Creating memories while bringing an old tractor back to life
From time to time, AcreageLife presents the words of people just like you who love life in the country. This month we present Zach George, who shares his experience restoring a tractor.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Zach George, I’m 32, and I was born and raised in Elkins, West Virginia. Today I live in Beverly, which is a small town surrounded by beautiful West Virginia mountains. Our home is sitting on about 20 acres of land with half of that being woods. We have a pond where the kids love to fish that we keep stocked with large mouth bass and catfish. We don’t have any livestock at this time but my girls have been asking me to get some chickens.
Growing up, I was never really exposed to farming much. My family was into restoring old VW beetles and with that I learned the ability and appreciation for bringing an old worn out piece of history back into its prime state of perfection.
It seems as though in today’s world its more desirable for people to throw old broken items away and just buy new rather than put any effort into restoring or fixing them. I’m not one of those people.
So that leads into why I had the desire to restore an old tractor.
Useful, not the latest
Not being around farming a lot as a kid, I didn’t know much about tractors. I didn’t know the different makes, the features, or their capabilities, but I still had always wanted and old farm tractor. I didn’t want a fancy new tractor with all the latest tech. I wanted to work the land the way it used to be done.
One might ask why wouldn’t you want the newest and best equipment…well, of course there are things in life I want to have the latest and greatest, but sometimes taking a step back in time and seeing how life used to be helps you appreciate what you have in life.
It wasn’t until I moved my family into our new home that I really had the need for a tractor. I wanted a tractor to plow a garden, grade my gravel road, and do other things around the property.
So one day I noticed my neighbor had an old shed with stuff piled all over. And through all the clutter I could see the back of an old tractor. I talked with him about it and he said it belonged to his grandfather but he knew nothing about it.
I knew this was the tractor I had been looking for. I purchased it off him for $500.
A basket case
When I got it pulled out of the shed I really got to see what I was into. The tires were all flat and dry rotted, the brakes were stuck, the intake manifold was broken in half, and the radiator was busted.
I could see also a lot of broken items that his grandfather had just rigged together to make them work. But through all the obvious issues I could envision what she would be when I got it done and I knew it would be worth it.
The first challenge was identifying the year, make, and model. I had to scrape through the grease to find the serial number. What I found was the serial number and 33G1RF. It was a 1953 Massey Harris, 40 hp gas engine, RowCrop Tricycle, with a foot clutch.
What an exciting time that was for me. It was like finding a lost treasure!
A tractor that was built over 60 years ago that I now had the chance to rebuild. It was January 28th, 2018 when I pulled the tractor into my garage. This was the start of a family project for me, my 13-year old son Zane, my 14-year old nephew Tyler, and my dad Ray.
Getting to work
We stripped the tractor down to the bare frame and started from there. Most of the parts were usable and in surprisingly good shape. I did figure out that the rear wheels were not original but apparently what the previous owner chose to use.
There was only around 11,000 of the model 33 tractors made so finding parts was a challenge. I relied heavily on a few great companies to get most of my parts. All State AG Parts (tractorpartsasap.com), Steiner Tractor Parts (steinertractor.com), and Kessel’s Massey Parts (kesselsmasseypartsandsales.com) were my go-to suppliers.
There were a couple items I needed to get from a salvage yard but there were two items I found extremely hard to find.
The first was the intake/exhaust manifold. The manifold from the 33-model tractors is a discontinued item, so none of the companies I was buying from could get it. I called every salvage yard I knew of, but finally found one in Canada at Teeswater Agro Parts (teeswateragroparts.net).
The second item I needed was the auxiliary pulley for my PTO shaft. Once again I had called all over the USA but finally found one at Lindsay Used Tractors (lindsayusedtractor.com) in Canada.
After receiving the pulley from them I realized it needed new paper pressed in it. I was shocked to find a company called Paper Pulleys Inc.(paperpulleys.com) that replaced the paper in the pulley and made it look brand new. They were great to work with.
Making her mine
So once I had all my parts lined out I had to decide if I wanted to restore it completely original or put my own twist on it. I decided to keep it very close to original but change a few things.
For instance, I didn’t like the Massey Harris red paint it had from the factory so I decided to paint it Allis Chalmers Persian Orange. I also switched the 6-volt positive ground system to a 12-volt negative ground system.
So overall it is mostly original.
I was fortunate that most of the parts on the tractor were usable and just needed to be restored. My biggest expense was the four new tires. Some of the parts I had to order from Canada which added a little cost in shipping. So overall I spent around $4,000 total which includes the cost of the tractor.
I can honestly say that the three months it took me to restore this tractor created so many memories for us that will be treasured forever. It was time spent learning, laughing, and reminiscing about the old days.
Useful beyond words
It was April 19th, 2018 when I placed the hood on the tractor and completed the project. It took about 3 months to take this Massey from an old dirty shed in West Virginia back into its glory.
I now use the MH 33 to plow my garden and other things around the house. I have no plans of ever selling the MH not only because its a piece of history that I will probably never replace, but also because of the memories the restoration has made for me and my family.
It will be passed down to my son one day and he can tell his kids all about us fixing it up.