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Finishing the Unfinished Ford 8N

Author Photo
By Woody Cone

Finishing another man’s unfinished restoration project.

tractor
After the man who started restoration of this 1952 Ford 8N became ill and died, Woody Cone picked up the pieces and finished the project.

I bought a new mobile home in 2008. Last fall, Dennis Allfrey (the man who owns the company that I bought it from) called me. I saw the company name on my caller ID. I couldn’t imagine why they would be calling me. Curiosity finally forced me to answer the phone.

Dennis knew that I had been tinkering with tractors ever since I retired 14 years ago. It seems his stepfather had started to restore a family heirloom 1952 Ford 8N tractor. Then his stepfather became ill and died. Now they had a whole cellar full of parts and he wanted to know if I could finish the restoration.

I had just finished a job, so the timing was perfect. The only problem was that my garage is full of a disassembled 1949 Ford pickup truck that I’ve been trying to restore. But that takes money. I told Dennis that I would love to do it if he had a warm place where I could work. He said that he had a machine shed, and he could put a salamander heater in it for me.

I went up to see where I would be working. It was a fairly new metal building, three bays wide and a long two cars deep. The roof had open trusses and the soffit looked to be open. I told him that we would never be able to get enough heat in there to be able to paint. “Let me see what I can come up with,” he said.

A couple Saturdays later, Dennis and his son took a bunch of 2-by-3s and some solid insulation and built a room around the tractor. He did it in such a way that the wall in front of the outside overhead door can be easily removed when I finish the tractor. He put a heater in there on a thermostat.

Best of the old, best of the new

The tractor was mostly together. Most of the sheet metal was painted and ready for assembly. The hood was missing, but they had saved the front of it because a new aftermarket hood doesn’t have the Ford name embossed on it. The quality of the paint job that had been done on the sheet metal parts was better than anything I’ve ever done.

My nephew, Conway, has been doing body work since he was in high school. I talked Dennis into taking the sheet metal to my nephew. I knew he could cut out the embossed “Ford” and weld it into the new hood. He could also match that quality of paint work.

hood

An original Ford embossed script was spliced into
the tractor’s replacement hood.

Dennis and I had quite a discussion on the type of restoration he wanted. At first, he wanted the tractor to be original. The more we talked, he decided that he wanted it to look quite original, but with some modern updates. We decided to go with 12 volts, a one-wire alternator and electronic ignition.

Success with a discarded part

I went up before he built the room and installed a temporary gas tank. The 6-volt battery turned out to be no good. I used it as a core trade in for a 12-volt battery. I wanted to see if the tractor would run, since I wasn’t the one who put it together.

I installed the 12-volt battery with negative ground. Then I reversed the wires to the coil, and put in a 6-volt dropping resister. I didn’t want to deal with the charging system right then so I just disconnected the generator. The engine turned over real fast with that 12-volt battery. No spark, and gas was pouring out of the carburetor. I dismantled the carb and found that it was just a little corroded and had a stuck float from sitting so long.

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makeshift shop allowed a fresh coat of paint on the tractor’s “red belly.”

I cleaned the points and rechecked my wiring. Still no spark! The original restorer had put on a new coil. The old one was in a box with a lot of other parts. I wonder why? I installed the old coil and the tractor started and ran like it had been running yesterday. Good oil pressure and no funny noises. I called Dennis on my cell phone, and let him listen to the tractor run for the first time in several years.

Dennis’s stepfather had painted the tractor’s “red belly” a color that had either faded to an orange/red or was wrong to start with. Neither of us liked it. On a warm Saturday, we pushed the tractor outside and pressure-washed it. It was much easier then to paint over the old color using rattle can Ford Red paint.

Rounding up parts and pieces

A lot of the parts for the three-point hitch were missing. Dennis was having a ball ordering parts. I was sandblasting and painting and trying to figure out how everything went together. The stud where the lower right-side arm of the three-point mounts to the axle housing was loose and the threads were damaged so I couldn’t get a nut on it. The only way to fix it is to remove the right-side axle assembly. I was dreading that job. I was thinking of asking Dennis to stop by with his pickup truck and take my engine hoist up to the tractor.

Well, I removed the wheel, then the brake assembly and axle. I removed the bolts holding the axle housing to the differential. When I started to loosen it, it came off in my hands. Surprise! It didn’t weigh half what I thought it would.

hood

The finished hood.

We got the sheet metal back. Conway did an excellent job of putting the embossed Ford on the new hood. It looks like it was made there. He painted the Ford script red and then taped it off while he painted the gray. He then clear-coated the whole thing.

I should have listened to my nephew. He had wanted to fit the hood to the tractor before he painted it. I ended up trying to put the hood on three times before I could get it to fit right. Even then, the grille went in not quite right.

Solving a sediment bowl problem

I had planned to use the original sediment bowl assembly because I’ve had problems with the current supply of new ones. Well, I tried to start the tractor. And, don’t you know? Gas was running out even around the sediment bowl shut-off. I tried tightening everything, with no luck. Off to get a new sediment bowl.

I drained all the gas as carefully as possible so as to not get any on the paint. I installed the new bowl assembly and put in about five gallons of gas. I turned on the gas and it goes drip. Five seconds later: drip. Another five seconds: drip. Suddenly the little tractor room is right full of foul language.

The next day, I drained the gas – again. I removed the sediment bowl assembly, took it apart and could find nothing wrong. There was about a foot of gas line and rubber hose attached to the original sediment bowl. Long story short, this is what was blocked.

The little Ford now looks and runs better than new – except the grille is leaning slightly to one side. FC


For more information: Woody Cone, 253 Milton Rd., Rochester, NH 03868

Updated on Jun 14, 2021  |  Originally Published on Jun 1, 2021

Farm Collector Magazine

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