A 2N Lives in Brooklyn

A Son Realizes the Importance of Tractors, Time Passing and the Connection to his Father.

By Andrew Sarno. Published in the N-News Winter issue, January-February-March Volume 32 Number 1

Andrew Sarno's 2N in Brooklyn

Andrew Sarno’s 2N in Brooklyn.

When I was a kid, we spent the last two weeks of every summer in Waldoboro, Maine. This was my favorite part of summer vacation. In late August, we would all cram into our tiny sedan and drive six hours from Brooklyn, New York. The car ride was a little rough, but once we got there, I was in heaven. I loved swimming in the cold Atlantic, building sand castles, catching crabs and eating as much fried food and ice cream as I could fit into my adolescent body. I never wanted it to end.

My dad with his pride and joy.

My dad with his pride and joy.

Unlike Brooklyn, everything in Maine is spread out, so a good portion of our trip was spent driving around rural parts of “vacationland.” Our annual tradition was to drive from Waldoboro to the Union Farm equipment store outside of Rockport to look at farm equipment. My father loved to slowly walk up and down the aisles of tractors, combine harvesters and plows. He would imagine how different his life would have been had he grown up in the country instead of the city. My brother and I would run around in the muddy lot and throw rocks at each other. I remember times when the mud was so thick, my father would have to come over and pull me out of my boots.

I don’t think I could have been any less interested in tractors. At some point during my father’s tractor meditation session, he would grab a hold of one of us and encourage us to admire the beauty of the machines. I just couldn’t see it. I thought tractors were noisy and slow and I was more interested in things like computers and Game Boys.

During one particular farm equipment pilgrimage, my father announced that he was buying a tractor. He brought us over to this giant, rusty piece of iron with cracked rubber tires and declared that we were taking this beast back to Brooklyn with us. He told us that it was a 1946 Ford 2N tractor. My mother was quiet. It was obvious that they had already discussed this purchase and she was quite uncertain about it. I was shocked. I was aware of his infatuation with tractors, but I thought he would at least buy a new one. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

After some more staring, my father went inside the store to “square away” with the man and we headed out for the day. Dad told us he was going to rent a U-Haul and drive the monster into the back of the truck. He’d tie it up and we’d drive it home on Saturday. I had immediately lost interest in the tractor until I discovered that there was a possibility that I could ride home in the truck with him.

We made it home without a hitch and for years my father tinkered and toyed with the tractor until he had fully restored it. He even shipped the engine out to Indiana to get the engine block planed. He was proud of his tractor and he tried to get me interested in it. Sadly, I just never could. I just didn’t see the point to owning a thing like this. I understood that it was historic, but why not a Chevy Nova or a Mustang? At least those have a roof and they’re fast. I would argue with him about how “uncool” the tractor was and he would tell me that someday I would understand.

It took a long time. Nearly twenty years after inheriting the tractor, I finally understand. During those twenty years, I lost friends and family, graduated from college, got married and started a family of my own. In realizing how quickly time passes, I now have an appreciation for things from the past that move more slowly. My son and daughter turned two and four in December, and I feel like they were just born.

The author with his daughter Ellie.

The author with his daughter Ellie.

I see gray hairs pushing through on the sides of my head and I find myself searching for things that make time slow down. Knowing this isn’t possible, keeping a piece of history seems like the next best thing. I now understand why my dad bought his tractor and I have a greater appreciation for his love for his machine.


tractor tattoo

To honor the tractor and my father, I got a tattoo on the side of my arm.

Like most kids, I only wanted things that were “cool,” that is, sleek and new. I now know that cool quickly becomes “uncool” and sleek goes out of style and everything that is new eventually gets old. Technology changes so quickly and unlike modern technology, my dad’s tractor is timeless. It is a functioning piece of history that can still hold its own even at seventy years of age. Feeling old at times myself, I can now appreciate the simplicity of this machine. I believe that it represents a time when industriousness, determination and virility were prized aspects of a person’s character. For my dad, this tractor represented those traits. He is a man who identifies himself by the hard work he has done and by the things that he has built that will stand the test of time.

The tractor is my father and my father is the tractor.
Sarno's 2N on a Brooklyn street

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1952 8N: er’ah, maybe really , 1950!

By Jeff Johnson. Published in the N-News Autumn issue, Oct-Nov-Dec Year, Volume 31 Number 3

Jeff Johnson's 1952 8NIn 1997, my wife and I decided to move out of the suburbs and build a house on the old family farm in central Indiana. I asked my uncle whether I could get by with an overgrown lawn and garden tractor or if I needed something bigger. The man with the John Deere 4430 said, “You need more tractor than that. You need a Super A or an 8N. A lawn and garden tractor won’t hold up.”

Jeff Johnson's 1952 8N grille

A rough Bondo job, paint drips and rust. Before resto!

Well, I commenced to studying the matter and soon found the 8N to be the tractor of choice. At the time, prices in our area were high, and $3300 bought me a running 1952 Ford 8N tractor with all the parts present, but not a lot more. The bodywork and paint job were adequate for a work tractor, but it wasn’t pretty and the top half of the bumper had been sawn off at some point in time.

I immediately pressed the tractor into service, mowing the property and building a gravel driveway along the 1100′ path to the building site.

During the first winter, I discovered that the mismatched and worn-out rear tires were inadequate for removing any significant snowfall, so I replaced the tires and had them filled with calcium chloride. Wow, what a difference! I could clear snow from the driveway in two passes, using 2nd gear, sometimes 3rd.

In 2004, I realized that the tractor really didn’t have the power it should. I checked the cylinder pressures. They varied from each other fairly dramatically, and I had also been having problems with the exhaust manifold gasket burning out on the rear cylinder, due to pitting of the block. It was time for major work.

Fortunately, the premier N-Complete tractor shop in Wilkinson, Indiana was less than 30 minutes away from my home, so I loaded the tractor onto a trailer and dropped it off for a complete engine rebuild. The results were dramatic, with the tractor seeming to have suddenly doubled in power. I knew for the first time how much power that 8N was really supposed to have. Happy with the results, I kept on mowing, plowing, scooping and hauling the years away with the increasingly rusty old Ford. As I replaced or adjusted more parts (or figured out what they did), it began to dawn on me how much tractor I had gotten for my money, considering the prices of new ones.

The winter of 2013-2014 brought lots of heavy snow to central Indiana, and my usually trusty Ford gave me fits with both cranking and staying running. In the end, I replaced the starter drive, which fixed the starting problem, and I bought a brand new carburetor to replace the old one I had already rebuilt twice. Once again, the tractor started and ran fantastic. With so much of the tractor rebuilt and in great shape mechanically, it seemed a shame to have it appear so dilapidated. I decided it was finally time to freshen up the looks.

Jeff Johnson's 1952 8N hoodWith the last snow just gone, I pulled the sheet metal off the tractor and hauled it down to my workshop. Under the unforgiving workshop lights, it looked even worse. The previous owner had done some truly poor bodywork with his can of Bondo, as evidenced by the condition of the grill (above).

That was also when I discovered that the battery door was not a factory original, but a poorly made sheet metal substitute that wasn’t even drilled on center. I’d never really looked at it closely before – I would just hop on the tractor and use it. The rest of the hood had a slightly better Bondo job, but the stamped “Ford” logos on the hood and fenders were painted crudely.

I sanded out the existing Bondo on all the sheet metal to smooth things out, then sprayed on Rustoleum’s “Painter’s Touch” 2X paint + primer in winter gray. I know you purists are groaning right now, because the colors aren’t true, but the results were great in the end.

Jeff Johnson's 1952 8N profileSeeing the sheet metal looking so nice made the rest of the tractor look that much worse. Rustoleum had another paint + primer color called Apple Red, so I tried it out on the front bumper I had just sanded out. I realized at that point I had to paint the whole tractor, including the wheels.

As I degreased and lightly sanded the frame, I found the serial number – 8N 279422. I thought, “Hey wait – that’s a 1950 serial number!” So I had actually purchased a 1950, despite the previous owner’s claim. Ah, ignorance is bliss, and I didn’t know better at the time. After the painting job was complete, I finally had a tractor whose looks matched the mechanical condition of the tractor.

The first thing I did after completing the paint job? Why, I hooked up the mower deck to the 3-point hitch and started mowing weeds on the road frontage, of course!
Jeff Johnson's 1952 8N in the field

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1954 NAA

Wayne Musser's NAA 1954

By Wayne Musser. Published in the Summer N-News issue, July-August-September 2016 Volume 31 Number 3 Like many N-News readers, I spent my youth on tractors. Much of that time was spent on my grandfather’s farm in central Pennsylvania. My grandfather started farming with horses, and then he progressed to a Farmall F-14 tractor, then to a Ford 8N. He was so impressed with the 8N, he purchased a second one. After a few years of farming with the Ns, he traded one for a used 1954 NAA. The two year old NAA showed an improvement over the 8N with more horsepower and a Sherman Over/Under transmission that provided twelve forward speeds and three reverse speeds. It was also equipped with … Continue reading

Did you receive your current Summer Issue?

The summer issue of the N-News Magazine should be in your mailbox by now. Read Robbie Tonneberger’s fond recollection of farming with his family’s 8N, Jubilee and 971, and his barn-building adventure with his beloved 1959 881. Steve Dabrowski demystifies the replacement of a steering sector gear with his illustrated how-to. And Bob Nelson waxes poetic about rediscovering his beloved childhood 1948 8N after too much time apart. And Wayne Musser takes a look at his 1954 NAA. You’ll also find reader stories, book reviews, the latest tractor trader and classifieds, and enough display ads to help you get your vintage Ford back in the field. Didn’t get your summer issue? Subscribe or renew today!

Signs of Spring

By George Blosser. Growing up on our family ranch in California, I learned to drive our family’s 2N Ford tractor at a very young age. Some 55 years later I tried to locate our original family tractor by going to its last know owner and ask, “Whatever happened to our family’s 2N?” Regrettably no one knew the answer. I gave up looking for that one and started a search for an 8N. I located one in the State of Arkansas and purchased the tractor. A restoration process was immediately started to return the tractor to its original condition, as when delivered from the factory in 1952. Today the 8N is officially retired from farm work and is used primarily as … Continue reading

Thrift: Getting By & Making the Most of What You Have

Gardner Waldeier's Ford 641 under the shed

By Gardner Waldeier. Published in the Winter N-News issue Jan-Feb-March 2016, Volume 31 Number 1 Thrift. Making due with what is available is paramount these days. In taking over the 1799 farmhouse where I grew up, I’m finding no lack of ways to fill the short winter days in Maine. I built a lean-to style pole barn off the end of the house recently and did the whole project for around ten dollars. I needed a good dry place to keep my tractor and set to making that thought a reality.

A Couple of Ns and a Trailer

Bill Wells and son Peter

My dad, Bill Wells, had a desk job in the Boston financial district. Then in 1936, mom and dad bought an old dairy farm in Massachusetts. But dad was not interested in dairy barn hook ups – he wanted to raise poultry! And we needed a tractor. Dad found a used 9N and a new farm trailer. It was on the N that I had my first driving lesson at age eleven! When he retired, he moved to a family farm in New Hampshire and another 8N took over the mowing work. Here’s our story. Continue reading

EZ Front Weights

Mowing season comes early in my part of Florida. But when I get my mower raised, the front end gets light and the front wheels come off the loading ramps! I needed some weight up front but I checked the tractor budget: there wasn’t much money for weights. My answer: cement weights. Luckily I had around the shop an old animal feed tub! . I thought, “Wow, that would make a nice round weight!” Continue reading

Tractors Are Good For the Soul!

Lauran Paine

Our tractor wasn’t just about work on the farm. It was about hayrides and picnics, too. I can’t think of those things and not smile. Now I use it for parades and teaching the grandkids about old tractors. But I recently restored my harrow – a Dearborn-Towner Model 11-29 – and now when I drive my tractor, the sights, sounds, vibration and even the rattle of the harrow take me right back to 1961. “Magical,” I say. “Old tractors are good for the soul!” Continue reading

Workers: A 9N Movin’ Feed & Snow

Daniel Howe's 1940 9N takes a breather.

In the summer of 2005, we picked up a 1940 Ford 9N to help out around our 15 acre farm. I knew we needed the tractor to carry round bales to feed our horses, but I also needed it to plow snow. Front mounted snow blades seem to be as scarce as hens teeth and they also use the 3 point arms to get their lift. I set out to design my own reliable plow. Continue reading