Anything Can be Restored, Including an Oliver 70 Toy Tractor

A battered Oliver 70 cast iron toy tractor found at a junkyard gets a new lease on life.

Restored Oliver tractor toy

The restored Oliver, complete with repairs necessitated after breakage during restoration.

Photo by Richard Stout

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Going to the junkyard has been my bad habit all my life. As a child, I went with my dad. One never knows what will turn up that can be used on down the line.

A great find – sort of

A few months back, while visiting a junkyard, I was digging in one of those piles and picked up an Arcade Oliver 70 cast iron toy tractor. I put it in the bucket of goodies I had dug out and paid for them by the pound. Now this is not as great as you might think. It was rusted until the riveting pin and front axle were half rusted away. It had no wheels. What paint was left must have been good lead. It was somewhat red, so I suppose it was sold in a dime store.

The really bad part was on one side: From the front platform to the seat hole, the iron had broken off, so half of the rear half of the axle, platform, fender and drawbar were gone. The break was rusty, so the broken-off part was not going to be found nearby. I cleaned it off, and it sat around as I kept looking at it to see what could be done.

Tackling restoration

Finally, I used a cereal box for cardboard and cut out a pattern of the existing fender, deck, drawbar and rear axle. I turned the cardboard over to use it for the other side. I transferred this onto a flat piece of 14-gauge sheet iron, laying all these units into one long unit. I cut that out, having plenty of extra around the edges. For the fender edge, I had a cut-off end of a shaft the diameter of the outer edge of the fender. I clamped the fender piece over the end of the shaft with the flange of the fender sticking out over the edge of the shaft, heated it with a torch until it was red and pounded it over.

Then I went to filing it down to size, heating and bending the metal to shape. I had to do that three or four times, as it had a 180-degree and 90-degree bends, to get the axle bearing, fender and platform in one piece until it came down and it would fit to replace the broken-out part. I read somewhere that it takes 2,500 strokes of a file to file away a cubic inch. Wiring the part to the existing tractor, I brazed it together. Then there was a lot more filing to get it to look like the other side.

Do-it-yourself tires

When I looked for reproduction tires, the price was too far out for what I had. When my grandson-in-law put new rubber tracks on his Challenger, I cut the rubber blocks off the inside of the old track. I took one of those blocks and cut it into 3/4-inch slabs with the bow saw. I did some flattening of the rubber by holding it on an 8-inch angle grinder to get the thickness. Having to make two wheels 3-1/16-inch and two wheels 1-7/16-inch in diameter, I cut the corners off the rubber blocks with the hacksaw. I drilled two 3/16-inch holes in the center, then put in a 3/16-inch stove bolt, nuts and washers so I could chuck this into a 1/4-inch electric hand drill. I hose-clamped the drill to a 2-by-2 so that I could put  it in my vise.

I tried a router cutter in a die grinder, getting the rubber round by spinning it on the 1/4-inch drill. That was too slow, so I got the 4-1/2-inch angle grinder and ground on the rubber wheels while they spun in the drill. I could shape the tires that way, but there was a lot of white smoke. The rubber was sticky afterward, but it dried in a few days.

With the axle on the front, I took a sharp pair of pliers and ran them around the axle inside the riveted ends to smooth the axle and then just pushed the tires on. The pathetic part of this came when I went to drill the axle hole in the side of the tractor I had rebuilt; I dropped the tractor on the concrete floor and broke the fender off the good side of the tractor. I had to braze that fender back on. But I did get it all together. I do not think it is going to get a driver or a paint job.

How do you count your time?

This goes to show that about anything can be reworked, if you put enough time, effort and ingenuity into it — unless one counts his time on eBay or standing around at auctions. I probably could have bought two mint tractors like this, if one counts his time as anything. Onto another project. FC


Richard Stout visits junkyards near his home in Washington, Iowa. Write him at 3105 Larch Ave., Washington, IA 52353.