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.


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

By Ralph Brown. Published in the N-News Autumn issue, October-November-December 2017 Volume 32 Number 4

Ralph Brown's 8N post-restorationMy interest in the Ford 8N began many years ago in the days before I had a driver’s license. At age 15, my best buddy’s grandparents lived in rural Warren County, Illinois. While they did not farm, they had a fairly large property that they maintained with a Ford 8N. It was here that I first learned what an 8N was. I will never forget the classy art deco styling of the N series tractor.

I richly enjoyed helping with the mowing chores. They had two other antique tractors. The other two were narrow front machines. Since I was a novice at operating machines larger than a riding lawn mower, I was relegated to the Ford 8N. I was likely to get into less trouble than one would on a tricycle type tractor.

Fast forward to the new century, I moved to a small community deep in the heart of Illinois farm country. Agriculture is everywhere here and to see someone joyriding on an antique tractor on a summer evening is not out of the ordinary. The local 4th of July parade always includes a train of old iron in many different colors.

Having a love of all things old, an antique tractor fit my style and I began considering taking on the challenge of restoring one. Of course, my memories of the Ford 8N I drove as a teenager were vivid and influenced my decision as to what make and model of tractor to begin with.

While considering a tractor to restore, the Ford 8N was very attractive for many reasons. First, they are easy to find. One can easily find an N series tractor in working condition. Many N tractors are used daily, completing the work they were designed for. There was no need for me to travel across the country to find one. I found mine within 45 miles of home.

Second, the average asking price of an N series tractor is very affordable. I purchased my 1948 8N for $1,900. It was in good working condition and came with an auxiliary transmission. I have not been able to determine the exact manufacturer of the auxiliary transmission, but I speculate it may be a Sherman step-up model. The tractor had brand new rear tires and rims. I felt I paid a fair price for it.

Third, reproduction parts are abundantly available at reasonable prices. I was very surprised that I could buy a wide variety of parts at the area Farm King, Tractor Supply Company, and Farm & Fleet stores. There is a wide variety of online businesses that have N series parts in stock as well.

In July 2016, I toted home my first 8N. Originally, I intended on starting the restoration in my garage. I began using a wire wheel to peel away the old paint. I believed I could restore the tractor using good ole’ spray paint. I became familiar with the website Just8Ns and was buying parts as I went along.

Then, a friend of mine, who owns and operates an auto body shop down the street, stopped by for a visit. I asked for his opinion on what to do about the hood in relation to the aftermarket radiator I just received. I was having trouble getting the top of the radiator to line up with the hole on the hood. When he saw what I had going on, he set me in a whole different direction, and for the better! The next week my tractor was in his shop. He wasn’t about to let me do an “Earl Scheib paint job.”

Engine detailThe first order of business was tearing down the tractor. As many parts as possible were removed, the engine was split from the tractor, and I learned how to sandblast. What a difference in time and final product I discovered between sandblasting and using a wire wheel. I’d probably still be cleaning away with that wire wheel if I wasn’t set straight.

Pitting on the top of the #1 piston

Pitting on the #1 piston top apparently from a hairline crack in the engine head.

After removing the engine head, we discovered that there was a hairline fracture over the number one cylinder, just under the water jacket. It was apparent that over time water had leaked into the cylinder, causing pitting on the piston top. A search for a used engine head on ebay was fruitful and a replacement piston was worked in. Surprisingly, the cylinder walls were not pitted and in satisfactory shape.

I used a single stage paint with clear coat mixed in. The red color was Vermillion red, a Chrysler variation. Once the color was applied and cured, the reassembly began. My attention was now directed towards the sheet metal work.

I calculated that purchasing new fender skins would be time and cost effective versus the labor-intensive chore of trying to repair the old ones. As I moved on to the hood, I learned of the common problem of the lower sides of the hood rusting through. I read online of many different tactics of recreating the two ribs that run along the outside bottom edge below the “Ford” script on the hood. None of them appealed to me.

It seems there is a demand for patch panels for these hoods, but I wasn’t able to find any in existence. I decided to purchase an aftermarket hood. I cut out the “Ford” script on my old hood and welded it into the aftermarket hood. The sheet metal was painted Ford Medium Gray and the clear coat was applied separately.

The replacement hood

Patching-in the Ford script from the old hood onto the replacement hood.

Other various alterations I did were returning the front wheels to the 4 x 19 rims and keeping the 6-volt electrical system. The tractor came with Tractor Guide brand headlights. These headlights had an external wire mounting post on the back of the headlight assembly. Someone previous drilled a hole through the hood legs to accommodate this wire. I modified the headlight by removing the mounting post and closed the hole left behind. I was able to use the same headlight bolts as used with the Tract-o-Lite style headlights to mount the lights through the wing style headlight mounting brackets.

I also added a tail light with a license plate bracket. While I’m not sure that Illinois ever required tractors to be registered, I decided to add a 1948 Illinois license plate to help identify the model year.

My next project: another tractor restoration!

The next project!

After about ten months of work, I’m ready for some shows and parades. I already have another 8N lined up for restoration. I anticipate the next will be a better show tractor now that I understand the process. I certainly am happy that I choose the 8N to restore.

I always heard Max Armstrong talk about “classic tractor fever” on television. I now understand what that means. I plan on being a Ford tractor collector for a long time.

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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



8NCompletely restored 1952 8N 6-cyl Funk w/ cast iron oil pan, Sherman Over/Under trans, motor rebuilt, dual rears, new tires; org. hat rims. $9500 obo. Lawrence 580-365-4429 or 580-583-0751 (OK)

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

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

Workers: An 8N With a Job to Do

By James Morrison. N-News Autumn 2014. Vol. 29 No. 3

When the summer issue of the N-News arrived in my mailbox, my wife and I had just returned from grocery shopping. I immediately pulled a chair into the shade on the porch and began reading. I’m not sure my wife cares for the magazine, so it was her task to unload the groceries. Of course, I would have done it had she waited a while. Continue reading

Workers: Ford-Funk Truss Boom

By Dick Eyler. N-News Summer 2014. Vol. 29 No. 3

The poles were 6×6’s twenty feet long. The metal trusses spanned thirty feet. I was building a pole barn to house tractors and combines at a peanut farm. Most of the work I’d do myself, but Fred Catabia, a friend, volunteered to help when he had time. The first problem I needed to solve was how to set the heavy posts and install the metal trusses. Fred recalled that I had a Ford tractor with a front end loader. Continue reading

Transmission Woes

by Charlie Yancey

When my wife took me on my first trip to her home state of Maine, I was hooked. Growing up in the Southwest leads to a bit of green envy and water lust. Maine is just the state to satisfy both of those wants. In time, I was able to convince her to move back to her home state. We bought an old farm, and what’s a farm without a tractor? Continue reading

The Farmboy and the Farm

My exposure to Ford Tractors started in childhood during the late forties and early fifities. My family had a ranch in Exeter, California, a small rural town about an hour Southeast of Fresno. My family was in the grape growing business from 1946 until 1953. The grapes were for table consumption on the first picking and then those that were not considered “table grapes” were picked and sent to one of the local wineries. The Ford tractor was the main stay of that operation. Continue reading

How To Buy: A Ford N-Series Tractor 1939-1952

Dave Erb

(This article originally appeared in Volume 28 Number 1, Winter/January 2013) In this series of articles, N-News contributors share their lessons learned and observations in buying a used Ford tractor. Here, longtime contributor Dave Erb writes about his personal checklist for looking at a 9N, 2N or 8N to purchase. While all N models are fairly dependable, Dave says, as production continued into the fifties improvements to the tractor were undeniable. What follows are some pointers that will prove helpful for anyone pondering the purchase of one of these faithful tractors.

The Next Generation

Jasmine working the field on Galen's 8N

By Galen Mommens

One of the biggest problems facing N series fans, and all other lovers of old iron, is that they can’t help but wonder what will happen to their machines when they can no longer keep them. Not only are the tractors getting older, but so are the men and women who run them. Continue reading

Coming of Age With an 8N

Cornell Knutson in the field

My first memory of our tractors was from 1951, when I was about four years old. I was in the kitchen of our north Iowa farm home, watching out the window as a truck delivered a new tractor to our yard. It was the second 8N for our farm and the last tractor my dad would buy. Mom recalled that there had been a tractor on the farm when they were married in 1942. From her description, it must have been a 9N. Continue reading

Collecting Seems to Be in Our Blood!

Bob May getting ready to load up the 8N

By N-News.

Collecting sure seems to be in Robert May’s blood! After all, it is hard to be interested in old tractors without eventually acquiring at least one piece of iron. Once bitten, the disease often leads to a chronic condition, and before you know it, the barn is full. Robert Mays started collecting tractors fifteen years ago, but his passion for tractors began long before that. Continue reading