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by Anthony West
Allis Chalmers as a tractor manufacturer in its own right is but a memory. However the number of AC tractors still in existence today as either restored or unrestored examples is a testament to the quality of their products. This in itself is always apparent here in the U.K when attempting a purchase, as no matter what the model or condition the price will always be strong.
One important point to note is that when comparing AC production figures to those of the likes of John Deere and International and other "giants" they seem very small. It has to be remembered though that AC activity took the company into many diverse fields of engineering and construction. Therefore AC tractors over here at least seem few and far between and at any enthusiasts rally or meeting there will always be a gaggle of onlookers gathered around the "Almighty orange one"
It had always been my ambition to someday own an AC tractor. I had high hopes of maybe a model "U" or "WC" fully restored on display in the vintage rally. In fact I had on a couple of occasions come very close to fulfilling my aim. Only to be priced out by the serious fanatic to whom money was no object!! It seemed that I always had to console myself with the excuse of "well, if he can afford to pay so much...at least it will be restored properly" (one of the delusions of living on a budget!!)
By far the most popular model to U.K farmers was, of course the "B". It originated in 1937 as a light general purpose machine which was of unit construction by adopting a reinforced "torque tube" to join engine to gearbox. This feature was to give the "B" a somewhat ' wasp'-like appearance and although small it could turn out 16HP at the belt.
Its popularity amongst farmers meant that the "B" was by far the most available AC model for restoration. Its small size meant that it was attractive to both ardent enthusiast and novice alike, as an addition to a collection or as a good starting point for the beginner.
The AC Model "B" had a good run, no doubt motivated by its popularity. Towards the 50's though it had started to become left behind, and not before time it was restyled around September, 1954 and called the D270 (UK). Contrary to popular belief the 270 was not a new model, the only difference was that the tinwork was changed and the engine power output was beefed up, by increasing the engine speed to around 1,650 rpm.
The final variation to the "B" came in the form of the D272 (UK) three years later. Again it was only a superficial change, receiving a new "shell" and despite the common statement that all 272's were diesels, about half in fact were still TVO.
Where is all this going? I know Iím being longwinded but Iím coming to that. The last AC model to appear in Britain was the ED40. This was a new model, and just a little bit heavier in build than the 272. It used a standard Riccardo 2.3 engine ( identical to the one Massey Ferguson had such a disaster with in the FE 35) and saw the introduction of an 8 speed gearbox, "live hydraulics" and the option of live PTO.
Depth-o-matic hydraulics were introduced in 1963, as was an engine power increase from 37 to 41 BHP. The last ED40's were constructed in 1968, and as a result of Allis Chalmers not taking the U.K sales market seriously they eventually sold out to Bamfords in Uttoxeter. What better place then to find one of the last in the line of ED40's. I happened to be working on the highways around a little village called Marston Montgomery, and as was usual practice towards the end of the day I had to find a safe stand overnight for my digger.
I would when possible chose a farm for this purpose, offering a few hours backhoe work in payment, plus it would always create an opening to inquire about "tractors". On this occasion I chose to visit "Black Marsh" farm to make my request and on pulling into the yard I was met with a warm welcome from the owners Cyril and Joan Tatton. With site secured and an agreement to clear a couple of hundred yards of light ditch work in payment, I mentioned my interest in old tractors.
Cyril smiled and told me he had a couple of "old ones" round the back if I could find them. Not being too sure of what he meant I followed him round to a large barn which was filled to the brim with produce boxes. He nodded and said "its under that lot", from his description given as it is blue and orange and about as big as a Ford 4000 I thought that it may have been a Dexta, so arrangements were made to find the treasure the following day. After work and with the help of David, Cyril's son, I started to pull all the boxes out. After about an hour and a good many splinters I began to see bits of tractor secluded under the remaining trays. I thought that it was a Ford at first but when eventually uncovered I found what turned out to be an Allis Chalmers ED40.
It was in a sorry state, some of the tin work was missing and it had been painted in a rather dull powder blue paint. Over all it was a rather sad example, but a bit more rooting found the tin work and some other odds and ends which made it look a bit more presentable. David informed me that it had been put in the barn, serviced and just left there as a result of all the boxes being stored. We pulled it out between us by which time I had to leave. The following day I returned to find that David had been playing with the old thing. He had put all the tin work back on and had got it started, and in fairness it sounded okay.
Once in motion though it was apparent that the steering box was worn as there seemed to be a lot of play in the wheel, and the brakes left a lot to be desired. Still I fancied having one, so a price was reached and I became the owner of an Allis Chalmers for £350:00 plus a David Brown Cropmaster thrown in!!
The next few months saw the removal of the tractor to my home so that work could begin on its restoration. Driving the thing along back streets in the town proved very difficult indeed, In fact on running down the back of the house I struck a boundary wall as a result of the free play and damaged a steering linkage. I managed to site the ED40 and work began on the tin work first as I was happy that it was mechanically sound. All the tinwork was sent to the blacksmith who had dry shotblasting facilities and then sprayed with two coats of red oxide primer.
I had to pay extra to have one of the wings and front panel beaten back in shape, no doubt as a result of a mishap caused by the dodgy steering!! and they came back looking quite reasonable. I eventually acquired a new steering box which was checked and fitted and the brakes were taken up so at least I could now steer and stop, instead of closing my eyes. On inspection the old box was found to be devoid of teeth.
The rest of the tractor was cleaned and found to be in reasonable condition, requiring only the removal of loose paint and a couple of coats of primer. The whole lot was then transported to a friends garage where between us we gave it two top coats of the garrulous orange paint. For the finishing touch the lights were relocated to the correct place, decals were ordered from the old twenties parts company and I gave the tires a coat of automotive tire black. On completion I managed to get it exhibited at the last minute in the Cheddleton flint mill rally (minus decals though) and whilst it wasn't my dream model "U" or "WC" it still drew the usual gathering of onlookers paying homage to the "Almighty orange one"!! And it felt nice to exhibit a more unusual and slightly more modern tractor for a change.
Which brings me to my final thought, there are so many of us like minded people out there who enjoy participating in the hobby of restoration. All of us should give consideration to the fact that, it doesn't matter whether we enter our respective machines in "as new" or "as found" condition. It doesn't matter whether, our exhibits are totally original or have fallen subject to modification along the way. Each and every tractor is as individual as their owners and should be given the respect and credibility they deserve. There are people who will painstakingly restore every nut and bolt to perfection at a cost comparable to a house mortgage. I am the first to congratulate them on a job well done, they and their work set a benchmark to which I try and aspire too.
There are also people who will strive to do their best with limited knowledge and limited funds who achieve respectable results too. So It really shouldn't matter what the end result turns out to be, just so long as we try and do it. Plus more importantly, we enjoy what we do!