Gas Engine Magazine

My Dad’s Fordson

By Staff

2986 Ridge Rd. Rt 3 West Bend, Wisconsin 53095

I grew up on a farm during the late 40’s and 50’s, so I
remember some of the early tractors and engines still on farms. I
can remember Dad cranking a tractor, oh what fun he was having! I
learned a lot of new words! Dad sold the farm, but we always lived
in the country. About fifteen years ago, after going to a lot of
engine shows, the bug bit me and I started looking for old engines
and tractors. Dad would come to visit and on occasion give me a
hand. But it seemed I couldn’t get Dad interested. He would say
‘I cranked those old things long enough, and was very happy
when all I had to do was flip a switch for light or push a button
to start a tractor.’

It was quite a surprise when several years later Dad called and
asked if I would go to an auction and bid on a Fordson that
happened to be in my area. He told me how high to bid and, if I got
it for a good price, he would try to restore it.

Dad had grown up with the Fordson on the farm and knew how to
keep them running-sometimes not the easiest thing to do. Well, he
hauled the tractor home and found out it was a 1920. It had six
spoke wheels in back, wood steering wheel and front wheels with no
outer flange, which of course were badly bent. The gas tank was
full of holes, valve guides bad, valves shot, only good thing was
that it was free. The tractor stood in Dad’s shed for a while,
but then in his spare time things started coming apart, with new or
good used parts going on. I’d get to see Dad every once in a
while (we live 80 miles apart) and it would seem like he would
never get it running again. Dad would say that he could see why
people got hurt in the old days, as tools were crude, and testing
equipment for ignition was limited, at least for the

It took Dad about five years to finish the old Fordson, between
running a small engine business in Wautoma. He called one day and
asked if I’d come for a visit (working visit, that is). He
borrowed a friend’s S. C. Case to belt into the Fordson and
limber it up good. So after about an hour he turned on the gas and
the mag, a ball of fire came out of the carb intake (air cleaner
had not been hooked up yet), and almost set my knee on fire, as I
was sitting on the Fordson with my foot on the clutch. Needless to
say, we shut her down in a hurry. Now I know why Dad had the fire
extinguisher real handy. We went to the shop and made up a timing
gauge from an old spark plug for checking top center of the piston
and rechecked the wiring. We started up the Case again, crossed our
fingers and our legs, and then let out the clutch on the Fordson.
The belt had hardly started moving when the old Fordson started.
Dad made a few adiustments on the carb and she ran like a Swiss
watch. Of course, we both had to take it for a ride. I think Dad
gets more enjoyment watching me drive than doing it himself.

Dad got some paint from the Fordson House, and it looks good as
new. It has been to several shows and I’m sure it will be going
to a lot more. It makes me very proud of my father when I see
people talking to him and complimenting him on the fine looking

  • Published on Sep 1, 1989
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