the scrap yard.” ….
the scrap yard.”
Larry helped Frank tow the tractor up the road into a shed, and they parked it there for what would turn out to be a long rest. It got the occasional glance from someone walking past, but no effort was made to get it going again.
“Nobody really looked into it,” Larry said. “I’d say, ‘Someday I’m gonna go down to see what happened to that old Case, but not this week. I’m busy.’ That (fixing the engine) was always on my mind for the whole 30 years it sat there.”
That’s how it went until 2014. Rose passed away that year, and Frank decided to downsize. The family planned an auction, but there was one item Larry did not want to see sold.
“What about the Case?” he said. There were too many memories with the old machine to see it hauled away for scrap.
Larry for many years had plans in the back of his mind to get the tractor running again, and now it was time. As Frank’s place was sold, out it came.
“It was buried in junk that got piled on it,” Larry said, but he and his son, Todd, managed to get the rear tires reinflated and drag it out into the yard to load it onto a trailer.
Both mechanically-inclined but neither with the time to take on such a project, Larry and Todd looked for help with their restoration project. They found it an old Army buddy of Larry’s, who has a son in Minnesota who does such work. Off it went to Hastings, Minn., for what would be several years.
Upon disassembling, Larry said the old tractor engine was worse off than first thought. The pistons were “hopelessly” stuck to the liners, the valves were shot, the crankshaft worn. The front tires and one front rim were also too far gone, and had to be replaced.
The main problem at that point was parts, or lack thereof. Those were “scarce or simply not available,” Larry said, so he began to use a modern tool — the internet — to fix an antique situation. Larry said extensive searching led to a Minnesota restoration dealer that was dealing with an off-shore company to reproduce pistons, rings and liners.
The crankshaft was removed and sent to a machinist for regrinding. Main and rod bearings could not be found, so those were sent away to be rebuilt. The cylinder head was also completely reconditioned.
All the engine parts were eventually brought back to Greenwood, where Larry and Bill Herr reassembled them in Bill’s shop. By the fall of 2019, the rebuilt engine was back with the tractor in Hastings. The machine was then put back together by last spring. Various parts — battery cables, a battery, ignition switch and water temperature gauge — still had to be found. Larry, an amateur machinist himself, replaced the brushes and bearings and “trued up” the commutator of the starter motor. The bad front tires and one rim were replaced, and they located two used rear tires and put them on.
On July 24 of this year, all was done.
“The starter hit the ring gear and generated a couple of coughs and a puff of smoke,” Larry said. “A minor twist in the distributor and after 45 years of silence, it ran!”
A proud Brayden Pakiz — Frank’s 12-year-old great-grandson — had the honor of driving the resurrected tractor out of the shop.
There are no immediate plans for further restoration. Larry said he thought about a sandblasting and repainting job, but that would take away from the old machine’s character.
“Every dent and scratch has a story, whether we know it or not,” he said. Besides, he added, the trend in restoration these days is to keep old machines, “in their work clothes.”
Larry and Dave and Todd and Brayden and the old Case paid Frank a visit on Labor Day. They took it for a spin in the assisted living facility parking lot, and Frank drew close in his wheelchair to listen to the engine hum.
“I didn’t think I’d ever hear it run again,” he said.
Larry did, knowing that with enough time and money, the Case would come back to life.
“I never ever had the urge to quit,” he said.
That’s mostly because the old tractor has such meaning to him. It’s easy for Larry to think to a day long ago when that new Case arrived at the farm. For his grandpa and dad, it had to have been a huge day.
“Oh, relief, I’m sure,” is what Larry said they likely felt. “That was quite the jump for a guy from Willard. Dad said, ‘I followed those stinkin’ horses up and down the field so many times.’” Larry also realizes the prize he has in this old tractor that managed to stay with a family for eight decades, and is now handed down to a fourth generation. As he researched online for how to fix the Case, he saw how others were looking to find tractors that reminded them of their pasts. Larry has the real thing.
“People were looking for the tractor like Grandpa had. I got the one Grandpa had. That makes it very special,” he said.