Just Do It

By Staff
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My story starts a few years ago, I don't know how many for sure. I just remember my dad pointing out this old Oliver sticking out of the weeds behind a barn a few miles from my home farm, in La Grange, Wisconsin.
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Rt. 2, Tamarack Road, Whitewater, Wisconsin 53190.

Years went by, and one day I saw a cute little Oliver
’60’, all restored, sitting at a local implement dealer. I
stopped to talk with the owner and look over his handiwork. He told
me his father had bought the tractor new, and he recently restored
it.

A few weeks went by before I remembered the old Oliver Dad
pointed out years before. In April 1989 I got around to going to
see it. I knocked on the kitchen door and asked the woman if she
would sell that old Oliver behind the barn. She laughed. She said
her son was always going to clean up that junk, and I was welcome
to take a look, and strike a deal with him. I went down to look it
over and after a few phone calls and a few more weeks, I was the
proud new owner of a 1943 Oliver ’60’ Row Crop (cultivator
included).

My 85-year-old grandfather spotted me dragging it home. He
wondered why I needed another cultivator. The first thing I did
when I got it home was take a ‘before’ picture. You must do
this the moment you drive in the yard. If you don’t, the
overwhelming urge to dismantle something will take over, and you
may never get the chance for a complete ‘before’ picture
again.

As the engine was tight, I then removed the spark plugs and
filled the cylinders with Mystery oil, and parked it in the corn
crib. I couldn’t bear to see it sit outside any longer. Every
time I passed the corn crib, I would give a little tug on the
crank. Sometimes I’d even stand on the handle.

One rainy day I decided to take the cultivator off. Anyone who
has dealt with the Oliver cultivator system knows it is an
ingenious array of clamps and springs that made for a dandy
cultivator, but was also responsible for more pinched fingers than
any single source known to man.

By January of 1990, the crank still had not moved, so I pulled
it into the shop and started disassembling her. I removed all the
sheet metal, radiator, etc., and pulled the engine and bolted it to
a rebuild stand. The tension was really starting to build. What was
I going to find inside?

I pulled the head and found eight tiny, rusty, stuck valves.
It’s probably a good thing the pistons were stuck, or I may
have bent a lot of push rods. Next, I rolled the engine stand
outside, to tip it over and drain the Mystery oil out, which turned
out to be floating on two inches of water on top of the pistons
(well, Mystery oil seemed like a good idea at the time). I pulled
the pan, and oil pump, and removed the rod caps and bolts to get
the crank out with the pistons still in. Next I made an angle iron
hold down to hold the sleeves in the block, and shaved down a chuck
of fence post to fit the top of the piston. I drove the pistons
down about an inch, then took a brake hone and cleaned the top of
the cylinder (the pistons can’t go out the bottom). Then I
turned the engine over and placed a 2 * 4 on the rod, and drove the
pistons out the top. The two center sleeves were corroded beyond
repair. Other than that the engine was restorable.

I called all over to find two new sleeves, with no success. I
found a salvage engine for $75 and used two sleeves and the
distributor from that engine. I honed the best four sleeves I had,
ground the valves, installed new rod and main bearings, and piston
rings. I assembled the engine and then turned my attention to the
rest of the tractor.

I sandblasted everything and primed it with zinc chromate
primer. Then the pitted sheet metal got three coats of Feather
Fill, a liquid bondo product that really fills the pits well. That
was sanded down with a DA sander, then three coats of sanding
primer, wet sand that, then three coats of DuPont Centari acrylic
enamel, with a catalyst. Then bolt it all back together (you always
put the first scratch in the hood while bolting it on). Finally my
little ’60’ was restored to its original glory.

The moral of the story? Don’t wait years to go see that old
tractor behind the barn. It may be gone when you get there. A
friend of mine brought someone by this spring to see my tractor.
After talking awhile he discovered I had bought the tractor he had
been driving by for years. ‘I was always going to stop and see
if he would sell it,’ he said.

Just do it!!

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines