Plymouth High School FFA member restores 641 Ford tractor

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Walker Wallace
With tractor parts on the ground, Walker Wallace stands in front of the Ford tractor he restored as part of his FFA project. (Submitted photo)

When Jan and Dick Shellhouse, of Shelby, approached the agricultural educator at Plymouth High School, Laura Ringler, looking to have their tractor restored, Ringler had a student in mind.

Walker Wallace, a freshman in her FFA program, had a myriad of repair experience working with his dad, Derrick Wallace, on tractor restorations. Walker is also the great-grandson of Howard Cuppy who was also a master repairman and restorer.

Walker, the Shellhouses and Ringler worked together to create a contract that would benefit all fairly.

The following is a reflection written by Walker on his tractor restoration experience:

When I first heard the idea of restoring a tractor for my 2019-2020 FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience project, I was excited. The tractor started out torn apart and in pieces. I felt like it was important to make an estimate of how much it would cost for repairs before I got started.

It was like finding puzzle pieces when I was looking for the parts for the tractor to find out what exactly was missing. I spent hours online looking for pictures and diagrams of this tractor to find out what exactly went where.

After hours of research, I started to piece together the engine, and with the help of my dad, we put all the missing parts on an order list. I ordered parts from many different places. I got a ton of my parts from Hills Tractor (they are out-of-state and worked very well with me to get me all the parts I needed in a timely manner).

After all of our parts came in, we had the engine together and running, but it did not run correctly. After many countless hours, I rebuilt the carburetor for the second time and with many adjustments, it ran great.

From then on, it felt like it was setback after setback. The distributor ate the thrush washer and skipped time. I replaced the whole unit as it was needing some other work, too.

The hydraulic pump and system would not prime up, leaving me with no hydraulics and not very many ideas on how to fix it.

I went through many diagnostic processes and eventually found out it was bleeding pressure off through a loose screw.

Soon after, I thought it was time for the paint and it was far from it actually. I continued to have problems with gaskets leaking and oil going everywhere on the engine.

Since I had replaced all the gaskets, I thought maybe I did not torque them correctly. While that was true for one gasket, the oil leak was coming from something much worse. The front crankshaft seal had went out and it was pouring oil on to the oil pan, and the fan was pushing it everywhere.

Overnight, we pulled the whole front axle off the tractor. I started at 6 p.m. with no parts and was done by 3 p.m. in the afternoon on the next day.

In all of my time spent working with the diagnostic system, I must have repaired the carburetor at least 15 times along with adjusting the timing. At this point, the majority of the work was finally done and the last thing to do was paint.

I believe those countless hours I spent on the little details made a huge difference in the way this tractor turned out. I feel if I wouldn’t have double-checked the parts as I was putting the tractor back together, it would have had problem after problem, causing it to not run correctly at the end of the day.

This tractor turned into a masterpiece that I am very proud of and will hopefully last for generations to come.

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Walker would like to thank the Shellhouse family for this opportunity, his dad and friends for their assistance, and Ringler for helping to make the connection for this project. It was the experience of a lifetime, and Walker says he particularly enjoyed seeing the smiling face of Dick Shellhouse when he came driving in on his restored 641 Ford last fall.

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