The Long Run: A 12-year Restoration

By Larry Gorbet. Interview & photography by Cheyenne Lee. Published in the N-News Winter 2018. Vol. 33 No. 1.

.Gobert LongRun 1.jpg

I was born and grew up in Lonoke, Arkansas, a small farming community of about 4,200 people. It is very much a one stoplight town in the middle of the Delta. Tractors were part of the fabric of the community.

I drove tractors and worked on trucks when I was a boy. I worked on a rice farm out of high school because that’s what most people did around here at the time, and I made extra money as a kid putting spark plugs in people’s cars and starting tractors for folks that couldn’t start them. I’ve been around them my whole life. But my real involvement with tractors started years ago when I was helping a friend who had had a heart attack and could no longer keep up with his farm. I farmed rice for two years tilling the ground and all that.

I’ve owned a Ford 801 since 1968 and I’ve used that tractor daily. I got it when I still owned the Esso gas station in town. While Lonoke was a small rural town, there was no one doing custom bush hogging work. So I started doing some custom work on the side. I was using a 9N but quickly realized I needed something a little bigger. I preferred Fords because they are more user friendly, especially for small jobs like I was doing. My 9N Ford worked great and I had no reason to believe the 801 wouldn’t be the same. They’re small and easy to handle in tight places. I kept the tractor up at the station and people would stop in and ask me to do small jobs around town like spread dirt for lots, or graves, or foundations.

I’ve owned a lot of tractors and sold a bunch too – Fords, John Deeres, Allis Chalmers, but Fords in particular are really easy to handle and easy to use and I enjoy working with them.

Gobert's 901 grilleI bought the 801 locally from a guy in DeValls Bluff, Arkansas who was an ex-state trooper. He was getting rid of it because he wasn’t using it enough, mostly just to launch boats out onto the White River for folks during the fishing/boating season. As an aside, at about the same time I owned the Esso station in the 1970s, I got into the towing business as well because of the same ex-state trooper that I bought the 801 from. He mentioned that there was no wrecker service in town until 20 miles out. I already owned the gas station, so I bought a 1955 GMC one-ton wrecker and I started a 24-hour tow business. I ran it for 10 years and it was very successful. I still own the wrecker, as well as a lot of equipment from years and years of working and collecting.

A friend told me about the 901 fifteen years ago. It was locally owned by a gardener, but I don’t know much else about the tractor’s history. Because I had been associated with farming most of my younger life, it seemed natural when I bought it and decided to restore it.

When I looked at the 901, it was obvious it was a propane model. I’d never had a propane Ford, so I thought “Why not?” The propane system was in pretty rough shape. The sheet metal and especially the rear fenders were pretty rough, too. I had to change them from long brackets to shorts ones. The propane system is unique and is so much different from a standard vaporizer. Since I had never owned a propane model before, it was a bit challenging. In fact, nothing was easy on this restoration which took place over twelve years. The tractor was worn pretty badly and I had no prior experience completely restoring a tractor from scratch. I had done bits and pieces on previous tractors I had owned, but nothing like a full restoration. The engine was rebuilt, as well as the steering, the hydraulic pump, and all the lift components.

I have an old friend, Roy Kidder, who also has experience with tractors. He did the machine work on the engine. He repaired the head and worked on the crankshaft. I had the hydraulic pump professionally rebuilt but that’s it. I did all the reassembly. It was mostly trial and error, but having worked on tractors for so long, you pick up a thing or two on how they work and are assembled.

Currently, I have a Case 930 and 1030, a John Deere 70LP, an International 444, a Ford 601 and 2600, 901 and 801. I also have a Farmall Cub, and a 1941 Farmall B, 2550 and a Kubota L210.

Gobert's Ford 2600 loaderThe Ford 2600 loader tractor is a real worker. I think it is from 1976. I bought it 20 years ago out of central Arkansas. It has been very dependable with few problems. I mostly use it for loading dirt, landscape work, setting up foundations, stuff like that. Like my other experiences with Fords, this one is easy to maneuver and handles well.

I don’t really use them much anymore except for the odd job here or there. I still spread dirt and gravel and such for people around town that ask, and of course, I use them for my own personal projects at home. At this point, I like to tinker a bit, but now I would consider myself more of a collector. I enjoy going to tractor shows and have been going since 1992. My favorite is the Central Arkansas Two Cylinder Club Show that I try to get to every year. I got into them after I saw an ad and went to a show and got to liking them – there are a lot of antique tractors at the shows and I’ve met a lot of friends over the years going to them. I’ve even entered the 901, 601, and the Farmall Cub in a few tractor shows – in Scott and Hazen, Arkansas. All in all, it is fun.Gobert's 901 Powermaster

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Two Sides of the Same Tractor

Published in the N-News Autumn 2017. Vol. 32 No. 4.

Unless there is a son or daughter who is interested in your tractor, there comes a time when you need to send it on to the next owner. Actually, we aren’t really owners of these great machines, we are caretakers. Like living in a historic old house, you know that building will outlive you. What are you going to wish for that old house and its new owner? What are your desires for your old tractor? In one story, a son who lives 2000 miles away has to decide what to do with his father’s tractor. The other story picks up the first left off: an 8N ready for a new life with a new family.

Dan Parker on the 8N in the 1970s

Mark’s father, Dan Parker, on the 8N in the 1970s.

By Mark Parker.

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The old tractor came into our lives in the early 1970s. My family had just bought some land in Massachusetts and we needed a piece of equipment to help out with chores around the property. My Dad searched around and found someone selling a used 8N with a front end bucket. Over time, the land was cleared and an apple orchard was put in. The frontend bucket proved helpful moving rocks and logs. Eventually, as the land became more meadows and orchards, more and more attachments started showing up, a disk harrow for turning over the soil and putting in a garden, a flail mower for mowing the grass, and numerous carts and trailers for hauling things around the property.

My Dad had a lot of fun with the old tractor, and it really became a part of who he was. He spent many weekends either working on it or doing projects with it. I can remember many father/son discussions, him driving, me riding shotgun, sitting side-saddle on the fenders. It was the go-to vehicle for teaching all the kids and grandkids how to drive and shift.

Three years ago, my father passed away. Knowing how much enjoyment he got from the tractor, I wanted to see it go to a good home. The problem was that I lived on the west coast and the tractor was located back east. I hadn’t seen it in several years and had no idea what condition it was in.

Did it still run? Was it rusting away? I didn’t know who to turn to for help, but an internet search turned up The N-News Magazine and Rob suggested I run an advertisement. We placed an ad and I got an email from one of the magazine readers, someone that lived nearby and was interested in restoring it. We set up a meeting for the next time I was back east.

Several weeks later, we met up and once I got a better look at the 8N, I could see it was in worse shape than I remembered. Slowly sinking into the ground, my first thought was that no one would want it and it was going to end up being hauled off to the junkyard and sold for scrap. The thought of that really bothered me. The tractor had meant so much to my father. Luckily, Pete showed up, motivated and ready to take on a project. Along with one of his buddies, he came back the following day with a flat bed truck and they pulled the tractor up onto it, promising me that they would take good care of it.

This fall is the third anniversary of my Dad’s passing and I know if he could see the pictures of the restored tractor, it would bring a smile to his face. When I think about that old 8N, I think about my Dad and all the great times we spent together. Seeing the restored tractor – I cannot think of a better outcome.

Peter Cambell's 8N

The 8N after Peter got a hold of it and spent some time in the shop!

By Peter Campbell.

As a subscriber to the N-News, I was reading the Spring 2015 issue when I noticed an ad. The party was “looking for a good home for a Ford 8N” located in western Massachusetts. I live in western MA so I called the number, which was in Washington state. I struck up a conversation with the gentleman. Turns out the tractor had belonged to his father. The property in MA was being sold and the gentleman needed the tractor removed. I met him at the property in Monterey, MA a couple of weeks later. The tractor was mine if I would remove it. It had a Lord Loader, flat rear tires, very rusty rear rims, no grill and green and yellow paint. It looked like it had been sitting outside for several years. It had been covered with a tarp, which by now was pretty well torn up. I agreed to remove it.

A friend of mine trucked the 8N ten miles to my home in Egremont, MA. Another friend stopped by and we had it running in about 20 minutes. My first step was to remove the loader. It seemed too big for the little 8N, so I sold it. This gave me a little pocket money to invest in the tractor. Next, we backed it into my garage to have a closer look. It was then that I noticed two threaded 3⁄8th inch rods running from the front axle to the bell housing. Hmmm? Never saw that on a tractor before.

A closer look revealed that on the front left side of the oil pan where the bolts go, the front axle support had been sheared off. The front axle was being held to the tractor by two rods connected to the bell housing! I bought a new oil pan and front axle support from Ebay and installed them with help from my friends.

After removing the hood and fenders, I worked my way along from front to back cleaning, scraping and painting. I replaced the front tires. They were 6.50 x 16. I wanted something that looked a little more in proportion so I bought 600 x 16s. I replaced all the instruments on the dashboard and bought a new steering wheel as well.

Next, I removed the rear wheels and rims. The rims and tires were shot so they went to the dump. These were replaced with new 11 x 28 rims. I bought a couple of nearly new 11.2 rear tires for a good price. Next came replacing both the brakes and axle gaskets. The motor ran with 60 lbs of oil pressure. The clutch and transmission needed no work. They were all left alone. The 11⁄8th pto shaft was replaced with a new 13⁄8th pto shaft.

Next came the painting. I sanded down the hood and fenders to bare metal and used two coats of Rustoleum auto primer, sanding between coats. I bought Ford medium brownish grey paint. This I brushed on, with two coats, lightly sanded it down between coats and then sprayed with three coats of the Ford medium brownish, grey paint with light sanding between the first two coats. I added front headlights and a rear light from a 1948 Ford truck, which blinks. All in all I think the little tractor turned out pretty well.

Pete Campbell was raised on a small farm in western Massachusetts where he still lives today. After high school, Pete enlisted in the service. After the military, he went to college when he obtained his R.N. degree. He retired in 2011. Now he spends his time restoring old tractors and smoking meat in his smoke house the old way using apple wood and corn cobs.

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How I Got Into Old Ford Tractors

Ralph Brown's 8N post-restoration

By Ralph Brown. N-News Autumn 2017 Vol. 32 No. 4

My interest in the Ford 8N began many years ago in the days before I had a driver’s license. When I began considering taking on the challenge of restoring one, my memories of the Ford 8N I drove as a teenager were vivid and influenced my decision. There was no need for me to travel across the country to find one. I found mine within 45 miles of home. Continue reading

NAA – And a Member of the Family

Dennis Hamblin's NAA

By Dennis Hamblin. N-News Summer 2017. Vol. 32 No. 3

My NAA story goes like this: my wife and I moved to a small piece of property outside of Dallas. My dad said that I needed a tractor to maintain the place, so we started the search and soon found a mechanically restored NAA Golden Jubilee painted all one color. We pooled our money and bought it. Now it’s a member of the family. Continue reading

A 2N Lives in Brooklyn

Andrew Sarno's 2N in Brooklyn

By Andrew Sarno. N-News Winter 2017 Vol. 32 No. 1

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. We made it home without a hitch and for years my father tinkered and toyed with the tractor until he had fully restored it. Nearly twenty years after inheriting the tractor, I finally understand. I now have an appreciation for things from the past that move more slowly. Continue reading

1952 8N: er’ah, maybe really , 1950!

Jeff Johnson's 1952 8N

By Jeff Johnson. N-News Autumn 2016. Vol. 31 No. 3

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.” I soon found the 8N. But it wasn’t pretty! 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!” Continue reading

1954 NAA

Wayne Musser's NAA 1954

By Wayne Musser. N-News Summer 2016. Vol. 31 No. 3

When I was about twelve years old, I learned to drive the tractors. I was doubly blessed in that both of my grandfathers were dairy farmers, so when one grandfather didn’t need me to help put hay away, the other one did. My grandfather chose the NAA with live PTO for hay baling. Last winter, I restored the NAA. I hope it will continue to provide reliable service for the next generation. Continue reading

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. Fifty-five years later I tried to locate our original family tractor. I couldn’t. So I gave up looking and searched for an 8N and located one in the State of Arkansas. A restoration process was immediately started to return the tractor to its condition as delivered from the factory in 1952. Continue reading

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

Gardner Waldeier's Ford 641 under the shed

By Gardner Waldeier. N-News Winter 2016. Vol. 31 No. 1

Thrift. noun. The careful use of money, especially by avoiding waste.
Making due with what is available is paramount these days. I needed a good dry place to keep my tractor and set to making that thought a reality at the 1799 farmhouse where I grew up. So I built a lean-to style pole barn off the end of the house recently and did the whole project for around ten dollars. Continue reading

A Couple of Ns and a Trailer

Bill Wells and son Peter

By Peter Wells. N-News Spring 2015. Vol. 30 No. 2

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