"The 9N Lives Again" - A Tribute to my Grandparents
by Tyler Neff
I often reminisce about the good old days of my youth when I visited
my grandparents on their farm in Moorefield, West Virginia. I lived
in Middletown, Maryland, which was about two and a half-hours away from
the farm. During my summer vacations I would spend two weeks helping
granddad Wilmer with his farming duties. Wilmer and his brother Weldon
owned the "Neff" farm. They were beef farmers from 1937 until
their retirement. Raising Herefords was their main source of income.
Harvesting corn, wheat, oats, and even green beans helped pay the bills
as well. The farm consists of nearly 200 acres of "farm" land
and roughly 190 acres of "wood" land.
The Ford-Ferguson model 9N was the first tractor purchased for the Neff
farm in 1940. As a youngster, supervised of course, my granddad would
allow me to climb aboard the 9N. I would often ask him to take me for
a tractor ride while sitting on his lap, which I soon outgrew. One of
my fondest memories was when granddad gave me the opportunity to solo
my first ride on the 9N. I was at a ripe old age of seven. Excited and
scared, I passed the test, which involved the tractor strategically
placed in the middle of a field with nothing to hit or run over. From
that day on, you could not keep me away from that machine. There were
three tractors on the "Neff" farm, the Ford-Ferguson 9N, the
FordGolden Jubilee, and the Farmall A. My favorite will always be the
9N. It has a Sherman step-up auxiliary transmission and it could fly
in third gear on the highway. The hard work took a toll on the 9N during
its many years of service. It underwent engine rebuilds, valve jobs,
a paint job in 1955, along with other minor repairs. The 9N was like
a "Timex" watch, it would take a licking and keep on ticking.
The last repair my granddad performed on the 9N was an engine overhaul
in the summer of 1985. Dad and I asked him why he put more money in
this "tired dog". He wanted the 9N to outlast him and to be
used on the farm when he was gone. Who would foresee that several months
later he would develop lung cancer? Granddad etched his values into
me and educated me about farm life. In July of 1986, my granddad, who
I idolized, passed away. Shortly after his death the 9N quit running.
Granddad was the only mechanic on the farm and the only one that knew
how to keep the machinery going. In 1986, I asked dad if I could have
the "9N" to restore someday, and he agreed. At this time,
there were 2 remaining tractors on the farm, the Jubilee and the 9N.
Dad agreed to give the Jubilee to my grandpa's brother, Weldon,
in exchange for the 9N. Chained to the Jubilee, the 9N was towed to
a nearby shed where it spent the next ten years in hibernation and out
of the weather. During that period, I would occasionally take a trip
to the shed to reminisce about this sentimental piece of machinery.
Each year of storage seemed to lessen a chance of restoration for the
9N. In the summer of 1996, something clicked inside of me. I finally
got interested in the possibility of restoring the non-functioning 9N.
My sweet, wonderful, grandmother was getting up in age. She's always
been there for me and I wanted to do something to make her proud of
me. With plenty of overtime available at work, the extra cash would
come in handy. Motivation and money were all I needed to get started
on my new project.
It was August of 1996, when dad and I chained his Ford model 640 to
the bumper of the rusty pile of metal. The 9N was towed to the garage
in preparation for restoration. The tractor was sad looking. Mice, squirrels,
and other creatures had their way with the wiring and other parts of
the tractor. The brakes were non-functional and the steering sectors
were about gone. I shook my head and wondered "What in the heck
was I getting myself into?" At this point I wondered whether
I was going to find parts/manuals for a tractor that I had little knowledge
of. The only thing I knew was, my granddad called it a Ford-Ferguson.
I made a phone call to a Ford/New Holland tractor dealer and they instructed
me where to find the serial number. After finding the serial number
on the left side of the engine, I called the tractor dealership again.
They told me I had a 1940 model 9N. They told me that parts and manuals
were readily available. Many of these small utility tractors are still
operable on small farms today. A little info from the Ford/New Holland
dealer and a lot of info from Robert N. Pripps', How to Restore
Your Farm Tractor was all I needed to get started. My largest
source of information was from Ag forums and Ford tractor bulletin boards
on the Internet. If it weren't for the kind and generous people
answering questions and assisting me through different parts of my restoration,
it wouldn't be complete today. I owe a great deal to my tractor
friends in cyberspace. After extensive reading and question writing,
I was ready to proceed. I discovered after all these years, the motor
wasn't locked up. Next I had to get it fired up. These are things
I had to do to just to see if the 9N would start:
- Rebuild the carburetor
- Replace all wiring
- Install tune-up it kit, cap and rotor
- Clean gas tank
- Drain and replace all fluids
- Install new radiator and air cleaner hose
- Replace battery
Next I rigged the gas tank to be suspended over
the motor. Now came the moment of truth. I turned the key on, pulled
the choke, and pressed the
starter button. After a couple of attempts, the motor fired and was
running. I jumped for joy. Excited, I ran across the road to my grandmother's
house and borrowed her cordless phone and ran back to the tractor. I called
my dad who was about 125 miles away at the time. With dad on the line
I fired up the 9N once more and he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
This was the start of a long and tough road for me. What made it difficult
was the tractor was 2-½ hrs away from where I live. So for the next
year, I became a weekend warrior mechanic and the 9N became my life.
difficult to figure out which broken up thing to work on first. I had
to come up with some sort of strategy.
First, I came up with a "plan of attack".
I made a list of items that need fixed. I worked on one area of
the tractor at a
time until I had everything in good working order. I repaired as
many seals/gaskets that I thought was necessary. You don't want
all over your fresh new paint job.
Second, my plan was to have my brother power
wash the tractor. He owns and operates a power washing business
called "Pressure Plus".
This would remove all of the years of grease, grim, dirt, and loose
paint and be easier for the sandblasting process.
The third part consisted of sandblasting the entire tractor. I
removed all sheet metal, wheels, and miscellaneous parts and blasted
them separate from the chassis of the tractor. Take caution when sandblasting
your tractor. Tape up all areas where sand could get into your drive
fourth part of the plan was painting. I decided to go with a two
painting process. I powder coated all of my sheet metal and miscellaneous
parts. Only the chassis and rear wheels were wet paint. Powder
produces a tough, durable finish. I had a powder coat sample made
while my parts were powder coated. I used this sample to get a
color wet paint to match the powder. I sprayed urethane enamel
on top of epoxy primer to complete the job of painting the chassis
rear wheels. I also want to mention that I had the manifold and
exhaust system sandblasted and painted with high temperature paint.
the "rust" factor away from your beautiful paint job.
On July 3rd 1997, after the painting was completed, I set out to put
everything back together. This was my favorite part of the restoration
and it took me better part of a day to complete the task. I was thrilled
when the 9N fired up after tightening the last bolt. I also videotaped
and took many pictures as I went along.
I have learned a great deal restoring this sentimental piece of
machinery. When I first started, the idea was to make "Old Betsy"
functional around the farm. As the project progressed, I saw "Old
Betsy" in a new light. I use the tractor mainly for a few parades
and a couple of antique tractor shows every year. I
owe a great deal to my grand parents. They taught me so much about the
values of life. I restored this tractor to make my grandmother proud
of me. I wish my grandfather were alive to see my efforts. I did feel
as though his was right there with me while I was restoring the 9N.
I have a magnetic sign that I hang on the front bumper that reads "Dedicated
to Wilmer and Ruth Neff", my grandparents.