Farm Collector

Fordson Model F Crawler Worth the Wait

Jack Domogalla is nothing if
not patient. How patient? He waited 40 years to get hold of a tractor of his
dreams, a 1927 Fordson Model F crawler with a front-end winch.

Jack lives in Cedar, Minn., now, but he grew up in central North Dakota on a homestead his parents took
near relatives. “When the Great Depression came along, most of my uncles left,”
he says, “but Dad and Mother stayed out there and farmed.”

The Domogallas used Rumely
and Allis-Chalmers and, especially pertinent to young Jack, Fordson tractors.
“That’s how I got into Fordsons,” he explains. “When I was a kid, our 1923
Fordson was the first one I could drive. During World War II we couldn’t get
any tractors or parts, so we ran the old ones and that was one of them that I

Later, while working for a
Minneapolis-Moline dealership in Minnesota,
Jack delivered tractors to farmers, affording him the chance to spot old
tractors in sheds and tree groves. That led him to buying old tractors, like
his 1935 English Fordson N with a plow that he bought (for $80) from a farmer
in 1950. “I still have that one,” he says, “sitting right next to my crawler.”

Always a bridesmaid

“After the Moline dealership
burned down, I worked on ore boats in Duluth for three years, keeping that 1935
English Fordson N in a chicken coop at my mother’s place,” Jack says. Later he
started a unit concrete step company in Cedar, Minn. “But I always found and sold tractors
and kept some over the years,” he says.

When the concrete business
slowed during the winter, Jack delivered fuel oil. A customer living 3 miles
away owned a 1927 Fordson F crawler with a winch. “He said it was in a shed, it
wasn’t for sale and he didn’t want me even looking at it. He wanted to fix it
up one day. But I managed to look at it anyway,” Jack says, laughing. “He
didn’t know how to run it, so I don’t know why he had it. Maybe a relative gave
it to him. That went on for 10 years until he died.”

Jack was optimistic,
thinking the tractor would be his. But when the owner’s widow hired contractors
to fix her septic tank, one of them ended up with the crawler. “It traveled
from 3 miles east to 6 miles west of me,” Jack recalls. “I drove over there to
try to buy it, but it still wasn’t for sale. This went on for 25 years. He
died, and his son inherited the tractor. He was going to fix it up in honor of
his dad, but he never did. I dealt with that for six years, and finally two
years ago he called me. ‘I know you want that tractor,’ he said. ‘If you want
it, come over and get it.’ So I went over there and got that tractor.”

Nearly 80 now, Jack doesn’t
get too excited about stuff anymore. “But when I got that tractor after 40
years, I could hardly believe it was in my shop,” he says. “It felt good.”

Needs a little work

Jack says all of the
crawler’s owners intended to restore the tractor, but either didn’t get around
to it or couldn’t find parts. Neither was a problem for Jack. “I always have
quite a few Fordson parts,” he says. “At any time of the week I have a varying
number of Fordson tractors on my property — about 20 right now — so I started
working on it.”

The crawler hadn’t been run
in at least 50 years. Despite the fact that it had been housed in a shed, the
tractor needed work: gas tank, steering wheel and other parts were rusted away.
“The Fordson didn’t have much of a body,” Jack says. “The gas tank covers the
engine and all the rest is made of cast iron. They don’t have much tinwork on
them. This one was supposed to have fenders on back but they were gone, so I
cut pieces of steel plate and made them.”

The engine was stuck but was
otherwise in good shape. “I loosened the pistons and rings, and though the
valves and pistons were in real good shape, I ground the valves,” Jack says. “I
had to put on a magneto, manifold and carburetor to make it run. Within about a
month I had it in halfway decent shape.”

Fordsons originally started
on gasoline and ran on kerosene. Jack puts gas manifolds on most of his
Fordsons so they no longer get hot enough to run kerosene but run strictly on
gasoline. “The regular Fordson had coils and magnetos on the flywheel like
Model T’s, but I’ve converted most of them to aftermarket regular tractor
magnetos,” Jack says. “When Fordsons were new, the magnetos didn’t work, so
they sure as heck aren’t going to work 80 years later. I also use a Chevrolet
truck carburetor to help the Fordsons run better.”

Jack doesn’t conduct full
restorations. Instead, he performs just enough repair work to get the piece
running again. “I don’t take the body off and turn every bolt like a lot of
guys do,” he says. “Of the 20 Fordsons I have right now, 16 of them run, two
I’m working on and the other two are waiting to be worked on.”

Very unusual piece

Jack was told that this 1927
Fordson Model F was originally brought into Minnesota as a log hauler. The winch and
cable show obvious use. The crawler tracks and winch are aftermarket pieces
from Milwaukee and Oregon. “Fordson never made tracks or the
winch,” he explains. “It’s unusual to find something like this in Minnesota, because these are usually found in Texas oil fields.
They’re pretty hard to come by. There aren’t many around, probably five or six
that run and a few in the deserts and mines in California, but those don’t run and are
completely destroyed.”

The tracks on his Fordson
have never been broken and remain in good shape, so he didn’t have to fix them
or the transmission. “The rear end and wheels never wear out because they were
very toughly made, so I didn’t do anything with them either,” he says. “That
was one of the reasons I wanted this crawler because those parts were in good
shape. I could have put another engine in because I have extra engines, but I
didn’t need to do that either.”

Collection of rare Fordsons

Jack has a red-wheeled 1927
Fordson Model F tractor that has never been used. Years ago, when an area
farmer’s tractor was beginning to wear out, he bought a new 1927 Fordson F as a
backup, setting it in a shed until his older tractor wore out. “By the time
that happened, he discovered the new tractor didn’t run and his implement
dealer had gone out of business,” Jack says. “He removed the head and left it
all setting in a granary for more than 40 years.” After paying $85 for it, Jack
found the engine was stuck. “I got it loose and discovered the timing gear was
off four teeth, which was why it wouldn’t run right,” he says. “That’s why that
particular tractor is in such good shape.”

A 1945 English Fordson Model
N also stands out in Jack’s collection. “That was one of the last N’s they made
in 1945, and it belonged to England’s
Royal Air Force, with their logo painted on the hood,” Jack says. “I was told
it hauled bombs during World War II, but since the war ended in 1945, I don’t

Shipped across an Icelandic
route from balmy England
without antifreeze, the RAF Fordson froze up, cracking the block. “I welded it
up, not the best job in the world,” Jack says, “but it works. That tractor is
also still pretty original.”

Collections sport family

People do a double take when
they see Jack’s Fordson crawler and winch. “They want to know what it is and
what it’s used for,” he says. “They’re often overwhelmed when they see that it
runs. Then the Royal Air Force Fordson and my 1925 Fordson Model F Industrial
model with hard tires really get them going.”

The Industrial tractor was originally
used at the St. Paul
stockyards. “It looks and runs better now than when I got it more than 20 years
ago,” Jack says. “It ran good when I got it; then I changed carburetors and
tuned it up a little bit.”Other tractors in Jack’s
collection include models his parents farmed with, like Rumelys and
Allis-Chalmers. His wife grew up in Goodrich, Minn., east of the Red River Valley
where her parents farmed with McCormick-Deering and International. She collects
tractors, too, including her prized Farmall F-12, a McCormick-Deering W-30 and
McCormick-Deering 10-20.

“I’ve also got some Rumely
and John Deere, but my real love is Fordson,” Jack says. “I buy Fordsons if I
can find them and get them real cheap. I bought four out of Rochester five years ago, and I’ve got two
out of the four done. I’ve got to get those other two finished. That stuff is
getting so high now: If you have to put a lot of money into them, you’ll never
get it out. I’m not in the business of just buying stuff. I want to get most of
my money out of them, although there are some that I’ve paid good money for and
want to keep. The rest I trade off or sell or whatever.”

Jack also collects old
trucks: Fords, International, Chevrolet and Dodge. “I might have a Freightliner
out there too,” he says with a chuckle. His favorite is a 5-ton 1960 U.S. Army
International Harvester truck. “I always said to myself that if I ran into one
I was going to buy it, and by golly, I did,” he says. “It’s a big truck, almost
too big to drive down the road.”

He marvels that a collector
can go all over the U.S. and
even into England
to buy tractors, and yet find one of the oddest tractors of all within 6 miles
of his home. “Make sure you look in all the sheds and granaries and chickens
coops and barns around you,” he says, “because you never know what you’ll find
right at home.” FC

For more information: 

— John (Jack) Domogalla, 2206 Viking
Blvd. N.E., Cedar, MN 55011.

Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of
several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville,
MN 56369;

Learn the history of the Fordson name in Ford Tractor Was Not What It Seemed.

  • Published on Jan 28, 2013
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