My $20,000 1938 Case RC Tractor

By Staff
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Tractor out of the brush.
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Pulling Case out with my Schramm Pneuma tractor.
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September 1994: Debonne Vineyard Case RC as located in the brush.
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Unloading tractor backhoe couldn't lift it, but dragged it off.
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June 1995: Loaded and ready to take to Antique Engine Show.
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June 1995: Completed tractor being towed to try to start.

3121 Creek Road, Kingsville, Ohio 44048

In mid-September 1994, the Ashtabula County Antique Engine Club,
of which I am secretary, agreed to hold a mini-Antique Engine Show
at the Debonne Winery at Madison, Ohio, in exchange for a generous
gift to the club. On cue, six of us arrived at the winery with our
restored tractors and hit and miss engines. Later that day the
owner of the winery mentioned that he had an old tractor up in the
woods that we could have. There was no discussion at that time, but
a few weeks later I had occasion to go by the winery with my wife
and we decided to see what the tractor was like. We hunted around
the ‘woods’ but could not see any tractor, so we headed to
his dad’s place to find him and ask directions. Tony Debevc and
his dad, Tony Sr., were outside and they said it was well hidden
and they gave us a scythe and lopping shears to get through the
multi flora roses to it. In passing they mentioned that the Case
had been sitting in that spot for at least 20 years.

We finally found a semi-clearing above where the tractor was
supposed to be and started cutting our way in. We finally located
it in the middle of the fifty feet of rose bushes. It was in sad
shape, but all there, as far as we could tell.

On August 10th, a fellow engine club member, Bob Pifer, and I
headed to the winery with my large tractor on the trailer. We
unloaded the big tractor, but still couldn’t get to the old
tractor be cause of the roses. We spotted an employee of the winery
driving a large tractor that had been fitted with a front end
loader and had huge weights on the rear. We asked him to back
through the roses to mash them down so we could pull the Case out,
which he did.

We then took the log chains up to the Case and hooked them onto
the tractors and started pulling. It moved and started down the
hill, but soon the front rubber tires came off the rims, and in
another ten feet, the rear steel wheels collapsed. We pulled (slid)
it down to the trailer, but then couldn’t load it. Tony came by
and saw our predicament and went after the tractor with the front
end loader. He just picked it up and set it on the trailer. After
chaining it down, we headed for home, 40 miles away.

Now the problem was how to get it off. I remembered a neighbor,
Stanley Rutkowski, had a back-hoe so I went to see if he would come
over and lift it off, which he agreed to do. In fifteen minutes he
arrived and chained the Case to the bucket, but couldn’t lift
it, so we decided to drag it off down the loading ramps. We did,
but we now had the Case about thirty-five feet from the barn. I
said good enough, and headed back to the winery to get my tractor
that we used to pull it out.

I started sandblasting the Case where it sat, but my hose
wouldn’t reach to the back of the Case. After blowing it clean
of sand, the wheels were the most important thing in order to get
it into the barn. Bob Pifer said he had a dolly that would hold it
and he brought it over and we jacked up the Case and slid the dolly
under it, hooked up the riding lawn mower and pulled it into the
barn.

Another member of the club, Joe Blaha, said he could roll new
sections to repair the rear steel wheels, and a second club member,
George Nicholas, said he had a parts Case RC with fairly good front
wheels.

When the front wheels were re moved and the hubs taken off we
found the bearings were shot. A week and $85.00 later I had the
bearings. Next the seals were torn up and new housings were not
available. Had to have Gorden Pifer, Bob’s son, mig-weld a new
backing in the seal housing. Then had to cut sections from the old
rims and braze them onto the newer rims where they had rusted out.
It was my first attempt at brazing but I was surprised at how easy
it was, of course, they were sandblasted first.

Rear wheels were next, cutting out the sections that had been at
ground level and rusted out. Four sections were cut, being careful
to cut just before the spokes, which were hot riveted to the rim.
Had to cut out four spoke sections and weld new sections in them. I
had to grind the nuts off of the spade lugs to get them off the
rusted out sections. I even welded the new rim sections in place
with fair results, as I have never really learned to weld.

During this time the engine had been drained of oil and water.
Three of the cylinders were full of water. I put a cup of
penetrating oil in each cylinder and let it sit for a month. I took
a block of wood that I turned to just fit in the cylinder and gave
each piston a whack with the eight-pound sledge every week. They
wouldn’t move, so I re placed the head, made a zerk adapter
from an old 7/8 inch spark plug and started
pumping grease to the #2 cylinder. I put all the pressure I could
muster from the grease gun and let it sit for another week. Tried
again, and again, until finally grease passed the rings. But the
piston still wouldn’t move. I decided to remove the valves;
they were all frozen in place. I broke three valve guides getting
them out. The pistons still wouldn’t move.

The next job was to separate the front of the tractor from the
rear so the engine could be removed from the frame casting that
also serves as the oil pan. Thank goodness a friend, Ladimer
Kubichek, showed up to help Bob and me. Ladie had at one time
worked for a Case dealership. With his guidance and help it only
took a few minutes.

I decided to take off the governor. It was rusted so badly it
wouldn’t turn. The camshaft was also frozen in place. Thank
goodness, another club member, Arnold Howard, had a long heavy
brass rod and we drove the camshaft out. The magneto gearing was
also frozen in place by rust. Now the pistons finally moved.

The rest of the story is rather straight forward. I took the
engine block to San born Motors for crankshaft grinding, piston
bore honing, new bearings, piston knurling, new valve guides, one
new valve seat, etc….$880.00 and three months later everything
was done and it was ready to reassemble. I had PPG acrylic enamel
mixed to match the original Case RC grey and red. The magneto, a
Bosch, was taken apart, cleaned and a rebuild kit installed. Then
it wouldn’t fire and I found that the magnet had lost most of
its charge. So, another few dollars ($105.00 to be exact) and
another week and it was firing perfectly.

I was able to make a new hood using what was left of the old one
as a pattern. I cleaned (sandblasted) the carburetor, put in all
new hoses, clamps, and a lot of work on the radiator.

By June 1995 it was ready to start, but so stiff from the
rebuild that I couldn’t crank it! I have no land so I had to
load it on the trailer using the electric winch and take it to
Bob’s where we pulled it around his field. It ‘putted’
but wouldn’t run! Back home I unloaded it and pushed it into
the barn. Took the carburetor off and apart, and discovered that,
in my haste, I forgot to clean the passage from the float bowl to
the main jet.

By now, show time was here, and I loaded it onto the trailer and
took it to the July 1st and 2nd show. Of course, it rained that
Friday night, the front tire went flat, and since I work at the
office all day, there was no chance to try to start it. Upon
getting it home the next Monday, I found the rain had rusted the
carburetor and the high-heat paint on the manifold was dissolved,
and the manifold itself was rusty.

On Friday I got the sandblast outfit running and recleaned them
both, along with some parts that Cecil Lewis had brought over for
me to do. Saturday I painted the manifold and this time stuck it in
the wife’s oven to bake, as per the instructions on the
manifold paint. I even got it back on the tractor and ready to try
to start it again.

Sunday is a day of rest, and of course, church. While in church
my back and leg started to hurt. As the day went on it got a little
worse, and by bedtime it was pretty bad. At 6 a.m. I finally gave
in and let my wife call the emergency squad. They started me on
oxygen on the trip to the hospital and there they gave me an IV to
lessen the pain. I won’t go into the details of the next month
and a half, except to say that the bills added up to nearly
$18,000! The doctors think that in lifting the sand into the
sandblaster hopper I pinched the nerves in my spinal column. That,
along with the $ 1,900 in parts for the tractor, make the tractor
cost me nearly $20,000!

Yes, we finally got it running in November. Lee Robishaw,
another club member, brought his John Deere over and with a belt
from club member, Dale Fobes, it started. After an hour of running
it was loose enough to be cranked, and now it usually starts on the
first pull!

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