When Bob Bibeau adds a tractor into his collection at his White Bear Lake, Minnesota, farm, it's bound to be unique, because Bob prefers unusual tractors — like those that make up his trio of 1964 Ford Industrials. "When most people think of Ford tractors," he says, "they think of Ford tractors that are gray and blue and old-style. Very few have seen the yellow and blue, which is one of the reasons I got the 1964 Ford 4000 Industrial."
He bought the 4000 Industrial in 1973 from Northern States Power Co. (NSP), Minneapolis. It came with a trencher on the rear, often referred to as a "trench hog."
"That's a tool they used before the Ditch Witch was invented," he says. "When that machine came out, NSP bought those and quit using the Fords, probably because you didn't need a separate tractor: They were 4-wheel drive, and they could mount the power cable that they were planting into the dirt on top on a spool that was provided. You couldn't do that with the Ford."
When he bought the 4000 Industrial, he says NSP had four others for sale. In hindsight, he says he wishes he'd have bought all five. "One reason is that NSP kept really good records on their tractors. Every time a tractor was brought into the shop, everything was written down: all the oil changes and repairs and anything else were recorded. When I bought this one, it had all its shop records."
Meticulous care pays off
After Bob and his father, Albert, bought the 4000 Industrial and got it home, they tried it out in the field. "Everything worked, though the digging of the trench hog was a little clumsy," Bob recalls. "It had a little flipper that pushed the dirt aside, and was a good little setup, really. But you couldn't hook anything else to the back of the tractor until everything involved with the trench hog was taken off. Unhooking and hooking up the trench hog took quite a bit of work."
Then Bob took it all apart, cleaned and repainted every piece and reassembled the tractor. To use it to dig graves for his church, he removed the trench hog, replaced it with a backhoe and added a front-end loader. He used it in that capacity for 14 years.
"Using it for digging made no difference in the condition of the tractor," he says. "If you use a machine wrong, it will wear out. If you use it right, it could last forever."
After 14 years, he refurbished the 4000 Industrial again. "I went over the entire tractor," he says. "I thought it was in good shape, but I wanted to make sure. I disassembled it again, made sure everything was cleaned up and put it back together, making sure it was at 100 percent. None of the sheet metal was banged up, so I repainted it and added a 3-point hitch. That was in 2005. I made it into a field tractor for use on the farm, and still use it there today for a lot of rough mowing — and for show."
Plenty to like about the 4000
Bob's 4000 Industrial is part of a run that was built (complete with the trench hog) from 1960-64. "A lot of people have never seen something like that," he says, "either the tractor or the trench hog."
He had no use for the trench hog, so he got rid of that several years ago, another decision he regrets. "I've kind of kicked myself for that," he says. "Most people have never seen one, so I should never have scrapped it out."
Bob especially appreciates the fact that the 4000 Industrial was a local tractor. He also likes it because it's easy to get on and off, it has power steering, and it's a 4-speed with a Sherman transmission. "That means you can go right down to really slow for planting cabbage and peppers, or up to about 20 mph in high gear on the road," he says. "I also like its low profile, how easily it operates, the way it shifts and the way I sit on it. It's a comfortable tractor with plenty of horsepower in its 172-cubic-inch engine, and it burns gasoline. I heard someone say it has about 48 hp."
Bob puts the 4000 through its paces at a nearby greenhouse doing field work, plowing, discing and planting. Once the field is ready, Bob pulls a planter behind the 4000 to plant cabbage and peppers. Two workers sit on the planter, putting plants into a trough created by the planter.
"The workers place peppers, tomatoes or celery on that small trough wheel, which takes the plants down to the soil, and plants them," he says. "Then two wheels pack the soil as we go forward. Doing work like that requires using a low gear, and one thing nice about that 4000 is you can get down to 300 rpm with the Sherman in low gear. That is needed because the plants are going in 8 to 10 inches apart, so you have to go slow, and work at one row at a time."
4040 Heavy-Duty Industrial
Bob liked the Ford 4000 so well that he bought a 1964 Ford 4040 Heavy-Duty Industrial Diesel from a friend. Then the plot thickened. "When I went to pick it up, my friend said, 'Bob, I know where there's another one exactly like this one.'"
Of course Bob went to have a look. The tractor was just a mile away, sitting in trees with a front-end loader on it. "The guy had been using it for excavating," he says. "Years ago, when his worker heard the engine make a noise, the owner loaded it up and took it back to the garage and parked it, and there it sat for 10 years."
The model is exactly the same as the 4040 he bought from his friend. "Both have a big counterweight on the back," he says, "so there's no set-up for a backhoe hookup."
Bob says the 4000 and 4040 have identical back ends and engines, and the hood is similar. "The major difference is that the 4040 has a big frame going from the front end to the back end," he says. "Regular tractors don't have that frame. On both of those tractors, the reservoir and hydraulic pump are inside the front grille."
Bob decided to park the second 4040 while he worked on the first one. "It took me about a year to disassemble it all, clean everything up, and paint it, basically restoring it," he says. "There wasn't really anything wrong with it, as it came in pretty decent shape, and I used it in the field."
Between the headlights on the front of the tractor was an empty space where a Ford emblem was supposed to fit. "But they didn't make any at the time I was restoring it, so I put a 4-inch light in the center of the front of the grill that oscillates, going back and forth," Bob says. "That's an eye-catcher at shows."
Both 1964 Ford 4040 Heavy Duty Industrial Diesel tractors have side decals that read "Ford 4000 HD Industrial Tractor" on them, though they are 4040s (the correct 4040 decals were not available). His other two 1964 models now have Ford emblems on the front, courtesy of Dennis Carpenter, who got permission from Ford to reproduce them.
Five decades later, like brand-new
When the time came to rework the second 4040, Bob took the engine apart piece by piece, and discovered that the No. 4 connecting rod was loose. Normally a person would expect to find other damage resulting from that.
"But it didn't damage the crank," Bob says. "The previous owner told me that the man he had working with the tractor heard a noise from the engine, and shut it off immediately. So I took the crank in, had it polished, put everything original back in, and it all worked. Both of these 4040s are like brand-new."
Like the 4000, the 4040 Heavy-Duty Industrial has the heavier front end. In fieldwork, that steady weight keeps the front end down. Weighing in at about 5,000 pounds, the 4040 has a straight cast iron axle on the front end instead of a curved axle. "It's a heavy-duty industrial," Bob says. "I'll use it and the other 4040 in the field for the greenhouse, but not very often."
At some point, Bob decided to hook the 4040 Heavy Duty Industrial tractors together, taking the front end off the axle of one, and hooking it in tandem to the back of the first one. "I hooked a master cylinder to the first one and a slave cylinder to the second so I can start it, shift it and run the throttle and clutch from the first one," he says.
When working with his tractors, Bob never stands on the hood. "I was told by my father in 1948 that you never want to use the hood of a tractor as a ladder," he says. "You paid good money for the tractor, so you didn't stand on the sheet metal and chance bending it. We always took good care of our machinery."
And that makes for a popular exhibit at a tractor show. "I think what I enjoy most is going to a show, and showing these tractors to people who have never seen them before," he says. "And when I go to a show, I'm the only person who has tractors like these." FC
For more information: Bob Bibeau, 2611 Cedar, White Bear Lake, MN 55110; (651) 426-1277. 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; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.