Restoring old tractors is rewarding, but costly

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I don’t claim to be “restoring” a tractor, as to me that means making it exactly as it was when new, an almost impossible undertaking unless one has unlimited funds. That said, I’m in the process of “refurbishing” a 1941 Farmall BN that I’ve owned for many, many years.

The whole thing began with the intent to just clean it up a little and then to blow on some fresh, red paint and apply new decals. Well as these things usually go, one dern thing led to another and now there is a pretty much bare Farmall chassis and engine sitting in one corner of the shop and piles of individual parts, bolts and nuts, all of which had to be cleaned and painted.

There’s a bead blasting cabinet in the shop in which all the smaller parts were cleaned, primed, and then painted IH red with rattle cans of paint and primer from Tractor Supply. The rear wheel centers and rims and several drawbar parts were too large for the cabinet and were taken to Lisbon Powder Coating to be sandblasted.

Farmall BN
The Farmall BN just after pressure washing this past summer.

When clean, these parts were primed as well, although a high volume, low pressure (HVLP) spray gun was used for this because it would have taken too many rattle cans.

Catching up

We had several really nice days near the end of last month and it seemed a good chance to paint the larger parts red. I rigged a rack in the west doorway of the barn with a couple of sawhorses and two long boards.

On this rack were placed the two rear fenders, the rear wheel centers, the gas tank, the drawbar parts, the air cleaner assembly, and the radiator grill and nose assembly. A pint of TSC red paint with a little hardener added was mixed and two coats were applied to the underside of all these parts with the HVLP gun.

The next day the parts were turned over and the outer side was treated to another double coat of red. One of the great mysteries of painting tractors is why a flying insect invariably has to land in the wet paint on most of the sheet metal parts — right where their trail will be the most obvious. The pesky flying bugs never land on the drawbar or the wheels where the marks would not be noticeable, but always on a fender, the top of the gas tank, and the very top front of the nose piece.

Even worse

I’ve tried to lift the offending insect from the wet paint with the point of a knife blade, but he usually just ends up being turned over a couple of times, damaging the paint even more. I’ve learned the best plan is to let the paint dry and then scrape off the bug.

Anyway, the paint dried, the bugs were removed, and the parts look pretty good – not expo quality – but pretty good, especially from five feet away.

Now to finish cleaning up the chassis and get it painted and put the thing back together again, after which I plan to take it to a show or two and then advertise it for sale.

Speaking of selling tractors, it seems to me that prices are sagging. A few weeks ago Aumann Auctions sold Carl Rufener’s large collection, and while I didn’t attend the sale I did look up the results on Aumann’s website.

Nice collection

Carl, who lives on Congress Lake Road north of Hartville, Ohio, had a nice collection of nearly seventy mostly refurbished tractors, but unfortunately ill health forced a sale. One of the nicer tractors was a super rare Minneapolis-Moline UDLX that went for $120,000; several thousand less than this model has been selling for in recent years. Two other very rare examples, a Long Model “A”, and a Gibson Model “I “, brought $21,500 and $20,500 respectively.

A Centaur Model “M2” and a Huber Model “B” each was hammered down at $10,500, as was, surprisingly, a General 3-wheeler made by the Cleveland Tractor Company. I wasn’t aware that the General tractors were so valuable.

A really nice Oliver 60 Standard brought $7,500, as did a Minneapolis-Moline Jet Star 3, while a Custom Model “B” went for $9,500. Carl had some nicely turned out Sheppard Diesels and an SD-4 brought $15,000, while an SD-3 realized $6,500 and an SD-2, $9,000.

Even a good-looking Graham Bradley, a tractor which isn’t at all plentiful, sold for just $8,000. The rest of the prices ranged from $900 for an Allis-Chalmers CA to $5,800 for a really nice Oliver Model 550.

I was especially interested in a 1946 Massey-Harris 101 Jr. Standard that I had refurbished and sold to Carl two or three years ago. It brought $2,900 which, as I recall, was exactly what Carl paid me for it.

Another thought

On another note, the following observation came to me as I was driving around Salem about the end of October and I make it only half in jest. There supposedly are thousands of folks going hungry in this country and yet every year at Halloween probably millions of pumpkins are wasted.

Nearly every house has one or more of the large, orange fruits displayed on the porch or along the front walk, while many more are carved into jack-o-lanterns.

All these pumpkins end up in the garbage can or are allowed to rot away — nothing much more forlorn than a once broadly grinning jack-o-lantern, still on the front porch in December all covered with snow and slowly collapsing on itself, with its happy grin turning into the sunken and toothless grimace of a wrinkled, witch-like old crone

Just think of all the bread, pies, baked pumpkin and soup that could have been made from the flesh of these nutritious and versatile fruits.

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Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules.

1 COMMENT

  1. I have a chance to purchase a fully restored 1947 Farmall b with duel seats and implements for $2850! Is this a decent price and will it drag a mower deck so I can keep the field nice?

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