Cockshutt Tractor

By Staff
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1706 24th St., Central City, Nebraska 68826

In mid-October 1987, my son Jeff and I were on our way to
southeast Kansas to pick up a load of starting fluid for our parts
store. On the way home we ran the back roads to look for old
tractors. We have discovered that you can find a lot of old
tractors and engines in the small towns if you just take the time
to cruise the back streets, etc. One town, in particular, caught
our eye as we were rubbernecking around. I spotted what looked like
a lot about two blocks west of the highway that was full of
tractors. Coming to a very abrupt halt we decided to go back and
check this out, as it was soon going to be dark.

When we arrived at the lot we could see that most of these
tractors were what we call ‘users’ and were probably not
for sale. An E3 Co-op tractor caught Jeff’s eye and he said we
should check this out. Across the street a lady was doing yard
work, so we went to ask if she knew who owned the tractors on the
lot. ‘Yes, they belong to my husband. He is around the other
side of the house.’ We thanked her and around the house we
went, Jeff in the lead. The man (we’ll call him Frank) was
digging up fall bulbs. Needless to say, he was a lot more enthused
about talking tractors than digging bulbs. The E3 was not for sale
but ‘did you see the one back in the trees that I was using for
parts? I might consider selling that one.’ Jeff was already
headed back across the street to check this out. Well, there was
one there all right, or let’s say, most of one. I walked around
the pile and shook my head. I walked around in the trees to see if
there was anything else interesting laying there. Nope.

By the time I got back to the tractor, Jeff was in the middle of
deep negotiations. I saw him get out his billfold and money was
being counted out. He had bought the front half of this Cockshutt
30 and the rear wheels, tires and fenders. ‘What do you think?
Did I fall on my head or not?’ Well, the tires were in pretty
decent shape on the back. The grille and tin work were excellent
and it did have an arched non-adjustable wide front. Jeff quickly
took the grille shells and center name strip off to take them home
with us. We had put 110 cases of starting fluid in our El Camino so
we didn’t have any extra room.

I don’t mean to sound skeptical of this purchase. I have
made a lot of impulse buys myself but Jeff had been working on a
Minneapolis Moline RTI. This little tractor had dealt both of us
lots of frustration. He finally sold it to a fellow who wanted to
finish it for the ’88 Camp Creek Threshers Show. Minnie was to
be their feature line in 1988. I was hoping that this tractor was
not going to end up the same way. I have restored several tractors
of my own and some for other folks. Jeff said he wanted one of his
own, that he bought and paid for all the parts himself, and did all
the work also. He has been restoring Briggs & Stratton engines
for several years. He does an excellent job of this but this
tractor was a whole different ballgame.

On the way home the subject was Cockshutts, of course. I had
owned several of these tractors in the past when we lived in Iowa.
We came to the same conclusion, that we had never seen a Cockshutt
tractor really restored the way it should be. Jeff said, ‘I
believe I’ll take this tractor and really put the whammy on it.
We need something different at these shows besides all the green
and yellow.’

The next weekend Jeff contacted Frank to make arrangements to go
retrieve his part tractor. I had asked what he was going to do for
a transmission and rearend assembly. I was assured that this
wasn’t going to be a problem. Okay, I remember hearing this
somewhere. Jeff had already contacted one farmer outside of town
who had several of these tractors that he used. He had two for
parts but they were completely out of reason. When we returned home
with the front half and rear wheels, Jeff’s friends just stood
there and laughed. They could not figure out why anyone would want
to buy a rusty piece of junk like that, let alone work on it.

A couple of weeks later Jeff and I went on a Saturday afternoon
cruise to see what we could find for Cockshutt parts. A stop at the
junk yard in nearby Silver Creek turned out to be very interesting.
The fellow had lost his lease or something and had to get
everything cleaned up by the first of December. Back in the corner,
Jeff had spotted a Cockshutt 30 or what was left of one. No wheels,
radiator, tin work, steering, drawbar, seat or other vital parts.
‘This is just what I need,’ Jeff said, and was off to hunt
up the owner. He came back in a few minutes and informed me that we
needed to go home and get the trailer. When we came rolling back
into town with this load of wreckage people were really beginning
to wonder if we really did know what we were doing. At this point,
I was wondering myself.

I consented to let Jeff use a portion of the machine shop in the
back of the store to work on his tractor. I should probably point
out, at this time, that we had only lived in Central City for about
18 months and people still didn’t know how to take us for sure.
I had taken over this parts store and machine shop after selling
out my repair business in Iowa because of heart trouble. Anyway,
Jeff cleaned out a spot and began to completely rip all his pieces
apart, you will notice I didn’t say disassemble.

The two frames were run through the hot tank and then inspected
to see which one was better. The other went into a pile outside the
door. The transmission and rearend assembly was dismantled to look
for bad bearings and gears. The brake linings were sent off to be
relined and the brake drums turned. All new seals were installed in
the rear end and transmission. I helped Jeff make a stand to hold
the rear end, then the frame was reattached; this way he could work
around it without the rear wheels in the way. The front axle was
next, which proved to be a bit of a challenge, as all the thrust
bearings on the spindles were shot. After a lot of measuring and
looking through the BCA book we found some that would work without
much modification. The front axle and steering box were then
assembled to the frame. Jeff then grabbed the air grinder and
proceeded to deburr the frame and axle housings, also, any other
unsightly parts. Charlie, a fellow who ran one of the local body
shops had become a good friend but thought that we had completely
flipped out when he came in one day to find Jeff filling castings
flaws in the cast frame with body putty. After all, we were working
on a tractor. The brake pedals were badly worn, as was the clutch
pedal. The clutch pedal was reamed out and a Chrysler wrist pin
bushing installed, then honed to fit the new clutch shaft we had
made. The brake pedals were honed out on the pin hone until the
hole was round. We then made an oversize shaft in the lathe and
welded it into the original bracket. After several other trips to
various parts yards we had a drawbar and seat assembly.

By this time it was Christmas and Jeff had decided that the
chassis would be ready for paint on New Year’s weekend. He
lined it up with Charlie to use his paint booth. The wheels had
been sandblasted and new tires put on the front. On New Years Eve
day we took the Cockshutt to the body shop and prepared to paint
this much of the tractor. Everything went well and Jeff had a very
bright red and cream tractor chassis.

The chassis was taken to the store and put under covers while
work began on the engine. Both engines were in very sad shape.
First of all, they were stuck. All hopes of freeing one of them up
was abandoned and the pistons and sleeves were knocked out
together, then the sleeves were busted off the pistons. The best
block was cooked and bead blasted, the crankshaft was turned, new
piston pin bushings were fitted and new sleeves and pistons. All
new bearings were installed. The cylinder head was another mess.
The only thing that was good about it was that it wasn’t
cracked. All new valves, seats, guides, springs and retainers were
installed. Of course a good planning was done also. I think Jeff
was practicing running the machine. Jeff completely assembled the
engine himself with a new water pump and clutch. He turned the
flywheel and rebuilt the distributor and carburetor. The engine
assembly was now ready for paint.

With the rush of spring work and other tractor hunting
expeditions the engine was not painted and installed until June. He
had the radiator cleaned, rebuilt the starter and an alternator was
installed. Although not quite original, we feel that this is a must
as these tractors don’t get run long enough at a time to keep
the battery fully charged and there’s nothing worse than a
nicely restored tractor that won’t start. With new wiring,
gauges, battery and a temporary gas tank the Buda motor turned over
about four times and started and ran great. A small problem was
encountered with an oil pressure relief valve but this was taken
care of with no great difficulty.

Jeff had set July 16th and the Camp Creek Show as the debut for
his 30. Time was drawing short and the heat was on in more than one
way. Jeff loaded all his sheet metal pieces and took them to
Charlie’s body shop to sandblast them. Then he brought them
home to be primed, sanded, primed, a little putty, straightened a
piece or two, more sanding. Then seventeen coats were put on the
fenders, hood and grille and each one sanded off in between.
Finally, he was ready to paint the tin work after all the coats of
primer. So back down to the paint booth. This time things
didn’t go as well. We had to do the hood over with Charlie
lending a hand.

With all the tin work installed, lights wired and finally decals
applied, the Cockshutt was ready for Camp Creek with one whole day
left for touch-up and final detailing. How about that, no problem,
WRONG!

On Friday night, before the show, Jeff had his masterpiece in
the driveway for everyone to see, and they were all very impressed.
He decided that he would drive it downtown to put some gas in it
and I suppose maybe to show it off just a little bit. My wife,
Linda, and I were sitting on the front porch waiting for Jeff to
come back. We were discussing the fact that we had about driven her
nuts with this affliction of getting this done for Camp Creek. Then
I heard Jeff coming down the street about two blocks away. He idled
up for the corner, turned, nailed the throttle, a loud pop and here
he comes down the street on three cylinders. By the time he got to
the driveway it would hardly run and he was about as pale as a
ghost. ‘What’s the matter, I didn’t do anything to it.
What are we going to do!’ With some calming down we drove it
into the garage and proceeded to analyze the situation. We found it
had no compression on number three cylinder. I told Jeff that the
hood was going to have to come off so we could take the valve cover
off and fix whatever little thing was wrong. Reluctantly he agreed
and we carefully removed the hood and valve cover. There it was, #3
exhaust valve was stuck open, now how could this happen? Of course,
by this time Jeff was in a state of hysteria, all his efforts
seemingly shot. I finally convinced him that the head was going to
have to come off, as all my old Indian tricks to get a valve loose
had failed. By the time we had carefully removed the head to try to
salvage the gasket it was 11:45 p.m. We all decided to just go to
bed and the little 30 would just have to stay home. After 10 months
of work I didn’t want to see this problem ruining Jeff’s
efforts, so at 5:00 a.m. I was at the store reworking a Buda head.
I couldn’t figure this out. Why were all the valve stems
scuffed? Sure we had fit them fairly snug and put on good valve
seals but this just didn’t make sense. Luckily, we had two
extra guides left over and the stuck valve could be saved. I
installed the two new guides, polished all the valve stems and
reseated the valves but why did this happen? It was 8:30 when I
returned home with the head. Jeff had been cleaning up the block
surface. We installed the head, adjusted the valves and started the
tractor. As it was sitting there idling I saw the problem. Jeff had
forgotten to put the little restrictor tube in the rocker arm
shaft. All the oil was coming out of the hole instead of oiling the
rockers and valves. A quick trip to the store, we found the tube,
reset the valves and put it back together. Jeff was rinsing it off
in the driveway at 10:00. We loaded my Oliver and his 30, then we
cleaned up and were headed for Waverly at 11:00. When we got in the
truck, Jeff said he had a feeling that this was going to be the
quickest 100 miles that his Cockshutt would ever travel. He was
right. Linda had decided not to go, as she has more sense than the
rest of us.

We arrived at Camp Creek about 1:00 and signed up for the
parade. Jeff’s little Cockshutt 30 was an instant hit. It
attracted a large crowd before we even got it unloaded. When he was
in line for the parade, one old timer told him that the paint was
so bright it would blind a fly. Needless to say, the applause and
whistles Jeff received when he passed the reviewing stand were
plenty payment enough for a 14 year old boy’s ten months of
hard work. That’s right. Jeff is 14, did most all the work
himself and paid for all the parts him self. His friends don’t
laugh anymore at his tractor. Since Camp Creek we have hauled it to
several other shows and he has received praise at each one and
also, one trophy for ‘Best of Show!’

Linda and I are both very proud of his efforts and we think that
if more kids today would take an interest in something like this to
give them a challenge and a little pride in themselves, the country
could be better for it, instead of all this ‘gimme’
attitude we have today. By the way, while all this was going on
Jeff worked one hour before and three hours after school at the
parts store and full time during the summer. This was of his own
choosing.

Jeff has since purchased a Cockshutt 50 diesel, which he says is
for future restoration. He also picked up a Cockshutt 20, which he
is in the garage working on right now! So, I guess, here we go
again!!

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