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
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
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.
I had received my sales catalogue from the estate agents as usual. Being on
the mailing list under the heading of interested in farm sales! It was to be
held at Thompson's farm in the rural village of Heartington on the moors.
I browsed through the pamphlet thumbing the pages idly until I noticed under
machinery..." Field Marshall Series 1". It was described as in "as found"
condition, but running.
This Field Marshall was
discovered at an auction in
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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