Restoration Story: 1952 Ferguson TO30

Submitted Article
1952 Ferguson TO30 Restoration Story
by Mike Mc Andrews

I have been planning for many years to build a home and in preparation for this, I decided that I should have a tractor to prepare a driveway, do landscaping and haul material on my acre of land. I have a Cub Cadet for tilling and mowing but I decided that I needed something larger and with a loader. I enjoy repairing things and I like to save some money so I purchaced a 1952 Ferguson TO-30 with a Wagner loader.

I was lucky enough to have it delivered for free. It had thrown a rod so I knew that it had seen some hard times but that's the type of challange I like. The dark rust-red paint made the tractor seem clean, especially in the darkened barn from which it came but I was to later learn that it covered a lot of rust and grease. Stripping and painting ended up being the hardest part of this project. I had to use a 5 foot cheater bar to remove the bolts holding the rear of the loader to the axle. The tractor has no hood because of the loader.

The #3 rod lodged itself in the side of the block out of the way of the crankshaft and the hole in the block covered with Duct Tape. The tractor had been run for some time in this condition.

The #3 piston had blown its top and lodged itself at the top of the cylinder, this actually reduced the vacuum loss from affecting the other cylinders. In this condition, the tractor still ran on the remaining three cylinders, although a little rough. Mud red paint had been slopped all over and covered a pretty serious amount of rust and crud. From a distance, the tractor actually looked fairly good but this tractor was painted to improve the chance of selling and covered a pretty ugly mess. The oil pressure gauge was disconnected and painted over and it is clear from inspecting the engine that this tractor had been run without oil for a long time. The oil pump main drive gear was stripped and there was horrible sludge throughout the engine. At least this acted like grease or things might have been worse.

I made a third wheel fixture to mount under the bell housing with a U shaped bracket on wheels to split the tractor and pull the engine without removing the loader. This allowed the drive train to back out like a tricycle with the loader still mounted to the front wheels and wheeled away in one piece. I also made a tool to press the sleeves from the block using a hydraulic jack and chain. The crud in the air cleaner was really bad, probably not cleaned in decades, even the steering gear box was full of ugly sludge.

I made a tool to remove the valves even though it could be rented locally, it's not that I'm that cheap, I just like to do lunchtime projects in the machine shop. Two of the manifold nuts were very difficult to access so I ground down the edges of an old wrench to get to these. The head bolt studs were also difficult to remove so I soaked them in penetrating oil and had to put on triple nuts with 2 wrenches to remove them. I was going to paint the tractor at some later date but since it is a lot easier to paint while it is apart, I decided to go ahead. I had wanted to paint the tractor Hammered Gray but since the store shelf and paint can were not marked with the color, I ended up with most of the tractor painted Silver before I realized my error! My wife liked the look and it sure made a 50 year old tractor look 21st century, but it would nearly blind you in the sun so I started over again with Rust-oleum Professional High-Performance Enamel Machine Gray and it matches pretty close to the spots that still had original Ferguson Gray.

The cylinder sleeves were easily pressed out with the homemade tool. Shiny new sleeves and a thorough cleaning sure made the old block look nice. Close inspection of the block shows no sign of cracks or damage besides the hole.

I had to get the crankshaft ground to the maximum .030 to remove the severe scoring and it just barely made it. I ordered all the necessary rebuild parts over the internet. The local dealer wanted $315 for a rod!! I needed 2 so I got used ones on the Internet for $35 each. Even though the three remaining pistons were still in fair shape, I went ahead and replaced all four sleeves and pistons. The valves were in very good condition so I just cleaned and lapped them. I took special care to clean all oil passages and measure all tolerances. The oil pump gears were way out of spec on backlash so I got a rebuild kit for that too. (I needed that anyway to get the replacement drive gear) At first, the oil pump gears did not seat properly, then I noticed that there were burrs on the shaft of the new pump gear! After deburring the new shaft on a lathe, everything went together fine. The kit required a hole to be drilled between the aluminum drive gear and the steel shaft, this was very tricky even on a Bridgeport mill. A standard hand drill would be very tricky for this task because the bit would have a tendancy to drift away from the steel shaft and gouge the aluminum gear. The oil pressure is now a solid 30 PSI and only dips to about 25 PSI if I slow the engine to about 300 RPM.

Closer inspection of the manifold revealed exhaust port 4 flange worn and pitted. I milled it flat to 50 mils below the other ports so that I could stack a second manifold gasket piece, cut from the old gasket, placed over that one port. There appears to be no leakage at the site of this repair. I fabricated an aluminum plate and gasket to cover the hole made by the thrown rod. Fortunately, the hole was not near any structural member or oil passage in the block and the cam and bearings were not touched. Looks like I was extremely lucky in this case. I had to do a little grinding to smooth an area for the plate, gasket and eight bolts but the final result looks good.

The crankshaft fanbelt pully was broken where the main crankshaft bolt attaches so I milled out the broken part and made an insert to repair it. A used replacement pully was more than $50, well, maybe I am that cheap... The muffler had been mounted with wraps of classic bailing wire covered with globs of paint. A new muffler, exaust pipe and mount were installed, also coated with gray high-temperature paint.

I pre-pressureized the oil system by back feeding oil into the pressure gauge line with a small hydraulic ram. I had full oil pressure on the first crank. I adjusted the valves and reattached the exterior parts. I polished the throttle clutch plate and made a pad out of thick gasket material. Cork may be better as this slips a little.

Once I had the engine together except for the cooling system, I wanted to see how well it would run. I turned it over and off it started but it sounded hollow and was blowing oil out of the air intake! Disaster! After a bit of thinking, I realized that the valve timing must be off. Measurement showed that the timing was off by 90 degrees! I knew I had the gear marks matched so what happened? Well, it appears that the marks were incorrect and close inspection did not reveal any other marks so with the aid of the timing chart in the manual and a mircometer, I set the gear mesh by measurement. Once I had done this, the engine started easily and ran smooth and quiet, much better than I had hoped.

I re-installed the loader using my homemade engine hoist even though I was not done with painting. The City contacted us and let us know that we could not have a tractor loader in our driveway (or even a tractor) so I reattached the loader and drove it into the garage. This is really a tight fit as the bucket just fits under my workbench. At least I was able to paint the hard to reach parts first.

I got oil pressure and temperature gauges from, they are not original Ferguson but I prefer the 270 degree center pivot needles. I restored the original Ferguson ammeter and added a hydraulic pressure gauge to the loader rams. This is kind of a handy feature as I can get a direct readout of the weight of my load. The reading is about 100PSI for every 200LBS of load. Note the chain in the center, this is combination "key" and safety cutoff, the chain attaches to your belt loop and cuts the engine if you fall off.

I knew that with a thrown rod, repair would be a challange but that has never deterred me, I enjoy a good challenge. In retrospect, however, I feel I should have avoided a project with block damage as there was a very real chance of damage that requires replacement of a very expensive block. I was lucky.

I should have scraped some paint to reveal the true condition of what lay underneath. The rust and crud was so bad that cleaning and painting took more time than the engine rebuild! Even so, I am glad to have completed a fun project on a tractor that is a real classic and yet useful around the home. I like the fact that I personally know the quality of the rebuild and condition of this tractor. It is quite a good feeling to sit on this tractor and feel the smoothest engine I've ever known. One thing that I would have done differently in this project is to have placed parts into baggies rather than mix them all in one bucket. It took extra time to sort everything out.

I had a lot of fun with this project and I am pleased with the results. Ultimately, it took about 50 hours of my work spread amongst eight Saturdays and cost an additional $680 beyond the $800 cost of the tractor. I now have a tractor that I know intimately and for which I am sure of the condition of every part and all this for less than the cost of some other used, oily beast of unknown state. Mike M.

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