Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Did I ever mention that my father was stubborn? And perhaps I might, just might have inherited that characteristic from him?

Dad was a farmer/stockman. Often, they will become enamored of one brand of truck, tractor or whatever beyond logic. Some will only buy Fords, some a certain brand of fencing, or a certain brand of tractors.

Dad was a J.I.Case man, through and through. The above picture is of a Case 930 Comfort King. Comfortable? It was as comfortable as about any other vehicle with no suspension other than a swinging front axle, riding over rough ground. It was a Case, which meant the engine and transaxle were joined together to form the tractor - there was no frame what so ever. This particular model was a naturally aspirated motor - so it did not have a turbo. The transmission was all manual - it was pre Power Shift all the way. It cranked out about 80hp out of 400 cubic inches. It was a 1967 model.

Our next tractor was a 1974 Case 1070. I loved that tractor. The space age styling, the solid cab (for it's day) with the decent air conditioner and wonder of wonders - the cab was quiet enough to actually hear a radio! Whoooweee! Livin' large now! It sported a 450 cubic inch naturally aspirated motor and the tranny was a four speed with a three speed power shift. Pretty kewl.

Case tended to use large cubic inch motors for their power - the idea being that superior torque would carry the day. They had a reputation for being fairly fuel efficient as well. Another of their characteristics was a coarse cored radiator - the fins were spread fairly far apart. One could hose out the radiator core to clean the dirt and debris out.

But, no matter the brand, you've got to have dealer support. Meaning, your dealer had better keep a good selection of commonly needed parts for your heap, or you will be parked when you need to be running. This dealer had also better be willing to actually work on the things and stand behind them, or you will be paying a lot of mileage to a distant dealer to do the same work the local one fails at.

Dad's local Case dealer basically deserted his market - he decided the small farmer was not the way to go, and just wanted to service the big ones. It was very clear after several years.

When the extremely painful but obvious truth that Dad just wasn't going to get any service from that dealer, he finally bit the bullet and bought a John Deere. They do happen to have the largest and best equipped dealer network for farm equipment extant, now as then. So, he bought a 1977 4430 - four speed with a powershift tranny. This tractor was rated considerably higher than either of the old Cases - close to 110 hp.

Dad's collection of implements were definitely dated, too. He really needed to upgrade to larger stuff with the increasingly more powerful tractors, but he never did. So, we ended up with some too small implements for the tractor we had.

Plus, this JD was different. Horsepower was obtained by fuel and turbocharging - this tractor's block was about the same size as the old 930 - right at 400 cubes. This meant the cooling system had to be more efficient. Which also meant that the radiator had a much finer core, with more fins and tubes closely spaced together. Dad was used to hosing out his radiators, but he was told repeatedly that was not a good idea on a John Deere by plenty of people. One of my neighbors brings his tractor home every evening, and blows out the radiator, all over the tractor, and the cab with A/C filters. He also waxes 'em, so his prep could be considered a bit excessive.

Farm implements are designed to run at certain speeds - generally in the four to five and a half mph range. Disks are especially picky - too fast and they'll ride right out of the ground, and toss the dirt unevenly. Dad's old Cases had their sweet spot in a certain gear wide open. He used to tell me "Pull 'er ears back and get to work" - meaning to pull the steering column mounted throttle on the old 930 to the rear, wide open in fourth gear. It needed to be wide open to run fast enough and to pull the load. The 1070 would run in second gear in the second hole of the three speed powershift - the first hole was useful for when it pulled down, and the third was just too fast, and it wouldn't pull the load most of the time anyways.

However, in a tractor with a bit more power, the way to save fuel is to run it in a higher gear throttled back. When the load increases, the fuel pumps will try to maintain that rpm by increasing the fuel, and with a turbo, the pressure increases and away you go. This helps the tractor run cooler and with less strain on the components as a side benefit. With a very flexible powershift tranny - if it pulls too hard, just drop a gear and crank 'er open for a while.

But not Dad. His radiators had always been cleaned with a garden hose, and his tractors were supposed to be run wide open in a particular gear. End of story. He hated that Deere before he got it - it wasn't a Case.

Oh yeah. That Deere wasn't the tractor that ol' 1070 was. Ran hot all day, drank fuel like crazy, too much glass in the cab, not enough leg room, hard to enter and exit - you name it, there was something wrong. Granted, I agreed with him on the lack of legroom, but I think I've still got dented knee caps from the stylish instrument panel protruding edges in the 1070 (and every other 70 series Case).

At any rate, several years went by, and I was employed off the farm. I never did run that 4430 until Dad had to be hospitalized, and I had to do his fieldwork. I jumped in the old tractor and sure enough, it ran hot. So, since we didn't have an air compressor big enough, I drove it to a neighbor's and spent over an hour blowing chunks of dirt out of that radiator. Dad would hose 'er out, then run to the field and fill the radiator with dirt catching in the wet radiator. I also got a bunch of straw and other debris out. After I got back to the field and hooked up, I selected a higher gear and throttled the motor back so I was running the proper ground speed.

That cab was quiet. The motor just chuckled along, and if it encountered a pull, the turbo started to sing a tune and yank that implement right along. I also didn't have to fuel so soon that afternoon, either.

Of course, I reported this to Dad. He seemed pretty non committal about the whole thing - the tractor was, after all, a John Deere and not worth his thinking about it too much. I think he did finally stop hosing out the radiator, which was a source of irritation to his friends who had advised him to use air and were ignored.

To make a living off the land, one must be stubborn. But, one must be an effective businessman as well. I, too, am something of a traditionalist, but it always seemed to me that if the tradition cost money above and beyond, maybe, just maybe, that kind of thinking needed to be revisited for validity.

My grandfather ran Case tractors, which was really the reason for my father's slavish devotion. I didn't inherit that kind of thinking. Frankly, were I farming, I could give a rat's ass what color the hood might be on my tractor - as long as I had a dealer who supported it. As a rule, Deeres are more expensive. They also have greater resale value, and they have the best dealer network. Period. This might piss off some Long Green Line fanbois out there, but they aren't always the best piece of equipment. Having all those dealers with parts in inventory does cost money, though, which is why the greater cost. Nowadays, we have several brands that are well supported in this area, so the choices are greater and the costs perhaps can be reduced.

So, I'll never understand my father's extreme stubbornness that actually cost him time and money.


Kathy B. said...

Jeff you are such a great writer! It amazes me the thoughtfulness you give to each subject. Gets me interested in some things that I wouldn't normally be. Now my Dad was an Allis Chalmers devotee.

Cedar View Paint Horses said...

Ah, them old Case tractors. Couldn't Afford Sumthin Else. There sure is something about the look of those old ones.

Jeffro said...

Couldn't Afford Sumthin Else

Hah! I'd never heard that before!

And another oddity - Dad had a 1958 JD 720 on propane that he absolutely adored - mostly because it was so primitive and reminded him of the tractors he ran as a kid. THAT JD was A-OK. I enjoyed running it, too, but I'd hate to have spent an entire summer on it.

Cedar View Paint Horses said...

We've got that lil' Case 430, and my butt knows it well. Wife's Gpa got all the town contracts to work the ditches after the roads were re-done, and our little township got a bunch of grants to get it done. I'd work em smooth with the 430 and a box scraper, Gramps would seed em with the 8N, then I'd have to go back with the fine drag to smooth the seed in. I was always skeert about flipping it in those ditches, but that Landscape model they had came with a low, wide stance. It was amazing the slopes you could handle without too much worry. 4 speed w/H & L, and that 4H was for getting home in a hurry.

Jeffro said...

That was the tranny and two speed rear combo in the 930 as well. 4 Hi seemed fast, until you had to chase a Gleaner combine. They had eight or so mph on the ol' hooptie.

Have you ever tried floating the gears to shift on the go? There isn't a nickel's worth of difference between the tractor and truck gears - you have to have the rpms perfect.

Anonymous said...

I tell my wife I'm "ambi-tractorus" - I'll take any color!

Cedar View Paint Horses said...

That ol' 430 has so much slop in it that a total fool could shift it (ie:me!) on the fly. Downshifting, not so easy. And the bushings on the R front need to be replaced, so sometimes that old front end gets to shakin and you gotta shut it down before the whole mess ends up in the ditch. Good clean fun.

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