Vintage Machine Parts Books

Obtaining a parts book for your latest restoration project can be very helpful

| January 2000

  • Old parts manuals prove a useful resource, both in identifying parts and in illustrating assembly.
    Old parts manuals prove a useful resource, both in identifying parts and in illustrating assembly.

  • Old parts manuals prove a useful resource, both in identifying parts and in illustrating assembly.

This month, I'll pass along a tip to all you antique tractor and machinery restorers. Although I'm far from an expert, I've found a parts book to be one of my most valuable tools when restoring old machines. Most people who expend the time, effort and money to restore a vintage machine want the result to not only have a shiny paint job and to run well, but also to be authentic to original equipment, accessories, decals, etc. The best way to determine that is by poring over a parts book for your particular tractor, truck, plow or whatever. 

Another huge advantage to owning a parts book during restoration is that it allows you to determine just what part you need, as well as the correct name and part number, information you'll need to locate a replacement part. Then too, there is often an "exploded" drawing that shows how an assembly goes together, a feature that can be invaluable in the likely event that you've forgotten just how you took it apart.

An amazing number of new parts for Allis-Chalmers, Case, International Harvester, John Deere, Oliver, Ford and probably some other makes can still be obtained from present day dealers. If you walk up to a parts counter with the needed number in hand, it is much easier and faster for the parts person to check on the part's availability. Though a number from an old parts book may be obsolete, dealers usually can cross-reference to current numbers if the part is still available.

Parts numbers are essential if you must go to the used or reproduction market. Any given model of a machine went through regular modifications and updates, and these changes often meant new parts with different numbers. The only way to assure that you're getting the correct part is by comparing numbers.

Finding parts books can be a challenge, although there are sources. The first place to try is the dealer who handles your particular brand, or one that's a successor to your make. A couple of years ago, I got an Oliver parts book and service manual at an AGCO dealer. AGCO took over White, which bought out Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline and Cockshutt. John Deere dealers can get parts, service and owner's manuals for most of the machines Deere and Co. has built during the past 50 years or so. New Holland dealers have many books for the old Ford machines.

Another place to get old tractor manuals is Jensales Inc., 200 Main St., Manchester, MN 56007; (800) 443-0625; online at They sell reproductions of original factory manuals for most tractors, as well as a limited number of implements. At nearly every show, there is at least one vendor who has box after box of old books and manuals, and I've found several that way. The collector's club for your particular marquee also is a source for this information.


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