Painting the world a better shade of orange
Don’t need it. Can’t really use it. But wanted it, anyway. A 1949 Allis Chalmers model G tractor.
Four-cylinder, 62-cubic inch engine lives behind the tractor seat. (Just over half the engine size of my Harley Davidson motorcycle.) 10 horsepower at the drawbar. An open “belly” in front allows an unobstructed view of the cultivator. Can hand-crank the engine but don’t have the crank. Gasoline tank is full at 5 gallons.
Grew up with that tractor. Cultivated our tobacco crop and plowed grandma’s garden with it. Also had a belly mower. This one came with a snow plow and a cultivator. No hydraulics: you lift and lower the tool via a long handle. The armstrong method.
Father kept a congeries of tractors: two or three John Deeres, an International Harvester Farmall, a Minneapolis-Moline, Massey Ferguson grain combine and a large MF tractor, an Oliver, and a Same (pronounced “sah-me”) manufactured in Italy. Just about everything but a Case and a Ford.
Bought the little G off of Jonathan Barry, the former Dane County executive and state rep, among other accomplishments. Jonathan started the Dane County farmers’ market in 1970 from his acreage in the Town of Primrose in the driftless area of western Dane County WI. A more bucolic setting is hard to imagine. Farmstead is ringed by wooded hills and pasture. A stream-fed pond supports farmed trout. Water from a spring cooled milk in the basement of the oldest portion of the farmhouse, built before the Civil War. Some time in the late 19th Century an artist painted a mural of a notorious fire in a Swiss village directly onto the plaster.
Plan to have the AC G bead blasted down to bare metal at the Soda Works in Highland WI. The Head Groundskeeper and #1 Son will spray self-etching primer out of rattle cans, then have it professionally painted with period-correct Persian Orange #1 at a shop in Verona.
Allis Chalmers built 29,976 little G’s from 1948 to 1955. By 1985, AC was out of the tractor business, selling out to Deutz of Germany, which was eventually subsumed into the AGCO corporation. (AC also built electric power generators; they’re still operating at the Wisconsin River hydro-electric plant in Prairie du Sac completed in 1914.)
This little project has opened up a new vice: the classic tractor hobby. All kinds of websites and social media pages. Mail ordered the operators’ manual, the appropriate decals, a new battery holder, the rod for the choke (replacing an improvised wire). Acquired the correct flat, pancake-shaped muffler to replace the upright muffler stack it now wears. Trying to keep restoration costs below the $5,000 quoted by a professional restorer out of Whitewater.
With a little help from our neighbors
Found my little G was missing a lug nut on the right rear wheel. Dorn Tru Value hardware had the 13/16 hex head, ½-inch fine threaded bolt but darned if the aperture would take more than a smidgeon of the bolt.
On a fine Monday 05-01-21 in June, heard my neighbor Bill puttering in his driveway. Time to show and tell. Bill is restoring a WW2-era Willys Jeep from the ground up. My G, by contrast, was in good working order; just needs a facelift.
Bill’s next-door neighbor Jim came running over. Turns out his father worked in the factory in West Allis, a blue collar suburb of Milwaukee. Jim is restoring a 1950 Allard, a stately, right-hand drive British marque. Related the woeful tale of the missing lug nut. Jim runs back to his garage and produces a tap and die set. Reams out the opening — as Bill squirted penetrating oil — then corrects the damage done to the reluctant bolt. By gosh and by golly, you could darned near hand-tighten the bolt as a result.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Three old guys and their old toys. Maybe we’ll run them in the Independence Day neighborhood parade behind the city fire truck and the kids on their decorated bicycles.