A 1959 Farmall 340 rusting away in a barn is brought back to life for a new century.
In November 1996, my wife, Ruth, and I bought a partially restored 1964-1/2 Mustang. We finished the restoration over the winter of 1996-’97. In the fall of 1997, we began looking for a place to store the Mustang for the winter.
A friend, Norm Purdy, told me of a two-car garage on a farm he used to own and gave me the owner’s phone number. A few days later, I met the owner, Tim Fealey, and his wife, Julie. We became good friends.
For 16 years we stored the 1964-1/2 Mustang at the Fealeys’. Later we bought another Mustang, a 1992 GT, and stored it along with the 1964-1/2 during the winter.
Over the years I noticed an old tractor at the other end of the building. It was quite obvious that the tractor had not been moved in quite a long time. All of the tires were flat and the tractor was covered with cobwebs. Wasps had made nests on various parts of the sheet metal. My curiosity finally got the best of me, and I asked Tim about the rusty old piece of iron. He had bought the Farmall 340 along with the farm. It had a 250-gallon tank mounted on the back for spraying trees in the farm’s orchard. Tim no longer had any use for the tractor as he had another one he preferred to use. The tractor had not been moved or started in many years.
After more conversation, Tim suddenly asked, “Chuck, how would you like to restore that old tractor?” I was shocked. I had no idea Tim would want to restore the old relic. My first thought was that he didn’t want to tackle what would be a gargantuan job, take more than a year and cost a lot of money. But the longer we talked, the more the idea grew on me. Soon an agreement was reached. Tim would provide the parts and I would provide the labor.
Because I wanted to know a little bit about the tractor’s attributes, I began to do some research. I found that the old machine’s serial number was 5396. According to Farmall’s records, the tractor was built during the last two weeks of 1959 and was probably purchased in early spring of 1960, in time for spring planting. The tractor weighs about 7,000 pounds and has 32 hp on the drawbar. The gas tank holds about 16 gallons and the engine is a 4-cylinder overhead-valve type.
I began working on the tractor around April 1, 2013. The tires were filled with air. The tractor had a lot of surface rust, but no dents in the sheet metal. Overall, the entire tractor was in pretty good shape.
The first job was to see if the tractor would run. I cleaned and gapped the spark plugs, drained the sludge out of the gas tank and rinsed rust and dirt out of the tank. The gas line was real problem as it was jammed full of rust and gas varnish. I took a heavy wire and worked it through the line and then blew out the line with compressed air. The carburetor was disassembled, cleaned and rebuilt. The engine oil crankcase was drained and fresh oil added. Fresh gas was put in the gas tank.
With two turns of the engine, the old 340 roared to life and ran splendidly. I drove it out of the building for the first time in many years, and had a great time driving it all over the farm. I ran it in all 10 gears at various speeds for about two hours to make sure it got to operating temperature. All the hydraulics worked and the oil pressure was good. The engine temperature never got into the operating range. We did discover that the thermostat was stuck open. There were leaks of coolant from the front of the engine, requiring a new water pump and new radiator hoses. The fuel gauge didn’t work so we had to get a new fuel sender in the gas tank. But it was running!
Once I knew the engine and transmission were good, I started restoring the body. I added an exhaust muffler extension, a new steering wheel and center cap, decal set, headlight switch, sediment bowl assembly, emblem mounting clips, water pump and 180-degree thermostat, gearshift knob, wire looms and cable ties, spark plug wires, distributor cap and rotor, 600 x 16-inch front tires and tubes, 12.4 x 36-inch rear tires and tubes, carburetor choke cable, engine valve cover gasket, starter button and headlight fuse holder, 6-volt battery, battery holder, hood ornament and muffler rain cap, grill screen, rubber mounting pads for radiator and gas tank, battery trickle charger, 6-volt voltage regulator, starter solenoid, brake boots and carburetor rebuild kit.
I also replaced the missing left lower panel, the missing fuel gauge sender in gas tank, various knobs, rear wheel axle clamps, four brake discs and brake actuators, and did complete rebuilds of the generator and starter.
All electrical wiring was replaced with wiring of the same gauge or heavier and encased in neoprene wire looms. All bolts that were removed for any reason were replaced with anti-seize compound on the threads. All rust and old paint was removed by using a powerful steam pressure washer, treated with rust-inhibiting zinc phosphate to stop further rust and then painted with a rust-inhibiting primer. The tractor was then given at least three coats of PPG acrylic enamel.
I am grateful for Tim and Julie’s encouragement, help and financial support, and for the support of my wife, who spent many hours alone while I carried on “my affair” with the rusty old piece of iron that was the Farmall 340. FC
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– Chuck Truesdale lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Contact him via email: email@example.com.