Cub Cadet Garden Tractor Restoration
A 21st-century odyssey: Restoring an IH Cub Cadet garden tractor
Kate Will takes a spin on her very nicely refurbished Cub Cadet Model 109.
Restoring International Harvester Cub Cadet garden tractors is enough to make some collectors feel as lost as Odysseus as he wandered in search of home after the battle of Troy.
Yet, fear not! Hope isn't lost. Rather than succumb to the Sirens' call and give up on restoring that Cub Cadet parked in the garage, here are a few good suggestions to help get that little yellow-and-white tractor back into the garden.
Why restore a Cub Cadet?
International Harvester first introduced the Cub Cadet line in 1961. During the 21 years of IH Cub Cadet production, nearly 700,000 were sold. Because of the line's diversity, the "built to last" quality of their design and affordability, Cub Cadet tractors are now highly collectable — and very useful. Even a 40-year-old Cub Cadet in original condition often will be capable of plowing the garden and cutting the grass. But many folks like to refurbish, or restore, their Cub Cadets for harder and longer use, or just for the sheer pleasure of making them like new.
Refurbishing a Cub Cadet is relatively easy for someone with basic mechanical skills. Unlike a vintage steam traction engine or gas tractor, Cub Cadets have relatively few parts and don't take up much room in the shop. Couple that with their simplicity and sturdy construction, the easy availability of replacement and used parts — as well as numerous online and print resources — and there are plenty of reasons to make that vintage Cub Cadet shine again. The finished tractor will be useful, beautiful and a great source of pride. Most of all, Cub Cadet restorers will enjoy an engaging project and learn much throughout the journey.
Research first — wrench later
The entire project will be easier and more enjoyable if you learn as much about Cub Cadets as possible. For research, make use of Cub Cadet-related websites, books, vintage brochures and even the McCormick/IH archives (see “The Tough International Harvester Cub Cadet Compact Garden Tractor” for more information and resources).
You should be familiar with the machines before restoring a Cub Cadet. Attend tractor shows where Cub Cadets are likely to be displayed. Take pictures of the tractors and ask questions of enthusiasts — be sure to take notes. In no time, you will know whether restoring a Cub Cadet is a burning passion or a passing fancy. For those who haven't secured a project tractor, the research process will help focus the search for a suitable candidate among the many models that exist.
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