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Field Marshall Series 1
By Anthony West
I had been restoring tractors for several years, and over that time had aquired a varied collection of machines of all ilk. I had started on Fordsons both standard and major, and from there progressed as my skills and knowledge increased.
It had always been my ambition to own one of the rare types of tractor. The sort of machine that was eagerly talked about at meetings and gloated over lovingly at shows. One such machine was Field Marshall, I had heard many men talk of this machine with a passion. Whenever I heard conversation, I would stand and listen to the way they were revered and decided that from general opinion, that to own a Field Marshall was to have the badge of an established and knowledgeable restorer.
As the years went by, I attended many sales but only occasionally did a Field Marshall show its face. I decided that they were indeed rare beasts and had taken great interest at the prices made by those I had seen for sale. Marshalls, whether because of their rareity or because of their standing, would guarantee to make an absolute fortune at any sale regardlesss of their condition. So it took many years before I was fortunate enough to become the proud owner of one.
Viewing was set for Thursday after 2pm, and the sale was to start at 10:00 am on the Friday. The rest of the sale contained nothing of any interest to me...but the Marshall...well that was something else. I decided I would go along and view the machine if only to satisfy my curiosity. I was well aware that probably half the collectors in the surrounding counties would turn out and bid for this, so my chances were considered to be slim.
Thompsons farm was difficult to find, in fact I know the area fairly well but I eventually arrived at the viewing at just after 4pm. The farm was secreted behind another farm and I had driven past it on a couple of occasions until I caught the sale sign.
I parked and walked the short road through the farm yard to where the lots were laid out. When I saw the Marshall the description "as found" was very conservative to say the least!! hard worked...neglected...rusty as an old horse shoe, would have been more accurate, the thing was red rusty and in a right sad old state! I had a look round her and noted that half of it was held together by bailing twine, whilst the other half was held to the bailing twine by fence wire!! The tires were scrubbed and the only flake of paint on the thing seemed to have blown off something else.
Although a sad specimen it seemed to be complete. At least old man Thompson had bothered to put the bits that had fallen off back on! even if it was with string!!
I was determined to see what the thing made at sale so on the Friday I turned up and the sale started promptly. To my surprise there was only a handful attending non of whom resembled collectors. When lot 19 came up bidding started at £200 ($324 US), it stated in the brochure that there was no reserve price on the machine so for the fun I bid. A couple of hands were raised in response but unenthusiastically, bidding was painfully slow.. and then the devil took over!! I kept with it until the lot was for the third time £750 ($1215 US) and she was mine!! Far from happy I wondered what on earth had possessed me to buy it. The hackles of realization standing up on my neck.
I left the sale and went straight round to a fellow restorer and owner of a Series 2 where I blurted out the news and begged for help to get it back home. John Ward was affable fellow who was only to happy to help and in his own way managed to allay my apprehensions. Getting the thing home turned out to be a right game we had to trailer and winch it and on the way back the trailer blew a tire. In view of this we went to John's where we garaged her next to his "2" which only made mine looked totally abysmal!
As it turned out John was more than helpful, he put himself out enormously to assist me and it ended up that the machine stayed at his garage for the duration. John didn't take long to persuade me that his knowledge and help would see me in good stead. He also offered me the parts I needed to complete the job' provided "I didn't rob him blind!"
The most apparent faults were the bits held on with string and a fuel fault on the system which had over the years covered the inside of the tin work and engine etc in a regular supply of diesel fuel! This it has to be said was a great help as the oil had preserved the parts! I sat on the seat and felt really uncomfortable, the steering wheel was offset to the right, the seat was hard and some of the associated levers were loose and unconnected. The seat base was a type of box, which when opened was found to contain a few rods and spanners and the brass serial number plate!
We began work on John's instruction by stripping the tin work off, this was to prove a fairly easy task as the nuts had been protected around the engine area by the oil, the only struggle came when we tried to undo the mud guards and we had to heat the collars up. One good point about the Marshall tractors,...the tin was quite thick and as such had lasted the test of time! ..No welding here!
We threw the tins outside to make room and agreed to transport them in the week for sand blasting, As we continued to strip parts off we found that the belt pulley was all but collapsed! it appears that this particular machine had spent many hours on a thresher or bench. It would need replacing eventually but John said he had one lying about. There was also signs that a canopy had once graced my machine but there was nothing left of it now.
John consulted his books and informed me that this machine had been built in 1945, he said that in his opinion it had started life as a contractors model as it had extra brakes and brackets for lights. (although the brakes didn't work!) It also had "M" wheels which were cast iron this was another feature of the contract model in order to give more weight.
John kindly volunteered to continue tinkering until the following weekend when I had enough time to work on the machine. However when I returned the following weekend John took me aside and said..."I've got some bad news", thinking that perhaps my investment had crashed to the value of spare parts the churning feeling of anticipation and dry mouth made it hard to ask "What!". John had spent some hours on the "Monty" and had found when cleaning the casts up that the cast rear end behind the block had an enormous crack in it! He told me that it was so bad it might not be able to be repaired.. He showed me what he meant and sure enough the crack was visible to the eye by the fact that dirt and diesel had found a way in...it looked like a motorway on a map!
John told me we would have to strip the whole thing down and split it , we would then have to rely on what the black smith said about it. We mauled the machine forward leaving enough room in the barn to get a trailer behind then began to pull the thing to pieces!, hours of labor were involved, and John bless him kept my spirits up by telling me about his troubles he encountered.
After a while my enthusiasm returned and I was surprised to see how basic the machines construction was. It was without any misapprehension also very very heavy!
Old railway sleepers supported the front end whilst ropes and hydraulic jacks were utilized to maneuver the back. We managed to pull the whole thing apart and lay it on the trailer, at this point the half castings were removed as were the internal components.
The whole thing was then subjected to a steam clean which made it quite respectable considering! I was happy that most of the brown "rust" turned out to be years of grime!
We trailered the cast down to the local smithy.. incidentally this smithy was a fine metallurgist, he could fabricate new manifolds if necessary! He was too busy to give an immediate verdict but told us to return in a few days. The days seemed like years waiting for the news, I drove down on the following Tuesday evening just as he was closing up, we went through to the foundry then out the back where the casting was. The smithy informed me that he could do something with the piece but that it would never really be strong enough for a farmers days work...but more than good enough for showing and the occasional plowing day. He said that it would have to be ground out across the crack and inverts like stitches cut in on the inside and out then ground off when filled with weld.
I knew this was not going to be cheap...but due to the fact I was in no immediate rush for the piece the cost came down, but it was still £170.... The next few weeks were spent cleaning and tinkering with what remained in John's barn. The combustion head was removed and another problem occurred...old man Thompson had used a variety of things in the percussion tube, which had subsequently become completely wedged full of debris. I had to use some heavy wire shaped like a cork screw to get it all out! it took ages before I made a way in but once done there wasn't too much wear in the piece.
John stripped the fuel system, overhauled it and made new pipes for various things out of copper. A number of pieces and components were by now in primer, the bock had also been cleaned stripped and primered ready for painting in its correct color, and the components were added one by one as they were completed.
News was received that the back end had been completed and we whizzed over to collect it. True to his word the smithy had done a good job, although the signs of angle grinding could be seen once filled and painted it would be more than acceptable.
With out laboring the point all the gears and other components were put back together and new seals were cut from a piece of seasoned leather hide. Gaskets were also made by hand using new gasket paper and the old ones for templates. By now it was almost back together, resting on blocks we transported the wheels over to the sandblasters where we left them but returned with the now completed tin work.
This is where John's experience of his own machine came to the fore. He took the panels and sprayed them with a type of cellulose putty which he then sanded down when dry to remove the pitting in the tin work. He then primered, undercoated and heat dried the panels which were then dry stored until top coat stage was reached. we then spray painted the rest of the castings whilst on blocks with undercoat.
Work drew to a halt for a week until the wheels were ready. Then the same process of painting was applied to them. By this time we had reached the top coat stage and John acquired the correct fern green paint from a company specializing in vintage paints. we then hired a space heater to warm the barn and enclosed an area off with large polythene sheets before spraying. The wheels and radiator were done separately in aluminum silver. John used the same paint to pick out the coach liners on the tin work and the Marshall emblem and radiator mesh.
With everything reassembled the points where the blocks had supported the machine were touched up using a paint brush, as were some other parts we had missed. The only things now that really stood out were the steering wheel and the tires, The bakealite had crumbled in places off the steering wheel which will need attention in due course. The tires.. well I eventually acquired a matching set by attending the good old farm sales.
The day of starting was something to remember, John had already tinkered about before my arrival. So I had the benefit of starting an already warm tractor! the starting handle was inserted into the fly wheel and the decompressor flicked on. I place a starting wad in the percussion cap and tightened it up, John set the throttle and sing I did...like a good one!
The strange exhaust note bit the air and the barn filled with its unusual note, once allowed to settle down the traditional frogging stance was adopted...by that I mean that the inertia of the single cylinder rotating slowly on tick over gave the machine a tendency to almost hop at the front. It was at this point I realized that I had achieved something I had always desired, I had become one of the circle of Marshall tractor owners. It was a humbling feeling, and a proud one... a feeling that I would never have had if not for the patience and generosity of my dear friend John Ward. John, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.