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TAS Country : December 9th 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010 Tasmanian Country 23 TRACTOR TRAGIC IMPORT: The Chicago built 1944 McCormick W-6 at home in our yard and starting to look a lot more respectable after some hard work. To be continued LONGEVITY: The C-248 petrol/ kerosene engine of the McCormick W-6 was shared with the Farmall M and introduced in 1939. It was a superb engine with excellent governors that were very sensitive to any load changed on the engine and survived through to 1952 in USA when it was superseded by the bigger C-264 engine with 264 cubic inch displacement in the Super W-6 series. soldier part of lucky strike in Chicago USA. While International Harvester Australia built McCormick W-6 tractors in their factory in Geelong from late 1948, grandfather viewed the locally built machine as inferior to the fully imported USA built example. Both our W-6 and W-9 tractors were eventually sold and over time we lost track of where they went but neither were forgotten when we began to collect tractors again in the mid 1980s. I restored a McCormick Deering W-4 in 1987 and by a twist of fate, our old W-9 turned up in a scrap metal yard not far from my workplace which a family friend salvaged for us to join our collection. With a W-4 and a W-9 in the growing tractor collection I started thinking pretty seriously about a W-6, preferably a petrol start diesel in view of how uncommon they were. We looked at one or two examples but unfortunately we were not lucky enough to secure one but my luck changed one day when literally, one did fall into my lap courtesy of a visitor to our museum. Upon hearing it was a petrol start WD-6, I was more than a little excited at the prospect of obtaining it even though it was said to be in a state of disrepair with ruined engine bearings. A friend came to my rescue with an International Harvester UD-6 power unit engine, it had a cracked engine block but the crank and bearings were in great shape so all the internals went into my WD-6 and despite a few hiccups, it was eventually sorted out to run very well indeed. I probably should have been satisfied with the W-4, WD-6 and W-9 but we had gone on to add a Farmall A, H and M to the line up so inevitably, my thoughts turned to finding a kerosene powered W-6, if not my grandfather's tractor then a good substitute would do. Like my grandfather I wanted a genuine Chicago built example, not a later Geelong built variant. I guess I was in no hurry to track such a tractor down, there were a lot of W-6 tractors sold in the state and eventually one would come our way and like my diesel variant, one did and from a most unexpected source. One morning one of my workmates called into the parts department and casually asked if I was interested in a ''couple of W-6 McCormicks, one complete and the other for spare parts?'' needless to say he had my attention, especially as the complete tractor was a Chicago built example. I had worked with this chap for over 10 years and he had never mentioned ever having any old tractors in his possession. Further questioning revealed that he and his father had a sawmill and the W-6 powered it although the complete tractor had not run for a number of years and was in need of a rear tyre as a wheel had been taken off the Geelong built parts tractor to keep the other mobile but they ''were not matching wheels'' --- a remark that I simply took to mean that it was now on odd tyres. I mentioned the tractors to my father and he was not long in organising to go and view them. What he saw got him very excited, after all the waiting it appeared that this W-6 was the one we had been looking for. No, it was not one of the tractors my grandfather had owned, it was better than that- this was a Chicago built W-6 dating from 1944 but as father walked around the other side of the tractor he found it to be wearing a 30 inch demountable rim on a cast spoke wheel centre. Every other W-6 I had ever seen had been fitted with cast two-piece 28 inch rims made in International Harvesters foundry in Geelong, this was done to increase Australian content in the tractor and lower import tariffs for more attractive pricing. It would be the early 1950s before Australian built McCormick Internationals would get 30 inch diameter rear wheels on the Super AW-6 and Super AWD-6 with solid cast wheel centres that would continue to be used on Australian built International tractors until the model 564 ended its production run in the early 1970s. This tractor was still recognisable as an evolution of the old McCormick W-6. One of these locally cast 28 inch wheels had been taken off the Geelong built parts tractor and fitted to the Chicago built machine which explained the comment of the tractor being on unmatched rear wheels. Thankfully the original spoke centre 30 inch wheel was leaning against a tree nearby so a deal was struck with the owner to obtain this unique W-6. Getting both tractors out was not going to be easy, although not too far off the road, the track into the mill site was waterlogged and quite rough. Instead we decided to get the complete tractor running, fit the 30 inch spoke centre wheel onto the parts tractor and hopefully towing it out with the other tractor a better area for truck access. My workmate had disconnected a rear brake that was stuck on and reckoned it may have been around two years since the tractor had been running but we didn't anticipate too many problems seeing the engine was not seized up and that we had a good rebuilt magneto to take with us to fire it up with. A date was set for the retrieval and after a few phone calls we had a willing crew of helpers ready to assist us; with some luck this was going to be one of the easier recoveries we had set out on. Once into the mill site we wasted no time in checking the two tractors out and noting the differences between the Geelong and Chicago built tractors, most notable being the engine blocks. The Geelong tractor had a noticeable recess cast into the LH side of the engine block to allow room for the injection pump governor housing when the engine block was used in diesel form in the AWD-6. There was another interesting piece of machinery at the mill site too, an ex army 4WD ''Blitz'' with a rear mounted crane for skidding logs out of the bush. A Blitz was one of those machines created out of necessity for military use based on Chevrolet or Ford mechanicals and known as a ''Canadian Military Pattern''. The cab was largely pressed flat steel panels which could be assembled quickly in any basic workshop. Regardless of whether the mechanicals were Chevrolet or Ford, the trucks were identical in appearance with a forward control cab and short protruding nose that housed the radiator. This particular example was Ford powered and utilised the good old side valve 8BA V8 engine housed in the basics of the original cab panels with the rest resembling an out house that had only just survived an F5 tornado going by the lean on it. Couple this with a chassis that had been repaired numerous times over many years in service and the chains around all 6 wheels (single rear axle with dual wheels) and you had a machine that looked like an extra in a Mad Max movie. Inside the cab you sat right beside the exposed old side valve V8 engine without any covers or insulation over it and in the passenger seat area sat the fuel tank, a good old 20 litre drum with a hose going to the fuel pump on the engine. This old beast had character and certainly got our interest up, naturally one of us had to ask if it still ran and were stunned when it fired up straight away and settled down to a healthy burble from the straight out exhaust pipes. It was then driven over to a stack of logs where the wire rope was payed out of the home made winch and soon proceeded to haul a log out of the stack then drag it to a clear area where it could be cut down with chain saws. Who knows how many foot of timber this old Blitz had dragged out of the bush for the owners or, what it did in its former life as a military truck but we were assured it was still far too useful to think of retiring yet.
December 2nd 2010
December 16th 2010