An Exciting Find

By Staff
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Old Roaring Brook Road, Mount Kisco, New York 10549

The moment I opened the doors on the old storage shed in the
spring of 1991, I knew that Carl Kriegeskotte and I had come on to
something special. A friend of mine, a real estate developer, had
bought a gentleman’s farm which he was planning to turn into
lots and houses.

There was a riding stable and some outbuildings on the property,
but he considered these and their contents a nuisance, because he
would have to remove everything as he went ahead with his
development. He told me that there was some old machinery and junk
in those buildings, and knowing I was a machinery buff, said I
should take a look and that I could have anything I wanted.

What Carl and I saw in that shed was an old crawler tractor
covered with dirt, dust, cobwebs and bird droppings. We could read
the serial number. The paint was faded and dirty, the seat was worn
and torn, there was grease and grime on all the running gear, and
dents and bends in the sheet metal. But we were surprised at the
lack of any corrosion or major rust damage. Its appearance
indicated the tractor had never been stored outside.

My hobby and Carl’s is steam related, and neither of us has
had any experience with antique gas tractors, beyond seeing them at
the shows we attend. We had no idea how old this unit was, but
guessed late ’40s or early ’50s. We were amazed to learn,
when I checked with the Caterpillar Company about the serial
number, that the tractor had been built in June or July 1936.

The age clinched our decision, and we were determined to get the
tractor out of there and attempt a restoration. We would chance
that there was nothing major wrong with the engine. We could see no
oil leaks and the pan and block had no apparent cracks. The engine
had no starter and we could not turn it over with the crank. We
assumed and hoped it merely had frozen pistons.

When we first looked over the tractor, we saw it had both a
large and a small fuel tank. We couldn’t figure out why. We
subsequently found out that the tractor could be started on
gasoline from the small tank and when the intake manifold had been
warmed up by diverting exhaust around it, valves could be shifted
to have it run on kerosene from the large tank. In the ’30s,
kerosene was a cheap, common commodity on the farm. Not so
gasoline.

The tractor did free wheel, and with chain falls and a
four-wheel drive pickup, we were able to pull the unit out of the
barn, up a hill and onto a service road where a heavy duty tilt-bed
truck was able to load it and bring it to my place.

From Caterpillar I was able to get a reprinted parts catalog and
some reprinted servicing and operation literature. Caterpillar
never had a shop manual on this model. I also contacted the local
Caterpillar distributor to see what help I might have in getting
parts, paints, information etc. I was very lucky that they were
able to put me in touch with ‘Blackie’ Butler, a retired
Caterpillar repair supervisor and master mechanic who now lives in
my general area. He came and looked at the tractor. The model was
very familiar to him, as he had worked on many of them in his time.
He said he had never seen an old one in such excellent physical
condition, and agreed to help and give advice to our project. It
turned out that his help was most valuable, as he knew all the
tricks of the trade, which saved an endless amount of time.

Since the sheet metal was in such good condition and
Blackie’s inspection showed no mechanical damage, he suggested
we strip the whole machine so it could be properly cleaned and
painted. He also recommended that we tear down the engine as far as
necessary, to put it into like-new running condition. We started on
this and were continually amazed how few nuts, bolts and assemblies
were rusted or frozen tight. On the whole job, we only had to burn
off five or six bolts.

As we tore down the engine, we confirmed that the rings had
frozen to the cylinder walls. Trying to free them by soaking with
penetrating oil proved futile, so we removed the caps on the ends
of the rods and after removing the cylinder ridges, drove the
pistons up out of the cylinders.

Valves were ground, rings replaced, rocker assemblies bead
blasted, the oil pump cleaned, the fuel pump rebuilt, many new
gaskets cut (although we were able to re-use the manifold and head
gaskets), filters cleaned, the water pump overhauled and everything
thoroughly checked. Sheet metal parts were stripped and repainted.
A sign painter redid the Cat logos, and an automotive upholsterer
remade the seat parts like new. The drive train and clutches were
checked, and since there seemed to be no problems there, we did
nothing except drain and replace the lubricants.

Reassembly went slowly and carefully. The day finally came when
the drive train, engine, fuel and cooling systems were re-united.
Three starting cranks and she roared into life. What an exciting
moment! The track assemblies, tracks and sheet metal went on next,
and then final painting and touch up.

Restoration was completed in the spring of 1992. I’ve taken
the tractor to three shows so far, where it seems to be admired and
enjoyed. We don’t have too many shows in the East that I can
get to easily. My plan is to make a grand tour of a number of
mid-western and western shows with my tractor the first summer
after I retire, and there I would get to meet some of the good
folks that I have been reading about in Gas Engine Magazine.

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines