Farm Collector


Forever Farmalls

Restorations keep former farmer linked to rural life

Jim Dugan’s association with Farmall tractors began long before he started doing Farmall restorations in 1992. When Jim was a boy, his father owned an F-12 and an F-30, his uncles owned an H and an M, and in the 1970s, Jim owned his own M, which he used for such chores as grinding feed for his 60-sow hog operation near Miami, Okla. ‘Farmalls are what I grew up with,’ he says.

After hard times hit in the early 1980s, Jim sold his hog farm and moved to Madill, where he works today as a maintenance and transportation supervisor for the Madill public schools. In his spare time, though, he keeps his ties to farming strong by collecting and restoring his favorite vintage tractor models. ‘I get homesick for the farm sometimes,’ Jim says, ‘and I do miss that part of my life, but restoring these old tractors does keep me near them at least.’

He started out with a 1928 Regular on iron wheels and moved on to an F-20 and a 200. Next, he plans to tackle an H.

All of them are taken on as winter projects, so Jim can work away in the 36-by 50-foot shop he shares with his son, Curtis, while the snow and cold winds are blowing outside.

Here’s a rundown of what he’s accomplished so far:

1928 Farmall Regular

‘I originally found out about the Regular from my brother, Jerry, who drives a backhoe in Chetopa (Kan.),’ Jim says. ‘He does work all over, and he noticed this tractor that had been setting out for a long time in a junk fencerow.’ Jerry told Jim about the Regular in 1992, and soon, the brothers went to talk with the owner about buying it.

The tractor, which Jim bought for $50, had been sitting in the fencerow 40 years. He says the transaction pleased the former owner, who wanted to get rid of the machine, and gave him his first winter project. ‘The Regular was one of the first tractors made to do a variety of chores,’ he explains. ‘Before the Regular came out, tractors were used for specific purposes: one was for plowing, another was for cultivating and so on. This model would do it all. That’s what the name means, Farmall – it farms all.’

Jerry trucked the Regular to Chetopa, and Jim brought it on to the machine shop in Madill. After Jim got a serious look at the tractor, he realized stuck pistons were its biggest problem. ‘I soaked them with penetrating oil for two weeks,’ he says. ‘Every day I would hit ’em a lick or two with a hammer and a block of wood, to try to free them up. Eventually they let go.’

While the pistons were soaking, Jim tallied up all the parts that needed to be replaced: grease seals, PTO, belt pulley, axle seals, shaft, clutch, rings and gaskets. He also would need to work on the radiator, strip the old paint, polish the pitted cylinders and grind the valves on the head. The tractor had survived pretty well, though, despite its 40 years of neglect.

Jim did almost all of work on it, except he had the cylinders and valves ground smooth again at a metal shop in Madill and had help from a friend, Kevin Peoples, with the painting.

Jim has a ‘homemade’ plan for keeping his tractor parts organized and identified during a restoration: ‘I save a bunch of fruit cans – the gallon kind – or 1/2-quart hand soap containers, and use labels,’ he says. ‘It keeps things separated, but I also try to keep the different steps separated, so I am not doing too many things at once.’ Because the Regular had stuck pistons, he did start replacing the seals and fixing the transmission while the pistons soaked, but usually he finishes one job before he starts another.

The biggest problem on the Regular, in the end, proved to be the radiator. Jim recalls he couldn’t even pressurize it to check for leaks. So, he filled it with water to find the biggest leaks, which he soldered, and then he poured in cinnamon, to fill the smaller holes. The theory is that the ground cinnamon particles become lodged in the pinhole-sized leaks, permanently blocking them. ‘Not many know about this trick,’ Jim says. ‘I heard it from a fella when I bought one of my parts tractors, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve used this trick for 10 years now, and I haven’t had any problems.’

The felt seals on the tractor presented another restoration challenge. After initially replacing them, Jim found that the Regular continued to leak oil, so he went back in and ‘snugged them up.’ When that didn’t work either, he replaced the 140-weight grease with 250 weight, which is more viscous, and the seals quit leaking.

Finally, the tractor was running again. ‘I tried to restore it as close as possible,’ Jim says, ‘except I did install an inline fuel filter because there was some rust floating around in the gas tank.’

He used a rather unconventional technique for painting the Regular, too. He had the old paint sandblasted off, and then cleaned up the garage, put down some plastic, drove the tractor into the garage and onto the plastic and just painted the whole thing. He used the closest gray he could find to the Regular’s original gray, but it proved too light, so a couple of years later, he painted the tractor again, using a better match. After painting it the second time, he applied decals that had been made from the original decals.

Farmall Regular

Serial No. 37350
Year manufactured: 1928
Model made from 1924 to 1932
Quantity made: 134,650 Engine: IHC vertical valve-in-head
Cylinders: 4 Bore and stroke: 3.75 by 5.00
RPM: 1,200
Drawbar hp: 13.27
Belt PTO hp: 20.05
Color: Dark gray

1940 Farmall F-20

Jim’s second restoration was a 1940 Farmall F-20. ‘My wife, Virginia, and I were driving through Stratford (Okla.) in 1999 and happened to see a junk pile with an old tractor in it, so we stopped to take a look at it,’ Jim recalls. ‘We could tell it was a later-model F-20, but couldn’t tell for sure what year.’ Not knowing to whom the tractor belonged, they just started asking around and eventually came across the owner’s son, who introduced them to his father. ‘I made a deal with him for $250,’ Jim says. ‘He was wanting a little more for it – I think $350 – but finally I got him down after a couple of calls.’

Jim and Curtis moved this second tractor to Madill too, and in the winter of 1999, Jim began its restoration, which turned out to be similar to that of the Regular. On the F-20, the pistons were stuck and the radiator leaked, but the manifold was broken too, and when they loaded the tractor to take it home, Jim and Curtis noticed its carburetor lying on the ground.

Jim didn’t remove the F-20’s old paint by having it sandblasted like he did the Regular. ‘Many will disagree, but I found that I didn’t like the sandblasting to get rid of old paint because it leaves grit in the smaller parts of the tractor.’ Instead, Jim used a 4-inch grinder to strip the paint by hand. The grinder worked so well, Jim says, he couldn’t tell any difference, and it was cheaper too. ‘Yes, it takes longer – about a month to grind, not counting tear-down time -but it was winter work.’

Another difference between the two restorations had to do with the wheels: The F-20 sat on rubber and the Regular sat on metal, so Jim had to find some rubber tires for the F-20 – and he didn’t want to buy new ones. He found some rear 10-36 tires in Bonham, Texas, and put new tubes in them. For the front, he took old 16-inch rims from a 1/2-ton Chevy pickup, cut the centers out and put the remaining rims on the tractor’s cast-iron wheels. Then, he put regular tractor tires on the wheels. When it came to painting the F-20, Jim didn’t have to experiment this time; he painted it International Harvester red.

He dates the machine to after 1939, when Farmall stopped production of this model. ‘I’ve done some research on this era, and I found that my tractor was made after 1939 because serial no. 135700 is where the F-20 ended, but my F-20 is serial no. 146471. My tractor is thought to have been built with leftover parts after 1939.’

Farmall F-20

Serial No. 146471
Year manufactured: 1940
(from leftover parts) Model made from 1932 to 1939
Quantity made: 154,398 Engine: IHC vertical I-head
Cylinders: 4 Bore and stroke: 3.75 by 5.00
RPM: 1,200
Drawbar hp: 16.12
Belt PTO hp: 24.13
Color: IH red

1956 Farmall 200

The 200 restoration began in the winter of 2000, and Jim says this one started off the same as the others. He replaced or repaired all the usual worn parts: New bearings and seals in the tricycle front wheels, new brakes, a new clutch pressure plate and the radiator. Again he used his electric grinder to remove rust and old paint, but this time he painted the tractor while it was broken down into parts.

His restoration routine also changed when he decided to invest about $800 in engine work at a commercial machine shop. He had the cylinders bored a little larger and oversized pistons installed, the valves ground, and new rods and main bearings put in. ‘I use this tractor a lot to mow our 20 acres and to do odd jobs around the place,’ Jim says. ‘It is really a good, little tractor.’

Now, Jim’s preparing to restore his fourth Farmall – a 1946 H, serial no. 223877, which needs to be switched from propane to gasoline. This one runs in its unrestored state but needs cleaning, ‘and a few other small things.’ And Jim says he’s hoping to retire from his job soon, so he can spend more time showing and parading his growing collection of restored Farmalls.

Farmall 200

Serial No. 7236
Year manufactured: 1956
Model made from 1954 to 1956
Quantity made: 10,904 Engine: IHC C-124 Vertical I-head
Cylinders: 4 Bore and stroke: 3.125 by 4.00
RPM: 1,650
Drawbar hp: 20.92
Belt PTO hp: 24.11
Color: IH red

– For more information about Jim’s tractors, contact him at Route 4, Box 240, Madill, OK 73446; (580) 795-5614.

  • Published on Nov 1, 2002
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