A top notch restoration

Published: 09:42AM Feb 14th, 2012

While some owners retain their tractors in their working clothes, others prefer to spend many hours restoring a machine to the very highest standard. One such owner is Aidan Everard of Baldongan, Co Dublin.

A top notch restoration

Baldongan is a small hamlet, close to the town of Rush, which was once an important market gardening area growing predominantly green vegetables. And those planting, tending and harvesting would require a tractor which could travel slowly among the rows of crops.

Time served

Aidan, who served his time with Massey Ferguson at Baggot Street, Dublin, has owned this 1962 Massey Ferguson 35 for seven years and explained the work involved in its restoration: “When planting cabbages, many farmers found that low first gear on a standard tractor was often too fast. Consequently many Universal tractors were sold into the area, as not only were they quite inexpensive to purchase but more importantly the transmission incorporated a creeper box.

“Universal machines were based on Fiat tractors and were built in a factory in Romania which had been used for aircraft manufacture until it was converted to tractor production after the Second World War.

“From the point of view of size, the Massey Ferguson 35 would also have been an ideal tractor for use in a market gardening environment and many would probably have been used with a Ferguson planter, which would have carried two people.”

Aidan purchased his 1962 Massey Ferguson tractor from Rush, where it had spent its working life. Originally supplied by local MF dealer, Scanlans Ltd of Balbriggan as a standard machine, the tractor eventually changed hands and was purchased by a daffodil farmer who soon discovered that with the standard transmission, the tractor travelled too quickly when he was planting his specialist crops.

“I believe that the farmer arranged for the tractor to be taken to either Holland or Germany where a reduction box was fitted to the transmission to reduce the ground speed. After this conversion, it returned to Ireland and was put back to work in the daffodil fields,” said Aidan. “Many of these conversions were carried out using the Howard reduction box, but I am not sure of the make of the particular box fitted in my tractor.”

A second ‘flowering’

When the MF 35 arrived with Aidan seven years ago, it was in a really bad condition and was completely stripped down for a full assessment. The tinwork had been badly damaged as the combination of a sandy environment and the wind blowing from the sea had created a sandblasting effect.

Aiden said: “The main shape of the bonnet was there but there were quite a few holes which needed repairing. I spent many hours cleaning all the rust and debris off with a brush rather than sandblasting the panels. Fortunately, I was able to source a replacement grille, lower panel and new wings but the hardest job was preparing all the tinwork to make sure that it fitted correctly before it was sprayed by David Teeling from Rush.”

Although the engine had not been worked particularly hard, with 5000 hours recorded, the tractor had spent day after day crawling along and this constant working at low revs would have proved hard work for the engine, as could be seen from the excessive wear on many of the components.

During the course of the restoration, the engine was completely rebuilt and is now in first class condition.

As the hydraulic components would have been subjected to very little shock treatment in the vegetable and daffodil fields, they were all in relatively good condition; also although there was some play in the link arms Aidan decided that this was not enough to warrant changing them.

He explained: “When I checked the steering, the track rods were still in good condition and the brake pedals were as new as they would hardly have been used in the working environment.

A replacement clutch pedal had been fitted but I intend to repair and refit the original pedal as this has a round pattern on the footplate whereas the replacement has a square pattern. All the electrical components, starter motor and dynamo are original.”

During the restoration Aidan noted that the engineering of the reduction box was “done to perfection, a top notch job” and apart from replacing seals, no work was required to the transmission.

Aiden said: “Each gear is split, giving 12 forward and four reverse gears. The lever for selecting the reduction box is situated on the left hand side of the transmission close to the PTO lever and a circular plate has been made specially as part of the conversion package. This conversion is quite rare and I have never seen one before on a Massey Ferguson 35. I know that reduction boxes were fitted to the Ferguson TE-20 but the tractor was still too fast, even when fitted with a splitter box. Bottom gear on the splitter box conversion of a TE-20 would have been equal to low first on the MF 35. In theory the hi-low box on the Ferguson TE-20 gave six speeds, which was the same as on the standard version of the MF35.”

Heart and soul

Replacement parts for the tractor have been easily available, many of them being sourced from Scanlans in Balbriggan. “Scanlans have been really helpful to me during the restoration and when I enquired, they even had the original gear box safety switch and boot in stock,” he said.

It is obvious that Aidan has taken the time to go through every little part of the tractor and has put his heart and soul into the restoration, making it as original as it can be.

Even the electrical wiring has been properly clamped rather than just leaving unsecured wires trailing from one component to another. Every nut and bolt has been cleaned so that the maker’s name can be read.

He concluded: “The restoration took me five years to complete but it has been done to the highest level and now I have a tractor to be really proud of and to share with other enthusiasts at our local shows.”

Words & Pictures Gina Harvey

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