'It was a labour of love': Waterford man on his stunning restoration of a Massey 135
It took three nights a week for three months, but every minute spent restoring a Massey 135 was a labour of love
'There's a quiet satisfaction in taking something old, assessing the damage and then working on it to bring back its original beauty," says Jamie Casey, standing in front of his shining, newly-restored Massey Ferguson 135 tractor.
Jamie took the 1973-registered MF tractor with 9,600 hours on the clock under his wing a few months ago, and the result is all the more impressive given that this is the young Waterford man's first tractor restoration project.
Incredibly, more than 340,000 MF 135 tractors were built between 1964 and 1978.
The enduring love affair of the Irish farming public with the 135 is such that working examples can still be seen on farms nationwide. A lot of it boils down to this simple little tractor's mechanical reliability.
The most challenging aspect of this 135's restoration was rebuilding the cab. The old cab was stripped back to just four corner pillars, including the old flexi cab that comprised of a flexible canvas roof with perspex side windows.
Jamie spent two to three hours for three nights a week on the project. This went on for about 12 weeks. With a natural flair for engineering Jamie was also able to call on the skills he uses in his day job as a full-time design engineer with Hi-Spec Engineering of Carlow.
The tractor was stripped down to just the chassis, engine and four cab pillars, with everything else gone. Anything that could be removed was, before being cleaned down and reinstated or replaced.
All steel parts were cleaned back, primed and painted. "It's a labour of love," smiled Jamie when asked how he managed to find the time. "To pay someone to put those hours in wouldn't have been worth it, but to watch the tractor slowly come together brings a sense of achievement."
One of his main aims was to modernise the cab and fabricate a new roof incorporating lights and a number plate in order to make the tractor road legal.
He also wanted to get rid of the old perspex side windows and replace them with new cab glass. He planned each move carefully. For example, he double checked with the glass company as to what would be the best way to manufacture the doors to accommodate the glass.
Getting the doors to match the existing profile of the cab also proved tricky because it naturally curves downward and inward.
All of the work was undertaken with fairly basic workshop tools such as a welder, an angle grinder, a detail sander (which Jamie thinks is probably the most useful tool in a restoration project) and a sprayer that he bought in Aldi six years ago.
"The biggest requirement was time," he says. "I probably under-estimated the time it was going to take. At times it was a little intimidating when you are stripping it down because you realise how much work is needed to bring it back. At one point it was a sorry sight with just the chassis and engine left, but to look at it now all the hard work is worth it."
The engine was in good condition but Jamie needed to replace the fuel lift pump and add a set of radiator hoses. He also did a complete revamp of the brakes. The tyres had been changed 18 months earlier as they had become worn from the tractor's working duties.
The expert eye will notice a modern twist. Forward opening doors, aluminium foot plates on the floor, a rear window in the cab and a bespoke weight carrier made for the front of the tractor are all unique features that wouldn't have featured on an original MF 135.
As regards cost, Jamie reckons he spent around €1,500 in total on parts for the rebuild. The glass was €500, paint, primer and sanding material €200, the braking kit and fuel pump added another €200, steel for the cab €150 and finally about €400 for a new lighting kit, grill, steering wheel, gear lever knobs, hand throttle and steering wheel. He found a very good website called Agriline Products which sourced parts for various vintage tractor models.
In terms of history, the MF 135 has been in the extended family since 1996 when Jamie's granduncle Mikey bought it from a South Tipperary owner.
"My granduncle passed away in 2004 and at that point we started using the tractor for our landscaping business," explained Jamie. "It's still working hard and earning its keep today in my father's landscaping business."
The tractor's duties vary from rotovating, stone burying, topping or power harrowing. The MF 135's nimble size means it can access gardens in which a bigger tractor would struggle.
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