Three For The Price Of Two

By Staff
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Jim Peck
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U. S. Court of Appeals for 6th Circuit, 613 U.S. Post Office
Courthouse, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202

As a long-time subscriber but small-time collector, I always
look forward to the arrival of GEM and find enjoyment in scanning
its pages from cover to cover. It doesn’t take long to absorb
news concerning the engines in my small collection, of which an
excellent Foos Jr., on trucks, is my favorite. However, I find the
articles on tractor restoration to be of particular interest. It
occurred to me that my own experience in that area might be of
interest to other readers.

I own an 80 acre tract in a nearby county which some might call
junk land-but they’d better not let me hear them say it! Having
had difficulty keeping a couple of acres mowed around the house and
outbuildings on what I laughingly call my ‘farm’, a friend
gave me an old Harvester International Cub with a Woods mower which
was nearly as decrepit as the farm itself. That poor old tractor,
which had spent its best days being abused by highway department
employees of a rural county, had been left outdoors, untouched by
human hands, for some years. Getting it into operable shape proved
to be a prolonged and not inexpensive undertaking, but the old
fellow did its level best to do a job for a dozen years.

Last year two of my sons convinced me that I was waging a losing
battle with my vintage machine, and one of them located an
identical Cub at a so-so price. It had been used exclusively for
snow plowing and was equipped with a blade rather than a mower, but
the engine had been recently ovehauled, and in general it enjoyed
better health than my creaking invalid. I bought it, and Jim and
Ched began the slow process of converting the two machines into one
excellent tractor and another not so good-but not so bad
either!

The ‘boys’ (I call them that, but no one except a father
or an elderly uncle would) undertook the chore, intending to simply
put all the best parts on one tractor, the more worn on the other.
For example, the rear wheels and draw bar of the second tractor
were badly pitted by the salt used in snow removal, so they went on
the ‘not so good’ unit, while the tires stayed on the
better machine. As work progressed, however, my sons’
enthusiasm in the pursuit of excellence got the better of them, and
they went far beyond original expectations.

Both tractors were totally disassembled, and I do mean totally.
All parts, from big ones like fenders to little ones the size of
your thumb, were sandblasted and sanded, then spray painted with
primer, and followed by several final coats. The hood of the better
tractor ended up with a finish competitive with that on any luxury
automobile.

The color is authentic original HI red, and this might be a good
time to mention that, like that paint, every part needed was found
to be available through a local implement dealer. These tractors
were 1949 (Serial #94769) and 1951 (Serial #142566) models and I
was pleased to find that every part we needed, no matter how
important or insignificant, could be purchased either
over-the-counter or by catalogue. It should be added, however, that
son Jim has a basement machine shop superior to that of most
hobbyists, and was able to turn or otherwise fabricate some of the
needed parts. In reassembling the better tractor, and in most
instances in the other one also, all new bolts and nuts, bushings,
gaskets, seals, bearings and other such parts were used. New
batteries and belts were provided, and new front tires (largely for
cosmetic reasons) were put on the better unit. A brand new
electrical harness was installed, and both generators and starting
motors were redone. One headlight lens and one rear lens were
needed, and again, duplicates of the originals were found to be
over-the-counter items.

An acquisition of considerably greater importance may be worth
mentioning. The old tractor’s muffler projected straight up
from a pipe extending direct from the manifold through a hole in
the hood. This position of the muffler was a considerable nuisance
wherever low hanging branches existed, and made mowing in my small
orchard plot a virtual impossibility. As a questionable remedy, I
had put in an elbow so that the muffler lay back just over the
hood. However, since this directed the emission right at the
operator’s face, it would be understatement to say that the
cure was worse than the disease. Jim procured from the implement
dealer a fascinating pre-formed exhaust pipe with more dips and
bends than a chorus line. It barely missed a lot of things on the
way down, but repositioned the muffler under the floorboard. The
hole in the hood, incidentally, was fiber glassed over and is now
entirely undiscernable on the beautifully finished hood mentioned
above.

Neither engine needed a full overhaul, but both were pretty well
worked over. Both transmissions were opened and all of the gears
checked. Interestingly, even after all those years of use, and hard
use, after being cleaned up, most of those gears, even on the older
unit, could have passed as brand new. Rather surprisingly, neither
clutch required serious attention.

The Woods mower was in even worse shape than the older tractor.
One skid was broken and half gone, and we replaced both while we
were at it. The pulley and clutch assembly were in sorry condition,
and somewhere in history a marginal mechanic had improvised repairs
out of his junk box. Once again, however, our implement man came up
with parts. This might be a good time to give a tip of the hat to
the men in that trade. We had to cross the Ohio River to Campbell
County, Kentucky, but like other farm implement dealers we’ve
dealt with over the years, this one went far beyond the call of
duty in offering suggestions, providing answers, and being
generally cooperative. It would be great to find an automobile
supply house half as friendly!

I have no illusions about the Cub as a work-horse. I have a
’52 Ford with a Mono trailing mower which will of course run
rings around the Cub when it comes to heavy work, and I also have
two Sears tractor/mowers (one 11HP, one 12) and a Jacobson (12HP)
which will go through far heavier grass and growth than the Cub.
Just the same, for plain old fun I’ll take the Cub any day.
Cruising along on its bouncy seat high above the flying severed
leaves of grass gives one a ‘King of the Mountain’ weekend
feeling that relegates the frustrations of the preceding five days
to the forgotten past.

I mentioned earlier that restoring the first tractor turned out
to be ‘not inexpensive,’ and certainly this more recent
procedure was not cheap. The older unit was priced for a quick sale
so didn’t bring top dollar, and parts cost money. Truthfully, I
am never going to try and figure out just what my ‘new’
tractor has cost, and when I dwell on the matter I have the sinking
feeling that for my total investment in the two tractors I might
well have been able to purchase three. But I have no regrets. We
have had a lot of fun out of all of this, and, like a kid at
Christmas, I have a nice bright and shiny new toy! When it goes to
work this spring on my ‘farm’, remote from the view of
human eyes, the creatures of the woods and fields will be simply
dazzled by its brilliance!

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