By Scott Hollis
Charles Baker of Maineville, Ohio, says many of his memories consist of either 'learning to drive a tractor or working fields all day long on a tractor.' So, it was no surprise that for nearly the last decade he had been wanting to buy an old tractor. Finally, his wife, Sue, convinced him to do it; in July 2001 he bought a 1953 Ford Golden Jubilee.
After getting the 31-hp tractor home, Charles discovered it had some serious problems in the rear end. His son, Troy Baker, a mechanical engineer who lives about 10 miles away from Maineville, in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, told his dad to bring the tractor over for a 'check up.' Beginning in August 2001, the two began to diagnose the problems and perform routine repairs on the vintage machine.
The 49-year-old tractor was mechanically sound, except for the rear end. 'I redid the carburetor, but that is pretty common for these old tractors,' Troy says. 'But once I opened it up, routine repairs like the carburetor led me to redo other things like the axle bearings and seals, and then one thing lead to another and I started to pull everything out.' Pulling everything out, Troy says, convinced him and his dad that a total restoration would be the best thing since the tractor was in pieces anyway. Before they could begin, the rear-end problems needed to be addressed.
'The most obvious problem was a loud noise in the rear of the tractor as it was being driven, so we began to disassemble the rear-end portion of the tractor, hoping it was just a brake shoe hanging up or an axle bearing,' Charles recalls. 'But sure enough, the ring and pinion gears were totally wasted.' Troy adds, 'This wasn't a problem that you can go on ignoring. This was major; these parts were shot.' The father-son team replaced the parts.
Next, they addressed a minor hydraulic problem: the hydraulic rear bars wanted to raise every time the tractor was started. The problem was corrected, Troy says, by replacing the hydraulic relief valve.
'Now that we had the tractor mechanically sound, we began to take the rest of the tractor apart piece by piece, hoping we would remember where everything went, cleaning and sandblasting each part as we went,' Charles says. The two kept track of everything by doing the restoration in stages and by separating everything within those stages into similar piles; butter containers were used to hold the smaller parts. They took apart all of the bolt-on parts and cleaned and restored those things first. After that, they moved on to the bodywork, separating that also. Then came the tractor's engine.
They took a trip to the Rockwell Tractor dealership in New Miami, Ohio, to buy a new grille, side panels and fenders because the old ones were shot. 'Luckily, they had a very nice set of used, original rear fenders; for the side panels and grille, we just ordered new,' Charles remembers, adding that fitting the new side panels on the original hood was a challenge, 'but we got the job done with a little bit of welding and grinding.'
Floyd Rockwell, owner of the New Miami dealership, was especially helpful in locating other hard-to-find parts that he didn't have in stock. 'In one instance,' Troy says, 'we had to purchase a coupler that extends to the pinion shaft. Floyd did extensive research to find the part by calling many people and dealerships. Eventually he found it for us. Floyd also found the original stock rear fenders in a hayloft, which was important because they are embossed with the Ford name in the steel. Reproductions do not have the Ford name stamped into the fender.'
Other parts needed for the restoration that the Bakers found through Rockwell included rear axle bearings and seals, new tires and tubes, all new gauges except for the RPM gauge, and a new steering wheel.
A makeshift paint booth was constructed in Troy's three-car garage out of 2- by 4-inch wood beams and plastic covering. Charles says it was a lifesaver with the priming, sanding and painting that the restoration required. The tractor's panels were painted Ford Gray and the tractor body red. New tires were mounted on the wheels and taped off, then the wheels were painted gray in the booth to match the paneling.
After the painting was finished, Charles and Troy took down the paint booth to give them more room in the garage to reassemble the tractor. 'It was really enjoyable to watch everything come together,' Charles says.
After getting the Ford back together, the final job was to fit it with some new gauges and some new wiring. 'When it was time to do the electrical fixing, we switched the tractor from a 6-volt to a 12-volt system,' Troy says. 'We had to improvise on a couple of things like switching the 6-volt, which had a positive ground, and changing that to a negative ground. The good thing about these old tractors is that they're not too complex. They are made as clean as possible and that's how we did it.'
This was the first Ford tractor model to utilize an overhead valve; all previous models - the 8N and 9N - were flat-heads. Not much is known about this particular tractor's history, except that it once had a front-end loader on it. 'That is probably the reason that the ring and pinion were so mauled up,' Troy says. 'If you can imagine this tractor back in the old days, it didn't have too much horsepower, so whatever it was trying to scoop up it had to run into. If it repeatedly was running into something, that might have been enough to mess up the ring and pinion.' Charles and Troy know it was definitely used in its lifetime; it didn't just sit in a garage.
The Jubilee was the first restoration for Charles and Troy, and it taught them to appreciate the engineering that went into such vintage machines. 'The beauty of these old tractors is that they are so simple,' Troy says. 'I don't mean simple in a bad way. They are a marvel of engineering because they are simple; that's the way they were built, to stand the test of time.'
As simple as these tractors are, Troy was surprised how much work the restoration required. He previously had restored a 1966 Chevy Nova and notes, 'Nothing is hidden on a tractor. On cars, you can hide things behind the body, but not on an old tractor. Every single, last thing must be addressed equally if it is going to look good. Also, I'm the type of guy that has to do things the right way, so that meant every little detail had to be right.'
After putting the finishing touches on the Jubilee, Charles gathered everyone together who had worked on it. 'The tractor started right up like a brand new one,' Charles remembers. After a couple of minor adjustments and some detailing, the project, which began in August 2001, was finally completed in April 2002.
Both Charles and Troy say they enjoyed restoring the tractor and think it 'turned out perfectly.' They have no plans for additional tractor restorations, although they say this one was a great experience and one that gave them a chance to spend some quality time together. Charles adds, 'I'm sure I will spend many hours enjoying this tractor, taking it to various shows and hopefully others who see the tractor can also enjoy it and appreciate what this tractor means to me and everyone involved.' FC
- For more information about Charles Baker's Golden Jubilee, contact him at 8278 Maineville Road, Maineville, OH 45039; (513) 683-1934.
'The beauty of these old tractors is that they are so simple. I don't mean simple in a bad way. They are a marvel of engineering because they are simple; that's the way they were built, to stand the test of time.'