Ford 660 & A Rear Fork

By John Spyker. Published in the N-News Winter issue, Jan-Feb-Mar 2019, Volume 34 Number 1

Ford 660

John Spyker’s 1956 660

I bought my 1956 660 from a farm auction in the spring of 2015. To make the delivery, I drove it the twelve miles up the valley to our family cabin. It was a nice spring day. I called my mom who was watching my son, Isaiah. They were playing a game at the picnic table. When I came up over the hill, Isaiah realized it was me and came running out to the end of the drive, smiling ear to ear.

The tractor was in solid shape. It had brand new rear tires and a finish mower attached to it at the estate auction, which upped my top bid price. I don’t get to work on it very much because it is at our cabin and I don’t want to take up all of my weekends doing repair work, so I get a local shop to do many of the repairs. It has needed the oil tube going to the pressure gauge replaced and a new radiator.

The tractor is unrestored at this point. I like the dings and faded paint – it gives it character. The right fender has the paint worn off where the previous owner rested his arm while mowing. The trailer in the picture above is made from the axle of my maternal grandpa’s model A dump truck that was used on their farm. My dad and his dad had Ford tractors, so there is some family history.

I didn’t know much about Ford’s before buying it other than dad had one. His had a narrow front, maybe it was a 901, but I’m not sure. Mom had to sell it when Dad passed away in 1984. I do remember that it was a Select-O-Speed. I loved riding around on my 660 with my son and passing on a life in the outdoors. Isaiah and I also rode in the Fulton Fall Festival tractor parade in McConnellsburg, PA this past year.

We use the 660 mostly to drag or haul in wood, move stones, grade and plow snow. Our tractor is a worker. My feeling is that once a tractor is fixed up and painted, I would only want to show it. For now this 660’s major job is to get firewood, but we still enjoy riding it in the parade.

The fork at work cleaning the road

The fork at work cleaning the road.

I rebuilt a tandem axle trailer after pulling it out of the weeds. I’m a self-taught welder for the most part. I picked up hints and ideas from welders and took some classes. I bought a welder at auction and started practicing. The trailer was one of my first projects.

I also built a set of forks for the 3-point hitch. I got some of the materials at auctions and also at the junk yard. The pipe I bought at the junkyard. I had to buy the entire length, so I have enough for my next project – a lift boom. The gussets and diameter holes were burnt at my workplace, Habot Steel in York, PA. (I have worked in the steel industry since I was 19). They let me use the plasma machine. I cut everything else on my neighbor’s bandsaw or with my acetylene torch.

building the fork

In the shop building the fork.

This involved lots of grinding and welding. I tell my son, “You can make anything with a torch, grinder and welder.” When I told him about this article he said, “I’m going to be famous! I’m going to be famous!” His name is Isaiah and he loves tractors. He has inherited his great grandfather’s Wheel Horse, which we take to the tractor parade too.

Isaiah helping to bring in the firewood

Isaiah helping to bring in the firewood!

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Tracking Down the Issues: Solving a Starter Problem

By Keith Johnson. Published in the N-News Winter issue, Jan-Feb-Mar 2019, Volume 34 Number 1

Tracking Down The Issues

Keith Johnson’s 1948 8N

Solving a starting problem means you need to look at the possible issues and fix them as you find them…and there might be more than one!

I bought my 1948 8N as a partially dis-assembled unit almost 30 years ago. It became my youngest son’s first major restoration project with dad’s supervision. (And with dad paying the bills.) As I’ve always had other tractors around, this was never meant to be a worker. I keep it because of its history with us and also because of its historical significance as an N series tractor. I run it occasionally and drive it on our unimproved woods roads. It has always started and has never given any problems.

However, in early November I tried to start it and for the first time it was a “no go.” It surprised me as I’d run it on July 21st with no problems. (I keep a log of when I run the various vehicles that aren’t in regular use.)

Once in the shop, I found I had power to the coil but no spark. Normally this indicates corroded points and on a “normal” distributor it is an easy matter to remove the cap, dress the points and be on ones way. Not so on front mounted Ford distributor tractors.*

After changing the coil with no improvement, I pulled the distributor. I found the points to be eroded and they’d also never been properly aligned. Thinking the points were the problem, I pulled a tune-up kit off the shelf that I had purchased several years ago and installed new points. (I like to keep spares of tune-up parts for all my vehicles.) For this tractor, I had bought a Tisco tune-up kit. It included new points, plugs, condenser and rotor.

I installed only the points, re-installed the distributor but still no spark. So I took the distributor back off and now I was going to replace the condenser. The condenser that came in the kit was of very poor quality construction. It was only a little over half as long as the original and the bracket that is spot welded to it was very loose. With all that was wrong with it, and the hassle of installing it, I elected not to use it.

Distributor disassembly diagramIn my supply, I had a brand new condenser from NAPA that was probably also a few years old. I also have an original Ford script condenser that was in my 1941 pickup when I purchased it. (I never throw away original parts, if for no other reason than they are valuable for reference material.) That “older” new NAPA condenser was almost an exact duplicate of the original Ford unit, as was the one on the distributor.

I decided to reserve that condenser for my 1941 pickup and purchase a new condenser from NAPA. This was an Echlin brand, as was the other, but, oh, how things have changed! This new condenser was almost identical to the Tisco condenser and of unknown manufacture.

On this new condenser the mounting tab had two square corners. In order to make it fit into the distributor pocket, I had to clip off one of the corners. With that done, the hole in the tab did not line up with the attachment stud. At this point, I gave up, took it back to NAPA, showed them the difference in condensers and got my 14 bucks back.

I then installed the new “older” NAPA condenser. Back on the tractor with the distributor but still no spark. Back out again, (I had removed the generator to make access easier.) I took my multimeter and tested across the points with them closed and I did not have continuity. I pulled the points, dressed them on a knife hone stone, and this time bench tested them to make sure I had continuity before re-installing. Once again, the unit went back on the tractor. Finally I had a good spark.

The tractor ran although it had a miss. But I was still pleased it was finally running. When I shut it off, I happened to glance at the distributor on the way out the door and noticed I’d forgotten to install a spark plug wire where I had attached my test ignition wire. At least that problem was easy to solve!

The next day, the tractor was again very hard to start. Now it had to be carburation.

I disconnected the fuel line at the carb and turned on the valve at the tank to rule out a fuel delivery issue. The gas flowed freely. I removed the carburetor, disassembled it, checked it thoroughly and reset the float to factory specs. The carb kit instructions I had called for 1/4” measured between the gasket and the float. The factory specs were .25” to .285”. I measured a 9/32” drill and found it to be .277” (actually it is .28” by the math) and used this to set the float from the casting.

carb choke plate

Looking at the carb choke plate and the author’s wired solution. The small spring is what was missing.

The carb was reassembled and as I was about to put it back on, I noticed the flapper valve on the choke plate just hung open. The little spring that holds it in place had broken and was gone.


The small spring missing from the carb choke plate.

When choking the carburetor, I wasn’t, in fact, choking it. I wired the flapper valve shut as I do not know of another carb that doesn’t have a solid choke plate on it. At last, the tractor started and ran the way it should.

Total time: 19 hours – including some research time! So now for the lessons learned.

It is getting almost impossible to find good quality tune-up parts. In the past Echlin has been the best last resort and this seems now to have disappeared also. When these vehicles were manufactured they were very reliable, in part due to the high quality parts installed. Today, people look at them as unreliable. In the majority of cases, it is what is currently available to repair them. Whether it’s tune-up parts, bearings, mechanical parts, etc., they are generally of inferior quality compared to years past. (If someone knows of a manufacturer or source for original quality tune-up parts, please let us know.)

Don’t trust new parts right out of the box! The points I had new had corroded just sitting in the un-opened package. I now bench test everything as best I can before installing it. Things like coils and condensers are very hard to test and the best I can do is install them and hope. Finally double check everything. I had never given a thought to that flapper valve, but I sure won’t over look it in the future.

The problems were several. In my case two-fold. The first involved the points. With a good set of new points the tractor would have been running in a normal repair time-frame. The second was the choke flapper valve which I did not check until the very end. The original coil and condenser in the unit were probably good, but I did not reinstall them. The only way I have to test these parts is to install them and see if the tractor runs. I’ve labeled the original parts and saved them in my drawer of tune-up tractor parts.

I hope my experience may help speed others’ repairs when working with their early N tractors.

*In 1950, the 8N switched to having a side mounted distributor at serial number 263844, before that all N-series tractors had the coil and distributor mounted on the front of the engine.

Keith Johnson is a long time subscriber and contributor to the N-News Magazine. See his wonderful article about restoring a 1941 Ford Pickup with a 9N 4-cyclinder engine in Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2013. Also see That Mystery Part: The Coil by Bruce Haynes in Volume 29 Number 4, Autumn 2014. Also, Another Mystery Part: The Condenser by Frank Scheidt in Volume 30, Number 1, Winter 2015.

Working: Dave Westen’s NAA Keeps Going!

We purchased this five-acre property in 2000 from my wife’s parent’s estate. A man about five miles away had the 8N sitting along the road for sale and we made a deal. My brother had bought his NAA from a neighbor and I had the 1948 8N at the time. I traded the 8N to him for the NAA (I’ve had it since 2004) and find the NAA to be a much more versatile tractor. We’ave added a couple of pieces of land since then and now have 25 acres and the NAA has been the workhorse! Continue reading

The Long Run: A 12-year Restoration

Gobert LongRun 1.jpg

By Larry Gorbet. N-News Winter 2018. Vol. 33 No. 1

Tractors were part of the fabric of the community in Lonoke, Arkansas, a small farming community of about 4,200 people. A friend told me about a 901 fifteen years ago – a propane model. And nothing was easy on this restoration which took place over twelve years. Continue reading

Two Sides of the Same Tractor

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. 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. Continue reading

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

EZ Front Weights

By Chris Britton. N-News Spring 2015. Vol. 30 No. 2

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

By Lauran Paine. N-News Winter 2015. Vol. 30 No. 1

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