A Yellow Ford Mystery

Ford Collector Robert Smith restores a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor, complete with original yellow paint.
By Leslie C. McManus
July 2007
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Robert’s 1964 Ford 2000. “It’s an eye-catcher. People say they didn’t know Fords came in that color,” he says, “but I haven’t gotten any negative responses.”
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When Robert Smith completed restoration of his 1964 Ford 2000 with a coat of screaming yellow paint, it was no mere flight of fancy. "I have no doubt that the tractor was painted yellow at the factory," he says. What he's less sure of is why.

The tractor's original color is just part of the mystery surrounding it. The serial number tag reads "Model #21105 SN 72636" - all of which makes perfect sense to a Ford collector familiar with build numbers. (In Model no. 21105, the Ford translation is as follows: the digit 2 indicates 134-cubic-inch engine; 1, agricultural product built in 1963 or later; 10, high-clearance agricultural single- or dual-tricycle or wide-front; 5, Select-o-Speed transmission.) Above those numbers was the designation C318. "I've talked to a lot of Ford collectors," Robert says. "Nobody I've talked to knows what C318 means."

The tractor was used for a period of time by Eastern Airlines. When Robert got it, it was painted Eastern blue and had company logos, hour meter and identification tag (no. 9006), and a serial number tag for Autoscrubber sweeping equipment typically used at airports. "I don't know when or how Eastern got hold of the tractor, or when or where it was painted blue," he says.

The Ford ran well enough but needed cosmetic work. "It looked like a piece of junk," Robert recalls. "My wife took one look and said 'What are you going to do with that?'" When he began tearing into it, he found two coats of blue paint, then one of white, then, under that, yellow. No one was more surprised than Robert. "I had no idea it had been painted yellow," he says.

All that paint, he says, may have acted as a preservative on the tractor's sheet metal. The fenders were missing, so the next step was to find the correct brackets. "I had some old Ferguson fenders, so I used them," he says. The engine had a new head, he says, causing him to suspect Eastern equipment was well maintained, and the hydraulics and transmission were in good shape. "I know a lot of people who've had trouble with Select-o-Speed transmissions, but fortunately mine worked well in all 10 gears and two reverse," he says.

Robert has restored antique cars and trucks in the past but is new to the vintage tractor hobby. "I'm just learning," he says. After retiring 10 years ago from the Publix grocery chain, he bought his first tractor in 1999. He started with a Ford 601 Series to use as a bush hog and mower on small acreage. "I'd never driven a tractor until that moment," he says. Then he bought a one-owner Farmall Cub from a friend. "That's when tractor fever really hit," he says.

Today his collection includes a Farmall Super AV, Farmall H, International WR 9 and more. "I just like Ford," he says. "I've always owned Ford vehicles. Fords are unique and there aren't that many Ford collectors."

Next up: a 541 offset. It'll be the only tractor on deck. "I just work on one project at a time," he says. Robert's wife, Ara-Mae, supports him in his hobby and he wouldn't have it any other way. "Keep your better half involved in your hobby," he says. "Let her know what you got done today. She may not want to see it but at least she knows what you're doing."

The 2000 is complete, but the case isn't closed. Robert says shipping information on individual Ford tractors is apparently unavailable, so he's been unable to track the origin of his tractor. Several Ford collectors who've looked at his tractor concur that it was painted yellow at the factory, but no one knows why.

Recently, Robert thought he was on the verge of a breakthrough. "I talked to a guy with a tractor the same style, with 'C318' on it. His also had an Eastern hour meter on it … but he didn't know what that meant either." Still, there's comfort in numbers. "It's exciting to know that somebody else has the same thing you do, even if you don't know what it is that you have," he says with a smile.

For more information: Robert Smith, 4212 W. Main St., Wauchula, FL 33873. 


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