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Search For Spares
I started chasing spares as an afterthough. I had entered the field of restoration quite by chance without any aim or pre set goal and with a total ignorance of what I had let myself in for.
I had heard that there was a farm sale in the village not far from where i lived. The catalogue showed that there was the usual range of field equipement on offer, live stock, tools, implements and a few old tractors.My interest was in lot 347 titled Fordson tractor (1940's). No other description was available, so unlike most who were going to attend. I attended the same day as the sale with hardly any time for a pre-view, i managed to look around and saw that there were a number of things that i really needed. Stuff like radiator cores (still in the cardboard packets) magneto's, sparkplugs, tyres and many other Fordson related items to name but a few.
I watched in anticipation as the lots went by there were about 20 farmers up and down. Most had come for the big stuff like air compressors and generators, and as soon as they had bid they began to thin out. As the lot with the radiators came under the hammer, I would say there was about 9 left including me. bidding began and interest waned after the lot reached it's reserve price of £20.00, with sweaty palms I watched and listened to the auctioneer. I tried to look uninterested, but I must have looked like a burglar in a police line up.
Eventualy the hammer fell and I had become the owner of what to most was a pile of scrap but to me was gold!
Finally lot 347 arrived, or should I say we all moved round to it. It was a very rusty Fordson tractor Model N,. it had wide wings, rubber tyres and a cullinder for a radiator. The air intake was leaning at a strange angle but at least the farmer had drained the rad and capped the manifold off with a tin can before laying it up.
One or two were having a look around and one old chap with a flat cap and pipe took hold of the starter and gave a couple of pulls, NOTHING not even a cough. Still the lack of response inspired the crowd and the old boy swung again. I new he meant buisness, no doubt if it did fire up, the price would go up too!!, off came the cap and the pipe was stowed in waistcoat pocket. Some of the crowd were talking and chatting humerously to themselves and a few quips like " come on swing it then" and "Seen more muscle on a bantycock" got the old chap to bite and retort some blasphemous remark only farmers can come up with.
After about five minutes the old lad gave up muttering excuses about the mag being "knackered" and "fuels dirty" and walked back to the crowd amid the odd jeer wiping his face with his moleskin. The auctioneer began by giving his description and asking for bids starting at £40.00. Only after a bit of encouragement did anybody seem to take the bait, and it didn't take long for the bidding to reach £65.00.
Now I have to say I wasn't particularly wealthy, infact my budget amounted to only £200.00. That was for everything I was planning on, parts,paint, tools etc. What you must appreciate is that although I had a tractor,and wanted to restore it. I had not set a level that I was to achieve, in fact it had not so much as entered my head. Was I going to spend months and months working away, getting every detail spot on. Sending stuff away to be rebuilt at great cost, so that once rebuilt it would be as if straight from the factory floor? As much as I would have liked to say yes, I had to face facts and accept that I was working on a shoe string!
That was why the tractor and other items meant so much to me. If I could clinch the sale, I would be able to use one to mend the other!. Anyway the bidding fizzled out at £80.00 so I waited and just before the fall I tried to reluctantly guzzump the price by a fiver. Only to be guzzumped back!!
The budget was fast fading and I must have begun to panic. I desperately wanted the tractor but if I got into a duel with someone who also wanted it i would be priced out. With head spinning I got caught up in it and after a few more bids secured the hammer for £110.00.
I must say I was both elated and annoyed, I had won the battle but at what cost. Saddled with a tractor that was iffy to say the least and a palette full of odds and sods knowing that someone else who after the final bid didn't seem to care had pushed up the price....No cut my budget more like was frustrating. Still I went up to the farm kitchen and paid over my cash and got my reciepts, to be told that all items had to be moved off site by 5pm the following day!! Something else that I hadn't considered.
I went back to the old fordson and as a approached I saw the old boy in the flat cap stood by. He asked me what I was for doing with it and we got into a conversation about the why's and where fores of Fordson tractors. The old boy introduced himself as Cyril and offered me his knowledge and assistance to change the magneto and "get her running" only because he had never let one beat him yet!!
I gladly accepted,and with one of the magneto's from the spares I had bought we went to work, draining the fuel bowl checking this and that, filling the radiator and borrowing some oil. Once complete it was getting on for about 6pm, I was given instructions on how to "start the engine like it shoulkd be done!!" and watched as someone who was familiar with the thing go to work. First off the fuel drain tap was vented till pure petrol was running through. Then from a position infront of the radiator the advance was set so the engine wouldn't fire ,whilst the choke and throttle were set. Then and only then did the old lad pull up on the handle three times taking great care as to show me where I should place my thumb!!. After which the retard was set to advance and a couple of swings found the engine burst into life with a roar.
I was dumbfounded, lost for words. It was actualy running and chuffing over albeit a little uneavenly.
The old lad mounted the foot plate and explained about pinning the clutch down at night!! then after pressing the clutch in and out a few times ground the box noisily into first gear and away he went. Not far though as after a few yards the roar of the engine died away leaving the old Fordson juddering to a halt.
I was advised to swill the tank out and change the engine oil before trying again, and at that I left it for the night loading the more valuable spares into the rear of my car.
The following day, I borrowed an International tractor and trailer in order to bring back my good fortune! I found that I had to crank the old Fordson onto the trailer on the starting handle and once secure and with the rest of the parts on board, I made haste home.
It wasn't long before I was in a quandry though. Once in place at home it wasn't long before I noticed that there were very few similarities between my two tractors. Infact there was only a passing resemblance. Infact the only resemblance I could see was if I squinted then the shapes appeared to be the same!!
I was greatly encouraged by the fact I had heard the tractor burst into life, but that fact didn't help me as far as spares were concerned for the F. Well not so fast, at least I had magneto's and other conecting rods to work from and use!! With these items removed it was a simple case of using them as a template with just minor modifications.
After a few nights of hard work the F started to look a little more respectable, with the N safely out of the way the day eventualy came that saw me put into practice what Cyril had taught me. There were subtle differences between the two models. The manifolds and carbs were different but in the main the proceedure was the same. So with racing pulse and sweaty palm I primed and fiddled and got ready for the big pull.Retard fully set choke on, throttle set and BUGGER ALL!!!
I tell you what two hours of swinging that thing gave me a bicept like Arnies grandma!! Swing oh boy did I swing. Dejected and disheartened I threw in the towel. I went over and over what Cyril had told me. I checked and rechecked the plugs, big blue spark in the tip and at the mag!! Luckily assistance arrived not in the form of the cavalry but next door's grandson.
He was quickly indoctrinated and recruited to swing over the handle whilst i had a rest!!, of course this is where I should say to all prospective fordson owners "TAKE HEED!! because whilst I was resting at the manifold side at the front. Arms on the tank!!! exhaust pipe removed!! the damn thing Barks with a load bang sending all the years of acumilated rust like the charge from a shot gun into the fleshy part of my fore arm.!!!! Agony. Once the dust had settled and the biggest spider had emerged from the smoking depths that I have ever seen in my entire life ( so big it was carrying a hedgehog on a stick!!) and I had stopped bleeding. It dawned on me that I must have put the magneto in place 90 degree's out of line!!.
Bandage in place and with new inspiration (not to mention a dose of tetanus) work began in ernest. Everything fell into place and once again I cranked her over, The teeth shattering noise of the engine busting into life was music to my ears. I was jumping up and down voice drowned by the din as next doors grandson dived for cover over the deviding wall with a look of total fear on his face.
The biggest hurdle had now been overcome, apart from a coat of paint and some iron wheels it seemed like my first project could possibly be ready for the autumn show, knowing that it was a runner was like winning the lottery. It was at this point in the project that I had decided what it was I wished to achieve. I wanted to show the F at the next local rally at the end of August, with no need for major mechanical work, I could address the issue of the cosmetics head on.
My goal was to present an exhibit that would draw attention, look the part ie respectable and near original. Keeping the magneto conversion as a progressive change. I decided that as long as people could recognise it for what it was, that it ran and was clean that would do just fine. No doubt the puritains would pass judgement, No doubt those who had no idea what it was would say "thats a nice tractor!" at the end of the day it doesn't matter too much whether you go the whole hog or not. The thing is any machine regardless of how well or how badly restored it is should be appreciated and accepted for what it is.
As long as the owner has done his or her best we can only congratulate them for their efforts in saving another rust bucket from sliding into oblivion. Wishing all fellow restorers safe and happy mendings!!