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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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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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

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

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

641 Diesel Workmaster

By L Timothy Knutson. N-News.

It’s always nice to have a project waiting in the wings. In the summer of 2008, I had started to work on my 740 (see Volume 26, Number 4, Autumn 2011), but I was already thinking about my next restoration project. It was during one of my web searches that I saw an ad for a 1962 Ford 601 Diesel. The tractor was at a dealership in a small town SE of Austin, TX – not far from where my son and his wife live. The asking price was a bit higher that I was prepared to pay, but on a whim, I made the call. Continue reading

9N Redux

9N post-repair

By Guy Silva. N-News Spring 2013 Vol. 28. No. 2

Guy Silva worked for 30 years for a city water division, and over that time he ran a lot of Ford backhoes, which is how his interest in Ford tractors germinated. After working a northern Michigan property that he and his wife owned with a 1954 NAA, he sold it, but then after retirement he reconsidered. “I discovered I really missed having it around,” he says. 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