Something for Nothing: A Homemade Tractor

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Center: The Pharmall Phoenix industrial.
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Top: Dal Wolf’s row crop version of the “Pharmall Phoenix.”
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Left: The industrial model, showing the reworked 1940 Ford front end.
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Above: The start of the industrial Pharmall Phoenix, as found at Bernie Smith’s.

After I had collected and restored six Farmall
F-12 row crop tractors, I decided a change of pace was in order. I
set my sights on owning and restoring an International I-12. A trip
to an auction proved fruitless: Bidding started at $3,300 on “my”
tractor. I went home with an empty trailer.

Finances dictated that the only way I could have an I-12 was to
build it myself. A friend, Bernie Smith, was in the process of
restoring his own I-12. He provided me with measurements of his
I-12, as well as the transmission and side rails of a picked-over
“boneyard” F-12 he had parted out.

I cut a 9-inch section from the side rails and “stacked” the
rails to lower the rear of the tractor 8 inches. That allowed me to
use smaller rear tires. The drawbar was turned upside-down to
return the hitch to the proper height. The steering post was
salvaged from a Farmall F-14 and is reversed to give the proper
angle up to the steering bolster. Eighteen inches was cut from the
steering rod.

The wide front end was salvaged from a 1940 Ford automobile and
was cut down to fit the short tractor. The rear tires and wheels
are from a semi truck with F-12 hubs welded to the semi rims. The
fenders are from a 48-inch culvert connection, and the engine is a
16 hp Kohler mounted on a hinged steel plate. The seat is from a
Cub Cadet. The hand clutch lever operates a cam that was cut to
give the needed lift to engage the V-belt drive.

After completing the Industrial “Pharmall Phoenix,” I decided a
row crop version was begging to be built. The row crop tractor was
much easier to fabricate. Much of the same technology used on the
I-12, plus another boneyard tractor (courtesy of Bernie Smith),
made the assembly straightforward. The seat on the row crop is from
an F-20 and the fenders were traced from Farmall C fenders and made
from diamond plate. The rear wheels are standard 24-inch tractor
tires. The front wheel is an F-12 single front with an 8-ply
implement tire.

Neither of these tractors are toys. The Industrial is used to
roll my lawn and pull the fertilizer spreader, and on other jobs
when I want to be careful not to mar the lawn. I recently used the
row crop tractor to pull a walnut log 12 feet long and 26 inches in
diameter. The Phoenix row crop is my first choice when I have a job
that requires a tractor.

Dal Wolf, who notes that “old engineers never die, they
just build tractors,” can be contacted at 3407 CR #36, Auburn, IN
46706; e-mail:

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