Bringing a 1953 Farmall Super A Back to Life

By Peter Hanlon – UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Student

I’m a third generation cranberry farmer, 21 years old and I live for growing cranberries. Ever since I was ten I’ve tried to help out on the bog.  Now I can say that I’ve grown my fair share of cranberries. I’m a hard-working man and it shows in what I’ve done over the years.  But my greatest accomplishment was the 53’ Farmall Super A that I brought back to life.

I got this tractor for Christmas in 2010. It was kind of a joke when I got it – a tractor, what kid at 17 wants a tractor for Christmas? It has a sickle bar mower that can easily mow the ditches of a cranberry bog. I went out and tested it, the tractor was running then.

When I finished sanding, cleaning and repainting the Farmall in the spring of 2011, it didn’t run. It didn’t even make a noise. Back then I only knew a few things about engines.  I replaced the wiring harness and the tractor finally turned over and ran. I thought that was the last of my worries, I was quite wrong.

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After that day it didn’t run again until the next spring. The engine seized and I had to fight with the transmission to free it again. So 2012 came and went with only a few good moments with the Super A.  Nothing seemed to work and understanding books and old literature wasn’t helping. Then came the winter between fall and spring semester of my freshman year at college, a turning point for the tractor and me.  I dismantled the transmission case and found that the gears were seized. I knew I had to start there.

In the spring the transmission got fluently moving again and the tractor ran again. What a relief it was. All the hard work had finally come down to me fixing the transmission. Or so I thought. When my father and I got it outside to check it over, the newly replaced oil gauge was running at zero, and the engine was hot. No, not hot, extremely hot. The geared driven oil pump wasn’t pumping oil through the engine. It seemed to have been an internal problem that I wasn’t aware of. When I finally dismantled the oil pan I found the cause of my problem to be the gear on the cam shaft that ran the oil pump, it was shattered. I needed a new cam shaft for a 53’ tractor! Where can you find that, EBay of course. With a new cam shaft and oil pump on its way I decided to get a little help with replacing it. A good friend who is a mechanic said he would help. So with three months gone and the parts finally arriving the fall of 2013 my mechanic and I replaced the cam shaft.

With the cam shaft now in place and the tractor actually running strong the time came in the spring of 2014 to finally mow the banks of the bogs. It was going well till I blew the head gasket. It was the third time I ran the tractor with the mower and it over heated in the hot July air. It took a month to get the part, but I did the engine work myself. I tore down the top half of the motor and replaced the blown gasket with a new one. From that day on my hard work paid off.

Ups and downs make life interesting. I hear people say that they want to give up and quit school, and I have thought that a time or two myself.  But I realize that if I gave up on that Super A Farmall, I wouldn’t have grown into the man I am today. Thinking back on the work I did reassures me that anything is possible if you work hard.

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