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My Little C

| January/February 1999

  • Davin dismantled the engine

  • Allis Chalmers model C

  • Davin dismantled the engine
  • Allis Chalmers model C

15 Winston Way, Redwood City, California 94061

I was born and raised on a farm in western Iowa, near Council Bluffs. In the spring of 1947, my dad decided that I was old enough to help with the field work on our 250 acre farm, so he went to the Charles Rief Implement Company in Council Bluffs, where he purchased a new Allis Chalmers model C, serial number C39764, for $921.43. (I was 13 years old at the time.) What a memorable time! Now I was a grownup, helping Dad with our farm work and participating in the local threshing circle, which was soon to come to an end.

After a few short years, I moved on to other things at Iowa State College, but the little C continued to perform faithfully until about 1970, when it was parked in the corner of the machine shed and forgotten. My brother Paul still lives on the 'home place' with his wife Leana and their son Davin. Some time ago, Davin and his friend Tim Winner decided that it was time to restore the little C, and it was pulled out of its hiding place in June of 1997. Unfortunately, no one thought to take any pictures of it as it existed at that time. Fifty years of silent attack by the calcium chloride solution in the rear tires caused tires and rims to collapse before the tractor had moved more than a few yards from its resting place. The front tires had rotted away as well. The job turned into a father-and-son project as Paul searched for and obtained missing parts and provided the funding for the project, while Davin and Tim did the restoration work. The cost of the restoration hasn't been totaled up, but I suspect that it was at least twice the original cost of the tractor!

Davin dismantled the engine, and did a valve job, replacing two exhaust valve seats. The crankshaft was re-ground, and the rods resized to fit. The magneto was rebuilt, the clutch got a new pressure plate, and the brakes were relined. A new ignition harness had to be handmade. The transmission, rear end, and final drives were all cleaned and provided with new lubricants. Of course, new rear rims were installed, and four new tires were put on. The final touch was the paint job, which started with a complete sandblast job, followed by a coat of DuPont Variprime primer, then a coat of grey primer. Next a coat of DuPont Velvaseal sealer was applied, followed by the final coat of Allis Chalmers Orange PPG Ditzler paint.

As the restoration progressed, it was decided that the 'coming out party' for the C would be at the Carsten Farm Show in nearby Shelby on September 12. Accordingly, my wife Margret and I made arrangements to be at the Carsten show. Sure enough, the restoration was completed at 5:00 a.m. on September 12, and Davin and the C arrived at Carstens in time for the daily parade with a few hours to spare!

Having been involved in the old iron hobby for many years, I've seen probably hundreds of newly restored tractors, and a few of them were perhaps even more beautiful than my C, but seeing the C for the first time was a touching moment for me. I couldn't have been more proud if I had done the restoration myself! Now, all I need to do is convince Davin and Paul that the little C really belongs in California.


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

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