In 2006, an Armstrong-Holland ‘Greyhound’ or ‘Patrol’ grader, was offered to the Tractor Restoration & Appreciation Club Sunraysia (TRACS), by Mr K. Leamon, with a tacit
agreement that it would be restored.
Originally, this model was based on a McCormick Deering model M petrol/kerosene tractor. It was in a very poor state, due to lying neglected for a number of years at the former dairying property on Wilga Road, south of Red Cliffs, in north west Victoria, where it had worked, and which was being developed by the Leamon family.
The grader had been used during the 1950s to form internal roads, channels and check bank construction. Unfortunately, the family has no details or records of when it was purchased. It is thought to have been bought from the former Mildura Shire Council.
So in 2006 as the property was no longer a dairy it was to be redeveloped. The grader was ’in the way’ and had to go. A close inspection revealed some of the many problems that had to be overcome during the restoration. Missing parts included the cowl, and numerous other smaller items such as the fuel tank cap. Most of the hydraulic hoses were frayed and perished, the blade and turntable were chained up; there was not a remnant of the original colour from which to match a sample, and the steering wheel needed to be replaced.
The move from the Leamon’s Wilga Road property was undertaken by TRACS members, Vince Manno and, the then TRACS president, Mal Hopkins, during the latter part of 2006. The grader was lifted on to Vince’s Ford ‘Louisville’ semi trailer by crane, and deposited at the Manno’s fruit site.
At this point, after moving it, the restoration of the machine did not figure as a large part of TRACS’ activities, and the grader languished for around four years, during which time there were some half-hearted attempts to clean it up, and a few rudimentary repairs were carried out.
The first real task was to make the vehicle mobile. However, one front wheel had been partly buried under sand, and a section of the rim had rusted away. Two TRACS members, Philip Moser and David Hinks, replaced the rusted section and fitted two 18” tyres, which had been supplied by Robert Mansell. The wheels were painted red, in accordance with details gleaned from the Leamons.
The rear view of the tractor & The blade, a ‘fait accompli’
In the middle of 2010, the grader was towed (slowly), about a kilometre from the Manno property to David Hinks’ property. Here, the restoration began, albeit in a spasmodic and ‘as time permitted’ manner.
Shortly after this move, two rear tyres, supplied by Ken Creighton, were fitted. It looked more presentable, but there was still a long way to go. Members were aware that there were many problems, but it was suggested that, with the parts that were visible, there was nothing that was insurmountable.
The work of restoration got going in earnest, roughly about the beginning of 2011. Another TRACS member, Geoffrey Lane, took the bit between his teeth and away he went, dismantling anything that could be removed, such as the bonnet and steering mechanism. Geoff was so overcome with the restoration spirit that he arrived regularly every Monday, ready for action, and so great was his enthusiasm, that he was nicknamed ‘Monday Geoff’.
Geoff in full swing with the spray paint & A picture of concentration
It became obvious that his enthusiasm had some affect, as others joined in to assist wherever possible. At this point, Geoff removed the fuel tanks for inspection later.
The bonnet had a small rusted section that was replaced by David Hinks, panel beaten and painted along with the many smaller items which had been removed.
In March, 2011, club member, Brian Hamilton, dismantled the engine and made a thorough inspection. The wear was negligible, and items such as the magneto and the carburettor were cleaned, checked, and repaired if necessary, before also being put away to await reassembly.
Engine components, with a fine surface rust from standing for such a long period of time, were grit blasted, along with other items which had been removed in the ‘demolition’ process.
‘Monday Geoff’ again came to the fore. Many more areas of damage were revealed, as different components were removed, these areas could also then be cleaned and painted.
The fuel tanks, which had been removed previously, were inspected, repaired as necessary, and professionally cleaned. The radiator was removed and found to be in a fairly poor condition, so redemption was attempted by Bob Fox, but its condition was found to be far worse than anticipated and the tubes, more or less, just crumbled before the torch. This situation, in essence, meant another radiator had to be found.
The club put out a call to members, placed advertisements in various club newsletters, and made contact with other International Harvester enthusiasts in an effort to obtain another radiator and nose cone. The negative responses were not heartening but, at this stage, time was still on our side.
By mid-2011, parts were being gathered with which to reassemble the engine, while other repairs had been or were being tackled, including a new set of piston rings. Bob Fox had cleaned up the head and machined the valve seats and the valves, but the valve springs were not replaced. Fortuitously, a head gasket was unearthed in the ‘spare parts’ section at David Hinks’ place.
The purchase of smaller items, such as new manifold studs and brass nuts, gasket material, a fan belt, an oil seal for the water pump, new radiator hoses and clamps and, of course, engine oil were all being undertaken in preparation for the reassembly.
The engine, shrouded in plastic, ready for reassembly
& Beginning the reassembly of the engine.
By late November to early December, 2011, Brian Hamilton began reassembling the engine from the new items that had been accumulating, and the, now, pristine parts which ‘Monday Geoff’ had cleaned and painted.
Assembly went well and quickly, with the head and associated pieces installed, followed by the magneto and carburettor, which had been checked out by member, Tod Higgins earlier.
In mid-December, 2011, an attempt wasmade to start the engine. A temporary fuel supply was set up and, after being towed only some 10 metres, the engine fired, coughed, then settled down and ran. Those members who witnessed this success were extremely pleased!
With the engine now assembled and going, the fuel tanks, fuel lines, and other relevant parts were fitted, and the grader began to look rather grand in its red livery.
Now, with the engine in, but a bare ‘midriff’
& The blade and its components need to dry off.
Geoff Lane continued his program of ‘great red works’, as items were cleaned up and made available to his spray gun but, so far, all requests for a radiator and nose cone for the ‘M’ had drawn no response. However, Phillip Newton had a contact out in ‘station country’ of NSW, who could possibly be a lead, so fingers were kept crossed.
Attention turned to the blade and turntable, as it was felt that a grader without a blade is somewhat akin to a tiger with no teeth, so these became the next items on the agenda. Work began in earnest in January, 2012. As these are both very heavy items, this was undertaken by Philip Moser and David Hinks, who had forklifts and other heavy equipment, that was needed to lift and move these items around.
The turntable and blade were cleaned up, bolts which had been weathered were replaced, the blade was welded in a couple of places and straightened, the heavy pivot bolt was also inspected and tidied up, while the other supporting brackets of the turntable were straightened and, where worn, were built up and reshaped. During February and March, 2012, work continued on these items and, by late March, the painted turntable and blade, with a new series of plough bolts on the cutting bar, were ready to be reinstalled under the grader.
It was at this point that all efforts came to a halt. It had not been possible to obtain a radiator or nose cone from the contact, due to inclement weather, and the purchase of any outstanding parts also fell through. After waiting with anticipation for so long, the frustration was evident... the project was so close to being completed. Efforts were redoubled to secure these missing components and, finally, Sea Lake member, Dennis Schodde, was able to locate and procure these much sought-after items, which ended up coming from a McCormick W-6.
Three heads are better than one
& Juggling the blade into position.
Bob Fox immediately tested the radiator, and repaired and altered the top tank by inserting the tube which accommodates part of the ‘M’ steering mechanism. The cowl or nose cone was inspected for dents, repaired as required, and then painted. The two items were attached to the grader late in December, 2012.
During this time, some replacement hydraulic hoses had also been obtained and fitted, but there were still more that needed to be replaced. These were eventually made available and also fitted. However, there were still several more hoses with fittings that could not be located, and when they were, they would have to be altered. Finally, oil seals were purchased for the back axles, and Brian Hamilton, Bob Fox, and David Hinks brought the grader to the stage where it was almost complete.
A test run around the yard, found that the grader was a little hard to steer, but a liberal greasing of all of the steering components relieved this problem. As the steering wheel was in extremely poor condition, this had also added to the steering difficulty.
Complete, and ready to take part in the Tractor Pull, October, 2013.
The first TRACS Truck and Tractor Show was coming up in April, 2013, so the repair of the rams, and the alteration of the remaining hydraulic hoses was held over, so that members could spend time tidying up their own exhibits.
The Armstrong-Holland did take its place in the line-up of tractors at this display, despite the blade being chained up, and it drew a great many favourable comments from the many visitors who attended this first show.
After that show in April, it was decided to get the rams professionally restored and fitted with modern components, as all attempts to find the correct seals had come to nothing. Towards the end of August, 2013, the rams were re-installed, and the last act then, was to purchase and fit a new, pristine steering wheel. The cost of the restoration had not been as great as first anticipated, due to the time and expertise of TRACS members, as well as their many contributions of ‘bits and pieces’.
With the restoration now complete, the Armstrong-Holland grader took pride of place at the TRACS October, 2013, tractor pull, and the satisfaction for all involved in this joint undertaking was considerable.
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