At right, the F-20 is a good-looking beast.
F-20 audio! Click to hear Mike crank start this machine!
Exclusive! F-20 Data Sheet courtesy of Mr. Alan C. King, author of The International Harvester Tractor Data Book: 1906 to 1963.
Check this out. This is the record sheet of the Prony brake test for the F-20. Mike got it strapped to the brake along with the W-9 at the Pataskala show last September. No wonder the F-20 just plays with a set of 2-14 trips with a muscular figure of 28.5 BHP. The F-20's best score at Nebraska was 27.97 MBHP on kerosene. Mike thinks someone installed a stationary power unit head on the block at one time. We have seen higher figures than this for the F-20 on another dyno.
As an electrician I was doing a job in Johnstown, Ohio in the winter of Ď95. There sat a pair of Farmalls, one F-20 and one Regular, with a "for sale" sign as I pulled in the entrance. It was particularly cold that day, about 15 degrees or so, maybe even colder. All I could manage was one complete circle around the pair of tractors, briefly investigating their condition before heading back inside. After two or three of these brief encounters I was satisfied that they were worth looking into. My job that day was a rental space that was attached to the main part of the building housing a plumbing contractor. I knew the owner for some time and was kind of surprised that he had an interest in old iron. He had said that heíd been collecting tractors for two or three years and he ran across these Farmalls at an auction in Plain City, Ohio. He didnít know anything about them but he was ready to part with them due to lack of space and interest in the Farmall breed. I had to return to my jobsite duties, but I called my dad to swing by to see them. Later I saw him drive up to the pair, give a quick look, then drive off. About a half-hour later he came into the rental space where I was working and asked me which one I wanted. I told him that the F-20 looked like the better of the two, and we should probably settle with that. He said, "I donít care which one you take, I own them both. Itís your job to get them home!" and out the door he went.
At right: the F-20 in a disasterous state. Projects can look so disheartening!
I believe that was the very moment our tractor collection hobby began in earnest. Dad just started his membership with Land of Legend Antique Tractor Club, and we didnít even own a trailer yet. I hired the help from a friend that worked with me and headed over to load up. His trailer was only 7í wide but the F-20 fit just fine. The 20 was ready to depart for home after about an hour with a come-along. Dad and I were concerned about the old Regular and its 8í plus width on the way home. We decided to take as much cribbing and planks that we could find and just deal with it when we returned. After dumping the 20 off at its new home, we returned for the old Regular. What a job it was to get that S.O.B. loaded! Luckily the tires held air which made things easier. We built an extension of his trailer width with planks and concrete blocks off to the right side. Slowly cranking and ratcheting until it was on the trailer, we jacked up the right rear and placed wood cribbing under the axle housing and dismantled the trailer extension. We were headed home at last with the right rear tire hanging out in mid-air proud of what we had found!
The project beginning to come together.
I hold the F-20 dear to my heart. We hit it off from the very beginning. The rear tires were very rotted but still held air. The motor was free, and the tractor as a whole was in decent shape despite its rusted appearance. The leftover anti-freeze even tested fine. We had to get the magneto fixed, but that was all it needed at first. The day had arrived when Dad brought the magneto home, and I was just like a little kid on Christmas morning! I had already been through the carburetor, and I wanted to hear that thing run! Dad had to leave, but he knew I wasnít about to waste any time trying to start that thing. He showed me the correct way to use the hand crank before he left, and he said something like, "Boy, Iím going to show you this one time! These things will bite!" Iím proud to say that Iíve never been bit from a hand crank. Even the old Regular with its after-market magneto and lack of spark retard has never gotten me even though it is notorious for such a stunt! Iíve seen that crank spin backwards, and I canít imagine having my arm near that thing - OUCH! I also cringe when I see fellow clubbers incorrectly crank them. I kind of laugh and picture the look my Old Man would give them if he could see that. Well to get back on track, I installed the magneto and turned the fuel on and started cranking on that thing. Pull after pull I anticipated some sort of belch from that old girl when finally she coughed two or three hits! Thatís all I needed to hear because I knew she was going to give up and run. There is no mistaking the sound of IH four-cylinders, and this particular one just sounded like music to me!
About a month or so went by, and we had bought a trailer from a co-worker. I had been playing around with the 20 off and on, and we decided to haul it to a show for the first time. It was a small antique power show put on by our club, and they were having a fun pull with a transfer sled. I thought I might pull the old 20. It was kind of humorous. I pulled on the scale with that nasty looking rust bucket rolling on "may-pop" tires--you know, "may pop at any time"-- and the guy said "4750 pounds! Youíre too heavy for the 4500 class. Can you take any weight off that thing?" I said," Nope!" "Well, weíll let you get by this time. Doesnít look like that thing will pull much anyhow." So off to the track I went not really expecting much myself. I got hitched to the sled and let out on the clutch. She chugged along surprisingly well, and I got a third place trophy for the effort! My very first pull and this rusted pile of iron won a trophy! After getting home, I rolled the 20 into the barn, and I noticed the right rear inner tube bulging from the casing like a big old bullfrogís throat. I tried to let the air out to save the tube, but I didnít find my valve core tool in time and it exploded! Poor thing!
Left: the F-20 is a perfect match for Brad Fraley's thresher and rarely breaks a sweat while on the belt.
Another pleasant surprise was the day I put it on the dyno. A club member has a hydraulic PTO driven dyno that is very entertaining for tractor owners and spectators alike. I was pleased that the governor was still adjusted properly after hooking up and throttling up. The tachometer on the dyno was reading up to factory specs, but the big surprise came when the guy operating the dyno shouted out "34 horsepower!" F-20s should have around 20 horsepower. This has been a mystery to me for a long time, and the only thing I can think of is that IH made a stationary power unit called the U-7. It used the identical motor that was found in F-20s. The only difference was in the head. The U-7ís intake and exhaust valves measure 1-25/32" and the Farmall valves measure 1- ĺ". The specs for the U-7 state 34.5 horsepower at 1200 rpm. I believe someone had modified the valve sizes. I will look into this further someday when I have the head off.
I still find the F-20 very comfortable to operate. The Ď39 model has foot brakes, and it seems quite a bit faster in all gear selections than the Farmall H that replaced it. There were two transmission speeds offered. One for steel-wheeled, and a higher speed for rubber-tired. I also believe that the final drive castings were beneficial in adding weight to the rear wheels because our 20 seems to have very good weight distribution and never starves for traction. After many hours plowing with the 20 it seems youíll stall it before you spin a wheel. However, our F-20 is due for a complete overhaul in the near future. --Mike