November 22, 1988.
P.O. Box85 Rosholt, Wisconsin 54473.
Since July 17, 1988, I have been stricken with a malady I call Hart-Parr Fever.
That was the date I purchased a 1929, 12-24H Hart-Parr tractor. Previous to that purchase I was (still am) a John Deere nut and still own two: a JD 40 and a JD 70 diesel with pony start.
As far as that goes, I'm a fan of all two-cylinder tractors, but particularly those with alternate firing. That sound just does something for me I can't describe.
Before I leave this world I will own a Rumely too, but for now I'm happy with my Hart-Parrs.
Did I say Parrs? Funny thing about the malady, one of anything isn't enough!
I called John Schroeder (from whom I bought the 12-24) one night and told him that this tractor was too easy, that is, it was in very good condition and needed little work to put it back in shape. 'Just so happens I know of an 18-36 my friend, Bill Olson, has.' John said. 'He's sitting in my shop right now, wanna talk to him?'
At that point I already knew that I would soon own two Hart-Parrs, no matter what.
At my first opportunity, I drove down, at night, to look at my next acquisition. WHOA! Disaster City! A rusted carcass with its wheels sunk into the ground about 6' sans everything but the main frame and fenders.
In a shed about 300 feet away lay the rest (?) of the parts. It was night, remember, and a flashlight is a place to store dead batteries. My flashlight wasn't quite dead, though, and I could make out enough to see the Eagle wings on the radiator cap. I had to think this one over!
I had asked for a challenge, not a project for life.
The fever was raging, though, and on November 22, 1988 I visited my piles of iron with a down payment. With winter upon us I was glad it was in pieces and hauled the engine parts to my place of business, a machine shop, where the job of repairing and assembling the engine could begin.
There was no oiler, a Madison-Kipp Model 50, or magneto, a Bosch FU series, but that I knew.
Thanks to GEM, I got an oiler from Alpha, Minnesota and I purchased a mag at auction. The mag didn't work of course (burned out armature) but again, through GEM, I had it repaired by Branson Enterprises who did a fine job.
The usual cleaning and honing was necessary and I found that the engine parts were in pretty decent shape in spite of the horrible abuse this tractor had seen. I needed piston rings and talked to Joe Sykes about making rings but, because the tractor was in my place of business and there isn't a lot of room, I made the rings myself (to save time) from a cast-iron worm-gear we had saved.
When I finally got the engine running it was one happy day!
Fortunately, my crew's enthusiasm almost exceeded mine on this project and, as business was slow, we got the carcass in the shop too. Because this tractor had been so poorly maintained this turned into a last bolt restoration, as everything was shot: axles, wheel hubs, dust shields, spindles and hubs, bearings, radiator, governor, water pump, steering box-well, you get the picture.
While all this was being repaired, I was searching for a clutch (a complete clutch) which I discovered was missing after the rest of the parts had been hauled home. Try finding a clutch for an 18-36 Hart-Parr sometime!
I placed an ad in GEM for a clutch, and miracle of miracles, on the very same page my ad appeared there was a For Sale ad by Bill Boughman of Cut Bank, Montana, listing, among other things, an 18-36 Hart-Parr parts tractor!
I called him and yes, the clutch was there. So was the pulley brake, which I also needed. This was February and he is practically in Canada with deep snow, but he very kindly agreed to remove the clutch and UPS did the rest.
I believe this was the last clutch available in North America, for I never did receive one response to my ad.
Thanks to my crew, the tractor rolled out of the shop on its own power March 10,1989.
I figure that if we had done this job for a customer at the shop rate, the labor bill alone would have been somewhere around $8,000. That should give some notion as to what mechanical condition it was in when I bought it. Was it worth it? YES! I have run it on our club's sawmill and thresher and it really barks. The governor is as sensitive as any I've seen. While one of anything isn't enough, neither is two.
I currently have a Hart-Parr 28-50 on the line and am just waiting to sell my Rock Island 18-35 Model F to help pay for the 28-50.
While tractor collecting is not an inexpensive hobby, it certainly is fun.
And all the great people you wind up talking to when parts hunting really adds to the fun, though phone bills get pretty salty at times!
As I said before, the sound of those two-bangers does something to me that defies description.