Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Filling the wish list as we start tricky business

Restoring an old Massey '35' is proving a big job for Bruce Lett

The discovery of an old Ford cylinder head revealed that the 35 had put in plenty of hard hours even before its three decades on our farm
The discovery of an old Ford cylinder head revealed that the 35 had put in plenty of hard hours even before its three decades on our farm

Bruce Lett

This summer I got stuck into the family farm's very tired Massey Ferguson 35 and, rather than just restoring it as a vintage show-piece, I decided to modernise the little '35' as well.

Arriving second-hand and already worn out, it had its engine and steering rebuilt before going on to clock up another 8,000 hours. That was nearly 30 years ago and it has worked hard throughout its life on the farm, although it did very little over the past 10 years.

The first phase of the reconditioning and modernisation process was published at the end of July and I had hoped to have a lot more done by now, but I really only started back at it in earnest over the past few weeks. Back in the summer I started with the engine because it was completely worn out. The tractor's swept axle had a life of its own as well. Over rough ground there was plenty of axle play as the trunnion pin (pivot) and bushes were completely worn out.

The lift arms and all the lift linkages, including the top link draft-sensing mechanism, are the same. The hydraulic pump, I think, was only pumping on one of its four pistons and pulsing like it was about to expire altogether. The brakes on one side were seized up while oil was leaking out through the brakes on the other.

So all was not well with the 35 and in the first phase of the process I discovered that the top ring on each piston was broken. The inlet and exhaust valves had migrated so far up into the head that they have set a new record at my local engine remanufacturer, Power Brothers in Ferns, Co Wexford.


Firstly, though, to recap, the modernisation 'wish list' is what is really driving the project, and the original list to modernise or upgrade the 35 includes the addition or fitting of:

  • Hydrostatic or power- assisted steering;
  • Spin-on oil filter assembly for engine;
  • Alternator;
  • Full lighting, including indicators;
  • Foot throttle;
  • Later-type hydraulic pump (with filter);
  • Suspended seat;
  • Pick-up hitch;
  • Cab

After-market parts supplier Vapormatic (www.vapormatic. com), under the guidance of their sales rep Shane Rooney, is on-board and is supplying the majority of the components required for the project. There are an enormous amount of parts available from Vapormatic, not just for the Massey Ferguson 35, but for a huge number of other models and makes as well.

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As a testament to their popularity, though, there are a wide range of components available from many after-market suppliers for the likes of the 35 and 135, along with many of the Ford models as well, from body panels to engine and lift components. Vapormatic and Sparex have two of the best web search facilities for tractor parts, with Bepco and Matt Buckley (QTP) having more of a catalogue-type structure. There are many, many others as well if you have time to look on the internet.

Wish-list components available from Vapormatic are the spin-on oil filter assembly, the foot throttle assembly, a modern hydraulic pump, alternator and lights. They also do an engine rebuild kit, bonnet panels and much more besides, which we will see as the project develops.

The following pictures catalogue the progress with the engine as the power is re- engineered back into MF's three-pot Perkins unit.

The work carried out here might be a bit too involved for some but hopefully it gives you an idea of what goes on in an engine and why it is so important to carry out regular servicing and maintenance.

All of the work on the block was carried out by engine specialists Power Bros but if the crankshaft had been damaged it would have been worth considering a new short motor. Available from Vapormatic, the short motor is a new engine block fitted with new pistons, conrods and crankshaft. Everything to do with the short motor is new so there is no machining required other than to assemble.

  • Next time: I hope to have the engine and front end back together and be some way towards sorting out hydrostatic or power-assisted steering. Ex-Massey Ferguson mechanic and current Landini dealer Tom Murphy, from Kildavin, Bunclody, Co Wexford, lends his expertise to the project, having already converted a 35 to a straight axle with hydrostatic steering.

Irish Independent

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