In 1924, International Harvester introduced the first true row crop tractor design. Not only was it able to do the traditional farming chores of plowing and belt work that standard tread tractors of the time had been doing, it could also perform cultivation of row crops. There had been no satisfactory motorized replacement for the time-honored horse team for cultivation work until now. The tractor industry was dumped on its ear when the Regular, or "Farmall" as it was first known, appeared on the scene quickly supplanting the Fordson as the market leader.
The Regular as it was when Dad bought it, and Mike hauled it home.
Exclusive! Regular Data Sheets Courtesy of Mr. Alan C. King, author of The International Harvester Tractor Data Book: 1906 to 1963.
There is an old wivesí tale out there about freeing stuck motors with some sort of homemade brew that is supposed to work miracles. Iíve yet to actually see a rusted piston ever become free from just soaking it in mixtures of solvents. In fact, of all the motors Iíve saved in my life, Iíve always had to beat them apart with a sledgehammer and blocks of wood. The Regular was one such case.
The Regular shown in prehistoric...err...pre-restored condition.
As mentioned in the F-20 story, little was known about the history of the Regular. It is really hard to determine how long that thing sat. From what we found out by tearing the motor down, this thing had been sitting for quite a long time. The spark plugs were still in it, which does slow down the seizing process, but you still have some open valves that allow varmints and air (number-one ingredient for rust!) to enter. After removing the head, very few of the valves would still move. Copious amounts of mice nests filled two of the cylinders (the ones with the open valves). The other two cylinders had thick, scaly rust. We first attempted to press the pistons loose but to no avail. The problem was that all four pistons were stuck half way down leaving the crankshaft throws in a horizontal position. These pistons must be removed from the bottom, but without being able to at least raise them enough to clear the crank throws, there was no way to continue dismantling. We cradled a 12-ton bottle jack from the frame rails of the tractor to at least raise the pistons high enough to swing the connecting rods to the side. I must say that it was all the bottle jack could do to move those pistons. Just when I thought I could get no more pressure out of that jack, the piston would jump less than 1/8" with a loud bang to follow! (First time those pistons moved in how long?) After many hours of this repeated process, we finally had them raised enough to clear the crank throws. In fact, Iím quite surprised that a cylinder sleeve didnít come loose during this process--a telltale sign of the difficulty that lie ahead! In order to get the pistons down, we found a chunk of fencepost that fit the bore perfectly. A 20-pound sledge and what seemed like a thousand swings later the pistons were on the floor and unbroken. First milestone!
Now for the scary part: After all the pistons were out, the crankshaft still would not budge even with me standing on a 24" pipe- wrench with a cheater bar over the handle! Our attention soon moved to the bell housing. When we removed the housing cover, we could not see the flywheel at all. This is not an exaggeration. The entire clutch housing was full of dried mud and walnut hulls. It was like someone had poured it in there to form fit it all! Like archeologists, we scraped and chiseled all we could to expose a fossilized flywheel. After that, the crank spun freely and the main bearings felt great. (The first time that crank moved in how long?)
A shot of the Regular after it was brought back to life but before it was painted.
Since this Regular was a 1926 model, we wanted to keep replacement parts to a minimum. A 4-Ĺ" wire brush and a right angle grinder with an extension arbor did a remarkable job on the cylinder bores. Next, a thorough hone job brought the cylinders back to an acceptable condition. We cleaned up the pistons and put new rings in place. The valves were driven out of their guides, and the seats were hand-lapped. A new head gasket completed the job. We had no intentions of working this tractor at all. We just wanted to be able to get it on and off the trailer under its own power.
The day had arrived when we were to build a fire in that old gal. I think I cranked on that thing for a half-hour or so. Dad, with very little patience, wanted to try and pull start it. I would not let this happen for several reasons. First, I did not know the condition of the transmission. All we were concentrating on was getting it running. Second, I did not know if that fossilized clutch was functional or not. I didnít want that thing to start up and not be able to stop it with it chained to another tractor. Third, I like to be able to access the carburetor during a start-up. This is valuable information to me and difficult to obtain if walking along side of a moving tractor. Fourth, it is a matter of pride. Iíve only failed one time in my life to bring a motor back to life, and I wasnít about to let it happen again! Well I got to thinking about that manifold and how long that thing has been sitting. I have a theory about this, and I may be greatly mistaken, but cast iron is a very porous structure. I thought removing the manifold and soaking it in gasoline might do the trick. Well after re-installing the manifold, it didnít take but a few cranks to finally hear that old gal fire and run. Although quite rough, it did start and stayed running!
Despite the evidence in this photo, and contrary to Club rumors, Dad did not weld Mike to the Regular's block so that a mechanic would be with the tractor all the time 24/7. Dad was not that good of a weldor. Actually, Mike is TDCing the engine during restoration work. Mike would rather do this than eat...well...maybe not.
After containing my excitement and partaking in our ritual Celebratory Beer after getting something running, I tweaked the carburetor and had the thing running pretty decently. It got to the point where it would crack right off on the second or third pull and sometimes even the first pull. After a while, Dad climbed nervously on board. The clutch actually worked fine, but the shift pattern was not marked anywhere. Testing to see if he was in a forward gear, he let the clutch out and out the door it went. (Under its own power in how long?)
At right is the Regular at the Hartford Fair after rehab.
Fellow club members nicknamed the Regular Olí Smokey. It does produce a cloud of blue smoke, but that adds character, right? It was by far Dadís favorite tractor. It was a year older than he was, and it was worn out and cantankerous just like he bragged about being himself. After Dadís passing, I talked about doing a thorough restoration on it, but one very wise and well- respected club member advised against it. He said that it was more valuable as is and fixing it up more would just take value away from it.
At the 2003 Hartford Fair Parade, Olí Smokey died in a huge cloud of blue smoke. She finally gave out. It was sad to see it quit, but it now gives me a good reason to go back and restore it correctly. --Mike
To load the Regular after it 'died', Mike married two tow straps together, and Joe pulled Mike and the Regular onto the trailer with the 460. Mike insists the Regular just wanted to join up with Dad that day.
The Farmall Regular was a major step toward mechanized farming. Its design led to smaller, yet more efficient, implements at a lesser cost. This gave more farmers the chance to finally change from draft horses or even from the large, maintenance-hungry tractors that resembled steam engines that were typical for the day. Now it was possible to do all of the mechanized applications with one tractor. IH engineers came up with this "tricycle" design from scratch. There werenít any previous examples. Many years of experimentation led to the Farmall design, and it soon became an industry standard for all of the tractor manufacturers. It is one thing to take a great idea and improve upon it, but it is pure genius to invent the idea and bring it into existence.
The Farmall, as it was called, did not become known as the Regular until 1932. In 1932, three new Farmalls took the place of the Regular--the F-12, F-20 and the F-30. A unique feature of the Farmalls was sometimes referred to as "triple control" steering. Not only could you steer the tractor, you could drive down rows of crops and shift the cultivator gangs right or left with the steering wheel to miss out-of-place crops. When you reach the end of the field, you could turn either direction, and the corresponding rear wheel brake would lock up by means of brake cables running alongside the frame rails, aiding in pin wheeling the tractor into the next rows of crops. The brake cables were discontinued when foot brake pedals became a standard feature with the introduction of the lettered series in 1939. --Mike