A 1947 CO-OP E3 tractor shines with the patina of age.
One person’s trash is another person’s restored treasure. That’s sort of the story of my life. I seem to find things in all sorts of states of repair (or disrepair, as the case may be). I’m sort of the pied piper of old stuff. These things actually find me!
One acquisition is my 1947 CO-OP E3 tractor. A friend of mine on a neighboring island had it in his collection. He figured he would never get to it, and thus, like most of my friends figure, “I’ll offer it to Jeff. Jeff will take on anything!”
To make a long story short, I bought the tractor and my friend delivered it to my shop. It arrived in its 70-year-old work clothes, dirty and oily.
In a column in the March 2017 issue of Farm Collector, my friend Josephine Roberts wrote of the virtue of keeping things original, namely old iron. She and I have many times discussed whether it is better to leave a piece of old iron original. As we all know, these machines are original only once.
Such is the case with my CO-OP E3. In fact, she suggested I try linseed oil as a preservative, and that was a great point. The oil gave the tractor a bit of sheen and brought up some of the old color.
With respect to the tractor’s reliability, I have rebuilt the starter and generator. I had the radiator flushed and pressure-tested and the fuel tank cleaned and lined. Hoses, carburetor, belts and spark plugs were all she needed to make a reliable, drivable tractor out of her.
I have since taken the tractor to our local annual machinery show. With Josephine’s encouragement, I made a road run out of it and drove the CO-OP to the show, down a highway shoulder and local streets. At 6 a.m., it was a total blast. The 4-cylinder Buda engine never missed a beat and, aside from the shopping-cart steering, I made it just fine.
As to other aspects of this tractor, it still wears its 70-year-old work clothes and actually gets compliments from local farmers. They like it. “Never restore this tractor,” one said. “This is how we remember them looking and they should stay that way, son. Everybody likes a new one, but nobody knows what it looks like after a life of work. Heck, look at me!”
It was then I realized that there was really something profound to be said about displaying a life’s work of toil to show that life, like old tractors, isn’t ended without a life’s worth of toil, good or bad. This old tractor shows every scar, scuff and burn, right down to her original cracked tires that still hold air!
In my humble opinion, Josephine is right: There is a place for beautifully restored tractors at every show, but there is always a place for the ones in work clothes. It’s that place where the farmers gather, talk of old times and how these dirty, decades-old tractors helped nations recover from the ravages of World War II and got agriculture moving away from animal power toward the mechanized future we now enjoy.
Makes me wonder if, 70 years from now, some young person might imagine restoring one of the GPS-controlled, nearly autonomous giants we see in the fields these days. Only time will tell! FC
Jeff Weldon lives on Fidalgo Island, Washington, and is interested in all things vintage and mechanical. Call him at
(360) 982-2828; email: email@example.com.
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