Colorado Tractor Tales

By Staff
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Before: July 1988
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After: August 1988.
3 / 6
Before: September 1988.
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After: August 1990.
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Before: September 1989.
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After: August 1990.

301 Lincoln St., Longmont, Colorado 80501.

I have always been interested in ‘old iron.’ As a
youngster I spent several years on a farm, and I always enjoyed
being around the machinery. Although I was too small to be of much
help, my dad would let me drive our old John Deere B to and from
the fields, and I well remember what a ‘grown up’ thrill
that was. I never did get to drive our McCormick-Deering W-30,
though. I guess it was too hard to steer. I remember how big that
one seemed to me.

Years passed, and in the business of growing up, moving away and
raising my own family (away from the farm), I guess my ‘old
iron’ interest grew dormant. I still liked looking at old
equipment whenever I had the opportunity, but I pretty much had
left all that behind me.

Several years ago, however, I visited our local county fair
(Boulder County Fair in Longmont, CO) with my family to see all the
exhibits there-livestock, crafts, 4-H projects, etc., when all of a
sudden, from around the end of the display building I heard a very
familiar sound-the unmistakable sound of a John Deere tractor. Of
course I had to go see what that was all about! Lo and
behold!-there were a number of old tractors back there, all fixed
up shiny fresh and looking very, very nice! There were a few John
Deeres, some Farmalls, and a Case or two.

I stood there most of the rest of the afternoon listening,
looking, and in general being a big pest to the tractor
exhibitors.

WOW! The sight, sounds, and the smell, too, of the old tractors
there brought all those memories back to me. It amazed me to see
how that old equipment brought it all back so clearly-just as
though I had walked out the back door of the old farmhouse. I was
HOOKED!

Also about that same point in time, I saw my first Gas Engine
Magazine. I was describing to a friend how impressed I had been by
that display of old tractors, and he pulled open a drawer, got out
a magazine and said, ‘Then I’ll bet you’ll want to see
this.’ I took the magazine straight home and read it from cover
to cover. I just couldn’t imagine there being so many old iron
nuts out there, and the stories and pictures really fueled my
desire to join in.

I knew right then and there I had to have an old tractor. Now, I
need an old tractor about as much as I need a hole in the head, but
that’s beside the point. Luckily, my wife is very supportive of
my somewhat eclectic nature (maybe she’s as crazy as I am), so
she thought that sounded O.K. Well-I didn’t know how to buy (or
what to buy) in the way of an old tractor, but I started looking,
asking questions, and keeping an eye out in the local paper, and
sure enough-one day there was an ad there that sounded just
right:

For Sale: 1941 John Deere Model G tractor. S/N 11203.
Disassembled. Needs work. Cheap.

(I especially liked the ‘cheap’ part). I didn’t even
know what a ‘G’ was, but I called the man, went to his
house, and saw a G for the first time. My gosh, it sure looked a
lot bigger than the old B. I was a little bit intimidated by its
size, but the price was very attractive, and it was
‘unstyled’-a term I had already learned.

As of then and there, I became an official ‘tractor
owner.’

I finally got that decrepit old thing drug home, much to the
dismay of my neighbors (I live right in town). They all asked,
‘Whatever will you do with that?’ I don’t think they
believed me when I told them it was my new garden tractor.

Anyway, I began to work on my new toy. Although it was a basket
case, I found that all parts were there, though many of them needed
to be replaced. The previous owner had managed to find a
replacement block for it, so that was already there for me to use.
What I didn’t know, however, is that he bought a block that had
been bored 0.045′ oversize. So there I was, a good (but
oversize) block, and good (but standard size) pistons. Oops. Well,
thanks to our local, foremost antique tractor collector/restorer,
Harvey Nelson, who was instrumental in getting together that show
at the county fair I mentioned, I was soon able to locate a pair of
oversize pistons for it. This was only the beginning. As I
proceeded with the restoration, I found myself relying more and
more on Harvey for advice, help, and encouragement. I’m sure I
would have soon decided that this business of tractor restoration
was not so much fun after all if it weren’t for Harvey, who
became a good friend as well as a source of help and advice.

After many trials and tribulations, uncounted hours, and many
new and rebuilt parts, I was ready to spin the flywheel of the old
G. The BIG EVENT was here! I had no idea whatsoever what to expect.
I had never overhauled an old tractor so I was really flying by the
seat of my pants, even though I had Harvey to lean on. Well, I went
over my checklist of things to do prior to starting it, and when I
finally ran out of excuses not to crank the flywheel, I cranked the
flywheel several times. And then several more times-and all of a
sudden it fired once. WOW! So I cranked it a few more times and the
old thing fired to life for the first time in who knows how many
years. There is no way to describe the thrill of hearing it run for
the first time, although you readers who have been through all of
this know exactly what I mean.

Although this was exciting for me, it was funny for my wife,
because I had absolutely drenched all the internal engine parts in
oil when I put it back together for the last time (I’m
surprised the poor old engine would fire at all!), and when it
started it spewed an oily mist all over itself, the driveway, and
of course, me. It just rained oil for the first couple of minutes
and I had my very own oil slick right there. It was about two days
before she quit laughing at me!

This whole episode, from me dragging that old tractor home until
I put the finishing touches on it, took me a whole year. Those last
few weeks found me rushing to get it completed so I could enter it
in that year’s fair, and I made it just by the skin of my
teeth. I had a great time with it there, and that year’s
turnout was larger than the first one I had seen. (Each successive
year’s turnout has been larger as well.)

When I started all this foolishness, I intended to buy a
tractor, fix it up and then I’d be satisfied. Right? Well, you
know that isn’t how it works. Whenever the subject of old iron
comes up, it seems you always encounter someone who says, ‘Say,
I know of an old…,’ and off you go, chasing some other old
rusty piece of junk. It seems the challenge of finding and
acquiring this old stuff is addictive.

I no sooner got my old ‘G’ finished when someone said to
me, ‘Say, I know of an old track type thing I saw at such and
such place,’ and before you know it, I was off to see what that
was all about. It turned out to be a very tired looking 1935
McCormick-Deering T-20 Trac Tractor. I really hadn’t intended
to buy it, but I couldn’t resist going to see it, since I’d
never seen a Trac Tractor. However, looking led to talking, and the
owner made it perfectly clear that he intended to get rid of it,
and he made me an offer I just couldn’t refuse, and so there I
was.

Another year went by, and I got the T-20 restored, with a little
bit of money and a lot of elbow grease. The old thing really
didn’t need many parts. Someone had reconditioned the
undercarriage already, and the tracks are worn but still
serviceable. So, after a new main bearing, rod bearings, a couple
of wrist pins, a new seat, etc., and what seemed to be about a
million hours of my free time, you can see the result.

I really enjoyed the restoration of these first two tractors,
although each had offered both challenges and frustrations. There
were times when it was fun, and there were other times when I
thought I’d never get done! But a serious ‘old iron
nut’ can’t let the frustrations get in the way. It seems
there’s always a way around the problem of the missing part or
the broken stud, or whatever the problem happens to be at the
time.

After the T-20 project was finished, I happened to be driving
down a country road in rural eastern Colorado, when I glanced over
and saw, behind a farmyard, a very old looking thing-an old tractor
with such an awkward style as to be downright ugly, and yet
fascinating. Well, I couldn’t imagine what that could be, so I
just had to stop and talk to the owner. He turned out to be a
gentleman in his 80’s, and he told me the tractor had been in
his family since 1930, and it was a year old when he and his
brother bought it. And this, then, was the first Case Model CC I
ever saw. I immediately liked the old thing. Talking with the owner
about it, it was obvious he didn’t want to sell it, so I just
left him with the impression I thought that was a very nice old
tractor he had.

Two or three years went by, with me stopping to see the old Case
CC from time to time, and talking to the owner as well. He
obviously knew I’d like to have it, although we never discussed
it since I knew how attached he was to it. Finally, though, he
decided to have a farm auction and sell all his equipment, since he
was no longer farming his land. He sent me a sale bill so I would
be sure to know about it, and I darn sure was there the day of the
sale. I was sure every collector in the country would be there that
day, even though the Case was the only antique listed. But the
auction was relatively small, and was evidently not well
advertised, for it turned out there were only three of us bidding
on the Case. The other two bidders evidently were not what
you’d call ‘collectors,’ for they both dropped out
after just one or two bids, and I got the tractor!

The old Case was such an interesting tractor to me I dug into it
right away. The engine was stuck, but the old owner had told me
that once a year or so, he would go out and pour kerosene into the
cylinders, and sure enough, I was able to free it up with a minimum
of effort, and the cylinder walls were not at all damaged. Again I
got lucky in that the Case needed a minimum of new parts to repair.
I had the valves ground (I try to do all the work myself, but
grinding valves is one thing I’m not equipped to do), put a new
seal in the water pump, and put a new ball thrust bearing in the
governor assembly. Other than that it was a matter of replacing a
few miscellaneous external parts, finding steel wheels (it somehow
seemed a shame not to have steel wheels on anything that old), and
of course another million or so hours of labor. It now runs very
nicely, indeed.

The old owner steadfastly claims it’s a 1929 model, but the
serial number is C304571, which would be a 1932 (?) model. I
thought somewhere along the line the owner might have replaced the
tool box, on which the serial number tag mounts, but he said he
hadn’t. Perhaps his memory as to when they bought the tractor
is faulty, or perhaps some more knowledgeable Case collectors can
explain the discrepancy to me.

I’m not sure just where this hobby is leading me, but it has
so far been very enjoyable. I’ve met a lot of nice people, seen
a lot of nicely restored equipment, and heard a lot of stories from
the owners. I’ve also acquired a few more ‘gems’ to
restore whenever I find the time and money, and I suppose whenever
I meet a person who says to me, ‘Say, I know of an old…,’
I’ll go chasing yet another relic. Receiving Gas Engine
Magazine each month helps keep my interest level high, too, seeing
all the photos and reading the articles from other collectors.

One last word to any of you old iron nuts who happen to be out
this way in mid-August-stop out at the Boulder County Fair in
Longmont, Colorado to see the ‘Yesteryear Farm & Home
Show’! Our show gets a little bigger and better with each
passing year. This year we had 50 or so tractors, among which was a
1907 Avery steam traction engine (22 HP) owned by the DeBacker
family of Boulder, Colorado, and a 1917 Waterloo Boy owned by
Harvey Nelson of Hygiene, Colorado. Each day we had a tractor
parade, threshing demonstrations using the Avery and a 1926
Belleville separator, as well as a baling demonstration using a
circa 1909 Missouri hay press, and ongoing displays of stationary
engines, hog oilers, home and kitchen items from the past, and
perhaps best of all, very good bluegrass music provided free by
‘The Bluegrass Cornpickers.’ Come join us!

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