My Little Tractor - Ford Super Dexta
by Curtis Von Fange
The rusty blue tractor caught my eye as my truck zipped by the farm implement
business. It looked so fornlorn amongst the lineup of newer equipment. But
it was just the right size for my small farm. I stopped in and asked the
proprietor for further information. "It's a 64 Ford Super Dexta", he said.
"It's a tough little tractor, although it's a hard starter being a diesel and
all." He did manage to get it running, compliments of a can of ether. Once
started it putted along pretty good. It had a bushog that went with the
'deal'. It seemed like what the doctor ordered so I bought it.
I always had trouble getting that little tractor to run. And it liked to
overheat. I attributed the overheating problem to the grass and weed seed
always getting stuck in the radiator as I bushogged. The hard starting I
just lived with. My wife didn't like me to cut the pasture because whenever
I needed to get the tractor started she would have to pull it with the van to
the fire station down the road before it would fire and run on it's own. It
was a yearly ritual that she loathed. But once started the little tractor
seemed to go about it's business, albeit was kind of slow.
The tractor served me reasonably well for eleven or twelve years. Then, one
day, while in the very back of the pasture, it decided to quit. A couple of
hours later, I did manage to get it to run on one of the three cylinders;
just enough to get it back to the barn. Diagnosis warranted an engine
rebuild in the future. Unfortunately, it looked like that future might not
be for a year or so.
I have a collection of older equipment that is used for my small excavating
business. Every two or three years a piece is picked out to do a partial
restoration, thereby keeping my fleet in reliable running condition. The
tractor's turn had finally arrived.
In January of this year I fired up the wood burning stove in the barn and
began the tear down procedure. All the front end parts were removed and
placed on the floor in their proper order of disassembly. The engine was
removed and placed on an engine stand. Further break down revealed the
primary reason for why it was a hard starter all those years. The valves
were burned to a crisp. In fact, one exhaust valve was half gone. It was a
wonder that it had run for as long as it had. My plan was to do a complete
overhaul on the motor. An engine rebuild kit was ordered from Ford. I sent
the block, head, and crank out for cleaning, inspection, and necessary
It's funny how one thing leads to another. With the engine out I thought to
myself, "I should go ahead and fix that steering gear box that is so hard to
steer." With that unit sitting in pieces on my workbench waiting for
bearings I thought, "Boy, I should check that three point hydraulics because
it creeps down so much." In another hour that menagerie of spools, O rings,
and gaskets was in pieces on a separate rolling table. Next I thought,
"Those fenders should come off and be rewelded at the base. And while I'm at
it I'll get those rims looked at because of the calcium chloride decay on the
wheels. And, you know, those lift arms are really rough. I wonder how much
those are new?"
I didn't notice how the pile of parts lining the walls, floor, and
workbenches grew. I think it dawned on me when I couldn't find the
woodstove. I scanned what I had done. Before me stood the naked iron
casing of my tractor. My main workbench was stacked with miscellanous
parts. To my left I had build a temporary workbench out of saw horses and a
sheet of plywood. It was full of engine parts. Behind me stacked against
the wall were the radiator, hoses, front end, tires, etc. Across from the
stove were the sheet metal parts, seat, foot plates and three point parts.
The fenders leaned against the barn door with buckets of assorted bolts
stacked nearby. On my other side was the roller bench with the hydraulic
system in pieces. I was surrounded! At that moment my son waltzed through
the only seeable door. His eyes got big as he looked across the room and
said, "Cool, dad, is it going to be done tomorrow?" It wasn't.
Believe it or not I had actually planned on doing a tractor restoration from
scratch. (Circumstances seem to alter one's ability to rationalize, you
know.) The next step was to clean, organize, and inspect the assorted
parts. Fortunately, I have enough room in my barn that I was able to divide
the overall picture into segements. All the engine parts were sorted,
solvent tanked, painted, and the bolts wirebrushed and put into neat little
assorted piles. Other sections had the same treatment and were stacked in
appropriate rows for assembly. After a few more days the barn had been
transformed into something that resembled an early Ford Assembly Plant. Now
that all the grunt work was done I could relax until the machine shop work
I got the call a couple of days later. "Hey, this head you brought it has a
crack in in." That piece of information started the great hunt. Older
tractors can be kind of testy to find parts for. Especially the English
Fords. I spent some time surfing the internet looking for leads. Found a
couple, but they were in Great Britain. I looked though some of the
excavating booklets that I periodically get in the mail. They had some
suppliers for the Perkins Diesel engine that I had in their advertisment
listings. I was able to get some prices on a head and kit, but they were
astronomical. I ended up networking some dealerships and older mechanics
around town and eventually found a tractor parts supplier a few hours away.
A day trip down to his 'lot' supplied me with not only a head but also a
seat, steering wheel, and misc. body parts that had deteriorated beyond
reasonable repair. I can't say too much for his prices, but they were better
than waiting for a slow boat from the Queen.
I was impressed how many other parts were still available at my local Ford
Tractor Dealership. Sure, some stuff was pretty high in price and had to be
specially ordered, but it still came in. Other items, like the rims, which
were irrepairably damaged, I was able to get at a local tire shop that dealt
with truck and tractor tires. Shopping for prices amongst the stores saved
me quite a bit of money. My local auto store also provided me with bearings,
seals, and such at a cheaper price than the dealership. Another very
valuable service my local dealer provided was to give me photocopies of the
repair manual and parts idex pages that I needed for that little edge of
information or security for hard to do areas of the tractor. It seems like
the parts pages are the most valuable because one can see the overall order
of installation for some of the more intricate areas of rebuild.
The engine assembly went quickly once the parts were all rounded up. Tractor
assembly went equally fast since everything was clean, painted and laid out
in order. Questionable parts had been updated or replaced: hoses, belts,
and filters were purchased and installed. In another week or so my barn
began to look more like the floor of a tractor dealership than a rebuilders
barn. Finally the time for start up came. I put in the fuel, checked the
various fluid levels again, bled the air from the injectors, checked the oil
pressure and fired it up. It ran perfect.
Creating something 'new' out of something old gives one a great feeling of
satisfaction. It not only preserves a piece of the past but, like an artist,
gives an outlet for creativity that other people can appreciate. I now have
a reliable tractor at a fraction of the cost of a new one that will
faithfully serve me for years to come. And I don't have to get the van out
to start it!
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