Jack Keller bought molasses for years from a Draco, N.C., farmer before convincing him to sell his 1938 Farmall F-14.
Jack, of Granite Falls, N.C., said the tractor's elderly owner parked it after its manifold fell off some 10 years ago, and it never moved again until Jack and his son, Rodney, brought it home. The tractor had been used to power the farmer's cane mill, for making molasses.
'The nephew was there the day we picked it up five years ago,' Jack said. 'He was 54, and he could remember it when he was a little kid. He remembered watching his uncle plow with it, and he thinks his uncle was the tractor's second owner.'
Remaining with the tractor was its original disk plow, so Jack bought that, too. The plow has two disks, and Jack describes it as 'a real heavy outfit.'
Jack and Rodney took about a year to restore the F-14. Working together in their spare time, they redid the exhaust system, tuned up the magneto, and sandblasted and painted the tractor, which now looks positively spit-shined. They bought an F-12 for parts, but only took off the manifold and a few pieces of the carburetor, so that tractor remains restorable, too.
Lee Klancher in International Harvester Photographic History, notes that the F-14's engine was the same as the F-12's but boosted to 1,650 rpm over the F-12's 1,400 rpm. Gearing was adjusted so both tractors had the same speeds. The F-14 had a higher seat and steering wheel and a heavier seat spring than the F-12. Also, the clutch and hand brake levers were slightly moved because of the repositioned seat and steering wheel.
Jack said the difference in the steering wheels was easy to detect. He also noted that the F-14 steered 'real easy' and that it had a power takeoff.
He and Rodney removed the wide-set rubber front truck tires that the Draco owner had put on as a safety precaution, because he plowed hilly ground, and replaced them with the tractor's own original iron tricycle wheels.
Rodney said the old farmer had placed the iron wheels on some wooden blocks down in the woods when he removed them from the tractor, shortly after buying it in the early 1950s. He covered the iron wheels with tin, which he weighted down with more blocks, and they remained there, untouched, until Rodney and Jack inquired.
When the men went to retrieve them, Rodney recalled, they thought the iron would be all rusted and the wheels frozen up, but that wasn't the case: 'We got 'em out and rolled 'em to the trailer.'
After a year of working on the tractor, the Kellers finally felt the urge to finish the project, so they did the final sandblasting and painting
The F-14 has to be hand cranked to start, but Rodney said it isn't hard to crank.
Originally set up to start on gasoline and then switch to kerosene, the tractor now is run exclusively on gasoline - although both fuel tanks remain in place. Rodney explained that he uses only gasoline to avoid worrying about turning the tractor off before all the kerosene has been burned out of the carburetor. If any kerosene remains, it makes the tractor hard to start, especially when it's cold.
Jack said he and Rodney have attended a lot of tractor shows but they've never seen another F-14 on iron. According to the Hot Line Antique Tractor Guide, 27,401 F-14s were manufactured during a two-year run in 1938 and '39. In contrast, 123,442 F-12s were made from 1932 to '38.
Of his F-14, Jack said, 'It looks good and it runs real good. My wife says I'm the happiest person she ever knew with a bunch of junk!' And Rodney agreed. 'Dad's 77 years old, and he's real proud of that old tractor. He likes to take it to shows; it's go in' where he wants to go.'