I’ve always secretly considered myself a “man’s man”, capable and learned in the craft of all things manly. I’m equally comfortable around woodworking, plumbing, laying tile & brick, electrical work, general tinkering, and around-the-house upkeep… but one (of several) chinks in my man armor was the fact that I knew next to nothing about engines. I’ve always changed my own oil, and have bumbled my way through minor maintenance on my vehicles in the past, but I didn’t grow up learning much in the way of a mechanic’s trade. So more than 2 years ago, I decided that I wanted to make myself a better man, a more manly man. I wanted to increase my knowledge of all things vehicle-related from squat to superfluous, from insufficient to impressive, from… well, you get the picture! Originally I was thinking of restoring an old Chevy pickup, but in the spirit of the decision to leave the service to farm, I shifted gears and picked up a 1953 Farmall Cub tractor instead.
The size of the Cub was perfect for the space I had available, essentially taking over 1/2 of my garage space here in base housing (after kicking my wife’s minivan out to the driveway). Replacement parts, written guidance and experienced advice are all plentiful for the Cub from a multitude of online sources, since it is one of the most popular tractors to restore; however parts are relatively expensive compared to other tractors for the same reasons. As with all tractors from that era, the mechanics are pretty intuitive, but impressive nonetheless. After finding a local guy who had various Farmall tractors lying all over his property, I brought home this
hunk of junk beauty with the intention of restoring it back to like-new condition, while adding to my man repertoire at the same time.
My original timeline was to finish the restoration by our son’s 3rd birthday, giving me 16 months to complete it. In reality, I finished the job just weeks short of his 4th birthday!! And that was with the help of several of my good friends on multiple occasions, as well as hiring out some of the skilled work for expediency and quality’s sake. But mostly, I poured my time and energy into the tractor at night after the kids had gone to bed, and of course on weekends as well. I broke a few parts, snapped off a few bolts in their holes, got a little frustrated at times, and learned a TON about engines, mechanical work and the absolute ingenuity contained in a combustion gas engine. There were several times that I had “ah ha” moments seeing how all the pieces fit together to combine just the right amount of fuel, air and spark at the exact right time to produce a self-sustaining series of explosions, then take that energy and produce power with it. Absolutely amazing stuff!!
Lots of people have asked me whether or not this Farmall Cub will be useful to us on the farm, and my honest answer is “probably not”. It’s pretty underpowered by today’s standards, and even the one use we had identified for it (powering a finish belly mower to mow grass) we will have a much better alternative for at the property we are under contract to purchase. If I did sell it, there is no possible way anyone would pay what it has cost me to bring the tractor to this point… but it has absolutely served the purpose I intended for it in the first place. All that being said, I think we can find a spot for the little Cub somewhere on our farm, maybe pulling a hay-ride wagon for an agri-tourism event, pulling a trailer load of firewood out of the woods, or even driving it in parades if there are any in the area. I think I’ll keep it for now, and see what needs arise on the farm when we get there. Here is a series of pictures from the beginning to end of the project:
And that accounts for 2 1/2 years of time, money and effort! Needless to say, I’m pretty proud of my 1953 Farmall Cub and how it turned out. There are plenty of things that aren’t perfectly done, but I’m the only one who can tell on most of them! I guess the ultimate point here is that if you identify something in your life that you want to be better at or know more about, sometimes actively pursuing that knowledge and forcing yourself to jump in head-first can be gratifying, enriching and downright fun! Next on my list is learning to weld, shear a sheep and race a dirt-track car… what’s on your list?