Farmall F12 Tractor Restoration

One year and two tractors later, a stunning Farmall F12 tractor comes back to life

| February/March 2002

I decided several years ago that I wanted to own a Farmall F12, as an F12 was the first tractor used on our family farm in Summerhill, N.Y. My grandfather, Homer Reynolds, bought that first F12 sometime between 1935 and 1937 when my father, Robert Reynolds, was still in high school. Dad remembers the day that tractor arrived on the farm and grandpa went plowing with it, and he remembers it was slow – he tells of passing grandpa several times with the sulky plow and three-horse hitch that the F12 was bought to replace.

That was the tractor I learned to drive on, and I spent many hours raking hay and doing other chores with it. I have a photograph of that tractor taken in about 1957, and I believe it's the only picture of it. The F12 was traded off for a set of hydraulic cultivators for the Farmall M shortly after the picture was taken.

Another reason for wanting an F12 was that the John Deere B was built to compete against this tractor. The F12 was put on the market in 1932, the John Deere B in 1935. I collect John Deere Bs, and I felt that my collection wouldn't be complete without a Farmall F12.

The Bone Plain Farmall

For 18 years I had admired an F12 that sat derelict alongside the Bone Plain Road between Dryden and South Lansing, N.Y. Dad says it was there when he sold the family farm to my brother, Gerald, 30 years ago. It sat about 20 feet from the road, and over the years had become grown over and more hidden with brush. Even so, it had become something of a local landmark, with directions to and from places in the area given in relation to their proximity to the "old tractor."

On July 2, 2000, my wife, Jeannie, and I were out for a Sunday drive and were on the Bone Plain Road. As we passed the tractor I noticed a man getting into his truck at the house nearby. I stopped and asked him if he had ever considered selling the old tractor. He said yes. I learned later that I was not, by far, the first to ask this question, but I was, apparently, the first to receive this answer.

I had never had an opportunity to inspect the tractor before, and it was in sad shape. There was a hole in the side of the block that I could put my hand in, but given that it was in the water jacket I thought I would be able to patch it. I also found that the exhaust, which had been open to the elements for years, was full of water and moss, and the shift lever didn't move. It also had an automobile steering wheel. On the plus side, it had a full set of F&H wheels (tires rotted off) and had a mounted mower attached. The deal also included a parts tractor, which turned out to be a 1930 Farmall Regular, s/n 105058, with mounted cultivators. The engine had been parted out on this tractor, but it still would have been the easier restoration of the two. Problem was, I wanted an F12. I finalized the purchase of the two tractors and had them moved to our house the following day, July 4, 2000, the front wheel rims of the F12 crumbling as it was dragged from its resting place.