Reviving the Past

Reviving the Past

Ben Harlow rescued a 1948 Gibson tractor from a neighbor’s overgrown field, took it apart and put it back together again. Ben’s tractor could probably win awards at shows but he prefers to use it as intended, in the field.

Full Transcript

[Announcer] Throughout the inland Northwest, there are people like Ben Harlow. Mechanically minded people peeking around corners, lifting up tarps and asking the right questions.

Actually, I was tipped off on it by an old neighbor of my mine.

[Announcer] Hoping to rescue a piece of rusting history from the clutches of overgrown grass, or a forgotten corner in a farmer’s shop.

When I found it that day, I saw that the cover was off the transmission and there was gears around, and my mind just started going that there’s definitely potential here, and it doesn’t look that bad, it can be fixed.

[Announcer] What Ben unearthed that day was a 1948 Gibson tractor.

You can pull plows behind it and blades and other things. Well I was particularly interested in the sickle bar that it had, and I thought that’d be really handy to hay and to keep the grass down because I didn’t really have anything like that in my shed. And it was just a neat piece. There’s lots of design and character style that you just don’t see that often. For me, there’s usually been an incentive to get into things that require a little bit of sweat equity.

[Announcer] After just a casual stroll around Ben’s shop, one could even argue that perhaps it’s mandatory.

So the first I wanted to do if see if the engine would turn over, see if I could even get the engine to run. You know, spending an hour or two on the engine got it to start right up. It was a pretty amazing moment, and just seemed like the whole spirit of tractor was happier.

[Announcer] Now that it was running, it was time to tackle the transmission.

Had just posted some pictures about this tractor and just mentioned I’m looking for this type of BorgWarner transmission. And lo and behold, some person I had never met that was into other tractors, said you know, I think I’ve got one of those sitting on my shelf. Then I just thought, well, why stop there? It’s just a series of parts. I could start disassembling them, cleaning them and just put a fresh coat of paint on everything. The tiller steer is pretty interesting, just the single lever to steer with. My wife likes to call it the widow maker tractor because she thinks that would be harder to operate than a steering wheel, but I have described it as, well, you could basically lose one arm running the machine and you’d still have a good arm to steer it. Well, you just have to get yourself in a 1940s mindset when you’re operating it. Because there’s only a certain amount of work you can do with it or a certain way of working it that the tractor is going to agree with the best. I think what I really like about operating this tractor is just the greater sense of understanding you have to have operating this equipment.

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