A little while ago, some very generous friends offered us an old tractor that wasn’t suitable for their needs. We took delivery of the 1960s McCormick International Harvester A414 a few months ago, and while it mostly seemed to work, shortly after arriving some hydraulic lines blew-out, leaving the tractor unmovable. We contacted a couple of local mechanics to come out and have a look, generally receiving a response along the lines of “Fix it yourself.” While I’m not sure about how that works for them as a business model, it’s definitely in the spirit of the tractor, designed to be maintained, fixed and customised indefinitely with the assistance of a manual and some creativity.
After several weekends of tinkering, evenings of poring over manuals and the occasional visit to auto-parts shops, the mighty A414 roared into life. It handles like an ocean liner, sounds like a freight train and gets from 0-10km/h in a time comparable to the entire Jurassic Era, but boy, that slasher sliced through the dry grass of next winter’s reveg plantings like only spinning steel can.
While I’m not sure I’m yet enthusiastic enough about mechanics to make a bee-line for the stationary engine display at the Yankalilla Show, it’s definitely given me a new appreciation of machines built to last, and democratically, built to be repaired and maintained by generations of owners. We’re affectionately calling the tractor “Ross”, in honour of my diesel mechanic grandfather. He was a Massey Ferguson man, but hopefully he won’t mind.