Oliver 99 with good sheet metal and good tires although they had
sunk into the ground about a foot and needed air. The engine was
stuck tight, but the stack had a rain cap on it which was
encouraging. We discussed price but didn’t come to an agreement
at that time. I had purchased machines in the past with stuck
engines and found broken sleeves and blocks, so I was reluctant to
pay much for something that might require a large investment of
time and money.

Five months passed and I almost for-got about it, until one day
while my son was visiting and the conversation had turned to
Oliver’s. We went out to look at it and he was so enthusiastic
about its overall condition that I decided to take a chance and buy

I spent the next two weeks cleaning the fuel and cooling
systems, freeing up the valves and soaking the pistons and sleeves
with penetrating oil. I took the cover off the top of the flywheel
and pried against the teeth with a bar until I got some movement. I
went from side to side on the tractor prying the flywheel back and
forth, gaining a little each time, until after about two hours of
this the engine had completed a full revolution and was free. The
engine was equipped with distributor ignition and, after filing the
points, I had good spark. I poured engine oil in the cylinders to
help the compression and was ready to give the tractor a tow. It
started in about thirty feet and ran great after it had burned out
the excess oil.

I feel really lucky that this engine came lose as easily as it
did; most take a lot more work. Buying tractors with stuck engines
can be a real gamble!

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines