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In the summer of 1996, Matt took parts off the tractor, including the gas tank and the radiator, to sell at the Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show in Portland, Ind. The parts were too thin to use in a restoration but useful for pattern making.
He met Fred McCance at the Portland show that year, and Fred knew right off those parts were from a Shelby. Matt learned what he had was too valuable to sell piecemeal, so he just packed everything up and took it all back home.
By November of that year, Matt, who is now 21 and a full-time milling machine operator and part-time garage operator, had begun to systematically tear the tractor down. He says he tried to photograph the placement of parts as he proceeded, with the aim of restoring the machine over time. 'Everything remains intact except the rear end housing,' he says, 'and all the sheet metal is in restorable shape.' The previous owner put rubber tires on the tractor but the original hubs remain on the front; Matt wants to restore all four wheels to original condition, which will involve, he says, learning how to personally make iron wheels.
'The manifold is in mint condition for its age,' he notes, and an original oil can holder, a Mason jar air cleaner and an aluminum crank case -unusual for the 1918-1919 period - all remain intact. The 'pre-heater' also is still on the tractor; it was used to help start the machine in cold weather.
The engine has babbitt inserts, which Matt says are unique in such an early machine, and babbitt screws hold the inserts in place. The pistons are scarred, though, thanks to an earlier ill-fated attempt at engine repair. Also, the original honeycomb-type radiator remains with the tractor but is very brittle and probably will have to be replaced.
'It was $250 for the tractor and $250 for the grain separator, but I always thought of the tractor as costing $500.'
- Fred McCance
- For more information on the Catons' Shelby, contact Matt at 1281 Maple Valley Rd., Meyersdale, PA 15552; (814) 634-1867; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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