By Staff
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Boasting mint-condition restoration, Donald Sell's Hart Parr 40 will be featured at its first antique show near Perryton, Texas, on September 21 and 22. Photo by Sandy Woods.
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The Hart Parr 40 as it was found decades ago resting in a field junk pile near Glendive, Montana.
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According to restoration machinist Clyde Hall, reconstructing the above belt pulley and reverse planetary gear was one of his most difficult tasks. The intricacies of his work show in this closeup of the gear, now in full restoration condition. Photo by S
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Restored cast iron crankcase sits ready for re-assembly after Wichita-based machinist Jerry Abplanalp finished his work.
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One of the Hart Parr 40's most distinguishable characteristics was its short design for sharp turning, as shown by the vertical placement of the cylinder. Photo by Sandy Woods.

Submitted by Donald Sell, Rt. 2, Box 15 Perry ton, Texas

The dream of restoring the only tractor of its kind in the
United States began in 1987 with a lot of talking. It came true on
April 16, 1991, when Donald Sell of Perryton, Texas towed the
massive 1911 Hart-Parr 40 out of the work barn, and fired the
engine that had lain crippled on the Montana prairie for

‘It’s my pride and joy,’ Sell stated after seeing
the two-year project through-a project that has spanned two
countries, countless road trips, and a few wild goose chases
looking for missing parts. ‘As far as we know it’s the only
one in the United States in full working order, and one of three in
existence in the world that has been restored.’

Talk about restoring the tractor first surfaced at the Sell
house in 1987. A 1989 trip to North Dakota, where Sell met antique
machinery enthusiast John Tysie, put the plan into motion.

‘The tractor was originally found in Glendive, Montana, out
on the prairie where it laid in shambles,’ Sell said. ‘It
was donated to the Culbertson, Montana Antique Machinery Show by
the owner, and John had traded for it. He had a Hart-Parr 30
already, and I traded him parts for his Hart-Parr 30 in exchange
for the 40 model.’

Tysie had gathered bits and pieces of information on Hart-Parrs
and where they were once located for close to a

‘I first heard about the tractor in the early
1960’s’, Tysie said. ‘We tracked it down and found it
in pieces out in a field near Glendive. Later the Culbertson Show
people pulled it in, but there was no possible chance for them to
fix it. At the time I didn’t realize there was any difference
between the 30 and 40, but since then we’ve found many small
things that are different between the two models. Thirty models of
the Hart Parr 30 were manufactured and about 200 of the 40 models
were made. Both of these tractors are very rare.’

Sell went after the tractor last winter and unloaded it at his
Texas Panhandle home on March 1,1990. He had already enlisted the
help of two skilled antique engine restorers to begin rebuilding
parts from scratch.

‘We made several trips to Canada to hunt parts,’ Sell
said. ‘We also went to the museum in Saskatchewan, Canada, in
January of 1990 to measure and photograph parts. I met with Clyde
Hall, a machinist in Fillmore, Saskatchewan, in 1989. He agreed to
begin working right away, making castings and the belt pulley. We
made several trips to North Dakota through the summer that year
looking for parts.’

Over one-third of the engine parts have been made by hand. The
tractor chassis was in fairly good shape when the restoration
project began.

‘It sure wasn’t a case of driving in and out of farm
yards and finding parts,’ Clyde Hall said. ‘We needed solid
leads of where this type of tractor had been used in the past. We
checked on sites in Moosejaw, Rock Glen and Piapot, Saskatchewan.
We were lucky and found a really good set of rear fenders and some
other small parts there from an antique collector named Dale
Friesen. But still, for the most part, if we needed a part we just
had to make it.’

After the part trips concluded, Sell and his machinists had a
big order of large and complicated parts to reconstruct before the
tractor could begin to be restored to its original condition.

‘A few small parts are just lost to history because there is
no example left and no drawings in the old parts books,’ Hall
said. ‘We just had to decide what they must have done or built
to perform a certain function in those instances.’

Still, the dedication to original condition restoration

‘When Clyde made the castings, he even put the Hart-Parr
part numbers on each one. We used some of John Tysie’s parts
for patterns and got a lot of measurements from him,’ Sell
said. ‘The other man who made this whole project possible was
Jerry Abplanalp of Wichita, Kansas. Jerry specializes in iron
castings for antique engines. Both he and Clyde deserve a lot of
the credit for this restoration. They are true craftsmen, and they
really did the hard part.’

The two dedicated machinists took their part in the restoration
seriously and began work immediately. Both worked over six months,
and everyone involved in the restoration has been dedicated to
putting the machine back into original condition.

According to Abplanalp, the cast iron craftsmanship is an art
few have mastered.

‘For 35 years, all I have done is work on cylinder heads and
blocks,’ Abplanalp said. ‘To do the cast iron work so that
the repair work is not obvious to the naked eye takes a tremendous
amount of time, and the entire piece has to be red hot during the
entire repair process.’

It took Abplanalp six hours of steady welding to repair the
tractor’s shattered crankcase.

‘There were three men working during the welding process to
keep everything red hot,.’ he said. ‘Donald wanted it in
its original condition and we managed to get it that way. A lot of
people won’t mess with the cast iron work because there is no
money in it, but I became interested in it after I attended an
antique machinery show about 12 years ago in Kansas.’

Between the three men and Sell’s restoration crew in Booker,
the Hart Parr now boasts showroom quality.

‘The tractor and its engine are as good as brand new,’
Sell said. ‘Several people had inquired about restoring the
tractor years ago, but backed away from the idea feeling it was
impossible. There is really a lot of satisfaction seeing it
completed. I knew if we could find someone to make the castings,
that it could be done. It’s a really good feeling to see it all
finally come together.’

‘We wanted this tractor to be substantial, and we tried to
do things so it would be ready to go out and go to work like the
day it was first manufactured,’ Hall said.

Sell’s wife, Faye, who Don says has been a bit skeptical of
some of his over 200 restoration projects, has been on the
Hart-Parr bandwagon from the start.

‘Faye’s been asking every day lately if we got the
engine fired up,’ Sell said. ‘The whole family is excited
about this project.’

The tractor will be featured at the Golden Spread Antique
Machinery Association’s 14th Annual Show in September, and
promises to be the hit of the event.

‘We will be honoring Oliver and Hart-Parr tractors at the
show this year,’ Sell said. ‘Machinery collectors will be
amazed at the workmanship Jerry and Clyde have done. They are both

The logistics of the restoration boggle the mind of even the
machine-illiterate. The crankcase is cast iron, over one and
one-quarter inches thick. Ac-cording to Sell, many crankcases were
damaged while used to break out sod on the prairies. The engine
rods would come through front of the case, and most farmers would
just patch it.

‘Clyde built the clutch, planetary gears and belt pulley by
hand,’ Sell said. ‘The crankshaft bearing was poured, new
wrist pins were made, and the cylinders have been re-sleeved. The
steering arm is just like the originals, and the cam shaft,
manifold, carburetor and oil pump have also been completely re-made
from scratch.’

Hall considers this project one of the most challenging he has

‘The clutch, reverse planetary were the toughest part for
me,’ Hall said.

‘They are big, very complicated parts. There were virtually
no small parts left on the engine at all. The manifolds were
missing, the cooling pump was gone, the cam shaft and valve gear
train were missing too. The tractor’s shift mechanisms and most
of the steering was all built by hand as well.’

Sell and his two right-hand men, Craig Holt and Raymond Roth, of
Booker, Texas, worked many months in the Texas Panhandle rebuilding
the chassis, transmission, and assembling the parts as the
machinists up north completed them.

Hart-Parr tractors were extremely popular in the early 20th
century. The 40 model was advertised as the modern farm horse model
of simplicity, and its two-cylinder engine was fueled by

According to Tysie, who has spent over 40 years restoring old
tractors, the Hart Parr 30 and 40 were built for small acreage
farms with lots offences, where the field work called for frequent
sharp turns. Hart Parr was also the first successful manufacturer
of gas tractors and was later bought and consolidated with the
Oliver Company.

‘The three-wheeled Hart Parrs are much shorter
tractors,’ Tysie said. ‘That is why the cylinders are
vertical and there is a single wheel up front. It is a totally
different type of tractor design. They also were designed to handle
some road work, but as it turned out, the design was not nearly as
successful as their bigger tractors.’

The tractor will be featured as the star of the 1991 Gold-en
Spread Antique Machinery Association Show held near Perryton, Texas
on September 21 and 22. It will be permanently housed at Country
Time Antiques and can be seen by appointment by contacting Donald
Sell at 806-435-5872. More information may also be obtained by
writing Sell or the association at HCR 2 Box 15, Perryton, Texas
79070. Country Time Antiques and the Association Show location is
at the Donald and Faye Sell farm located 10 miles east of Perryton,
Texas on High-way 377, and five miles south on High-way 2711.

And what will be the encore to Sell’s love for restoration
of the old and unusual?

‘I don’t know yet,’ Sell said. ‘But you can bet
I’ll find something else to work on before long. This came
together a lot faster than I had expected.’

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