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The Ferguson

Back when I was a active member of MTF I posted the progress on building my $38,000 house. In 2008 after the shell was built by a contractor, and after I'd put in fixtures, wiring and insulation, instead of walls, floors or curtains, I took the “curtain money” and bought a 1957 Ferguson TO-30 with a Davis loader. It also came with a 600 pound weight. The “Ferguson System” had no problems lifting the 600 pound weight, but I've never had any other attachments for the three point hitch and PTO. I just wanted a bucket. I didn't know it was a famous brand, the first tractor driven to the South pole.

It cranked slowly with it's six volt system but it only took a few seconds for it to roar to life, maintained by feathering the choke until she got the blood flowing. I spent a couple hundred giving it a tuneup and doing a carb kit. I discovered not all replacement parts work. It took a couple tries to find a rotor and distributor cap but I still put it right to work. I hauled a rusty truck water tank out of the woods to where I could cut it in half and then load it on the trailer to take to the scrap yard. (IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: When dragging things bigger than the tractor I always attached the load to the front and went in reverse so if the load got stuck the tractor wouldn't flip over and squash me like a bug!) I also moved out part of a truck and a couple old cast iron kitchen wood stoves.

The first repair the next year were the leaking rear axle seals and worn out brakes. I found a local mechanic willing to take it on. Online I found an outfit in Alabama that had every part for whatever surprise came along. Who knew bearings had to torched off? $800 later it was back to work.

I painted it up right away. I only left the original metallic gray on the engine, and found I could still buy red lead farm paint this far away from civilization! (Lead paint has incredible adhesion and durability, just don't lets kids chew on the tractor.) Combined with yellow for contrast it was looking pretty good!

My neighbor had priced a leach field and septic tank for $3000. It took her a year to save up the money but in 2008 the price had doubled. I offered to do the leach field for $2000. I'm not skilled enough to use the Ferguson for digging, so I carefully removed the sod and hand dug it to depth using the “David Bradley” to move the sand and sod away. Think like an Egyptian! I didn't work too hard, taking frequent breaks during the two weeks I was digging. I then used the Ferguson for a few days to add the heavy layers of stone and fill. I wouldn't have even considered the job if I hadn't had the Ferguson to deal with the heavy stone and then move the huge pile of leftover materials out back. Afterward my neighbor was able to get the tank for $2000. Not only did I make $2000, she saved $2000.

During the Leach field job the Ferguson broke down. A few years ago I learned vintage BIG tractors were fetching big bucks in the Midwest, the result of farmers getting frustrated by new computerized tractors that after a minor breakdowns had to wait for a factory technician to come and reset the computer. With old tractors the most basic things to check are air, spark and fuel. I soon discovered crap had made it past the glass bowl fuel filter. I cleaned the carb and was soon back to work.

In 2009 when the hydraulic motor got noisy it cost $346 for a replacement. The local hydraulic company did the best it could to reseal the control valve for $70. I don't mind a little seepage and if need be I could weld a mount for a modern valve. I made a set of forks out of old farm junk and transplanted trees with 500 pound root balls and also was using it for the compost pile. In 2010 I also used the Ferguson to move a building. (SEE SAFETY NOTE Above!)

After another five years of service rather than replacing the six volt battery I finally broke down and bought a 12 volt conversion kit for $123. Now it starts with only a half second of cranking!

It seems the 600 pound weight really didn't make much difference when it's only needed for compost as preventing excessive spinning of the wheels was more a matter of a careful clutch and balancing the load. I forget just when but the weight ended up in the scrap metal pile. The steering gets easier the faster you go, but as I get older using the clutch a lot makes my leg sore.

Two seasons ago the third time I went to stir the compost the original clutch wore out. Mike at Bangor Tractor, my local Massey-Ferguson dealer, asked me if I was sure I wanted to spend $2000 on a vehicle only worth $3000. I thought it was worthless if it didn't work and asked how much it would cost for a replacement tractor that could do it's job. $15,000 but the bucket's smaller I couldn't buy a used one that actually worked for $2000! When they split it they dug out a peck of acorns from the housing! The tow truck brought it back long after compost was supposed to be done but not adding compost one season didn't hurt the garden any.

So I have about $7000 invested in the Ferguson. After making $2000 cash with it the cost of operating it has been $333 a year. I couldn't rent a bucket tractor one day for that! I'd say the Ferguson has more than paid for itself.

Whats it take to keep it going if nothing major breaks? Since I only use it maybe ten hours a season now it needs grease yearly, frequent tire pressure checks, oil change every few years, plugs on hand in case the ones in it ever get fouled. I cleaned the oil reservoir air filter once and then it was unnecessary as it's not around loads of dust. I keep the five year battery inside in the Winter and charge it regularly. I store the Ferguson with all fuel drained and a tablespoon of oil in each cylinder.

Next week; the 446

Tire Wheel Plant Automotive tire Tractor

Tire Wheel Plant Tractor Vehicle

Tire Plant Vehicle Wheel Tractor
 

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2013 Husqvarna R322T, JD 990, Poulan Pro
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That tractor will continue to work long after you and I are gone and it is unlikely to need much more. Our 1956 TO-35 had to have the engine resleaved and rings installed once in 40 years of regular farm work, one clutch and rear seals and brakes was it.
 

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A great machine from when great machines were routinely produced. You are thousands ahead of any other options and still going strong.
 

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1990 John Deere 318, John Deere 316, Ford 8n and box blade
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That is quite the story a good looking tractor too!! I love learning about older stuff good luck to you and you fergie
 
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