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An Old Tractor Was Restored by My Friend, Dwight

Updated: Jul 7

My neighbor, and good friend, restored an old tractor into a beautiful machine.

About 200 yards down the road from my house lives my good friend and neighbor, Dwight Lovell. Dwight might look like a typical Alabama country boy all grown up, but maybe there is more to it than that.

This old Massey Harris tractor was restored by my friend.
Massey Harris Tractor

Dwight has always been a handy-man with a lot of skills. Back in the late 1990's he decided it would be fun to restore an old car, or truck, or tractor. Well the tractor idea seemed like it would not involve so much money so he decided to go that route.

This old Massey Harris Colt is looking good after being restored.
1953 Massey Harris Colt

Dwight's life long best friend Stanley is a big-time farmer and knows all about tractors and buying and selling tractors and driving tractors and just anything a man needs to know about a tractor.

The dashboard of a 1953 Massey Harris Colt tractor.
Tractor Dashboard

So back in 1998 Dwight talked to Stanley about restoring a tractor and Stan told him that he, Stan, had just what he, Dwight, needed. Seems that previously, a local farmer name Max had sold Stan the old, old tractor that he once used on his farm. It was a 1953 Massey Harris "Colt" model. Well it had actually been out of service and sitting and rusting away for a long time.

The specifications for the old Massey Harris tractor.
Spec Sheet and Pictures Hanging in the Shop

Well Stanley had paid 100 dollars for the old tractor so he sold it to his friend Dwight for the same price. Dwight said that when they pulled the old tractor over to his backyard shop, it was rusted so bad you couldn't even tell what color it was supposed to be and the tractor floor was covered in oak tree leaves and acorns.

The specifications poster for the old tractor.
Specs Poster

Dwight worked on the tractor for weeks before he even tied to crank it.

Dwight Lovell poses beside the 1953 Massey Harris that he restored.
Dwight and His Tractor

Dwight became familiar with some web sites where old tractor enthusiasts talked about buying and selling parts for old tractors. Dwight's tractor needed a new intake manifold. So Dwight learned about a man in Michigan who had one for sale. Dwight bought it for 100 dollars and had it shipped down to Alabama.

Working on the engine one day, him and Stanley found the timing mark on the flywheel and also found the plugs firing order stamped on the side of the engine. So they turned the motor and adjusted the firing button. Then they took a gallon jug and used it as a gas tank to see if the engine would start, and it did. Well the engine ran a little but it left a lot of work to be done before it ran properly.

The local tractor dealer sold Dwight a metal model of his tractor.
Model Tractor and the Antique Tractor

Later Dwight was talking to a tractor man in Nebraska about a rear hub. After Dwight answered some questions the man told him that one of the rear axles was not correct. Dwight's had seven lug nuts on one wheel and six on the other wheel. Seven was right for some Massey Harris tractors, but not for Dwight's model 21 Colt. The man had the correct axel that Dwight needed and was willing to sell it at a fair price. So Dwight asked him, "Well you are in Nebraska and I am in Alabama, so how can I get the axle from there to here.?"

The man asked, "Where in Alabama are you?" When Dwight said he was near Athens, Alabama, the man relied, "Well I know a man from Athens that comes to a lot of tractor shows. Why don't you call him and see if hew would be willing to deliver it." When he called the man's name it was one of Dwight's friends! So Dwight paid about 150 bucks for the axle and paid his friend 40 dollars to bring it back to Alabama from the next show.

The original Massey Harris tractor body panel that was replaced.
Original Body Panel

Dwight bought parts from different places over a period of 2 or 3 years. At that time there was a tractor salvage yard in nearby Decatur, Alabama and he got some parts there. He also told me that the paint was expensive - that he paid about 100 dollars just for the paint that he used to repaint it himself.

He also needed a cover for the access hole to the hydraulic tank (looks like a pretty radiator cap). He visited a salvage yard in Decatur where he saw an old tractor that had a cap/cover that would fit. He asked the man behind the counter how much he wanted for the part. The man said, "I can't sell that part. I am gonna restore that tractor." A few months later Dwight was there again and saw that the tractor had not been touched. A different man was behind the counter so Dwight asked him if the cap was for sale. The man said, "Sure". So Dwight asked the price and the man said, "A dollar." So Dwight paid a dollar for the part that was not for sale at all on a different day.

Since he finished the work on the tractor, he has taken it to many old tractor shows. His tractor story has been the subject of at least one local newspaper story. And the tractor is a pretty machine.

An Americana kind of life

Inside Dwight's shop he has mounted fish and old posters and signs and various pictures hanging on the walls. My favorite is a picture of his once-upon-a-time girlfriend, Debbie, sitting on a 1969 Dodge Charger. Dwight will tell you that he married the only girl he ever dated, Debbie.

The woman that Dwight would marry sitting on a 1969 Dodge Charger.
Dwight's Future Wife Sitting on a Dodge Charger

As a teen, Dwight graduated from Athens High School and soon join the U.S. Army National Guard. Dwight went on to serve 20 years in the guard. He made one tour of duty in South America, plus two in Panama, including Operation Just Cause in 1989 and 1990. Back at home he worked at couple of plumbing and electric service businesses for a short time before he became part of the maintenance department at Athens State University. He would later retire from working there after 43 years of service. He and Debbie now have one adult son, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren.

In Closing:

Americana is defined as "items that reflect American history and/or American culture". I have often said that old farms and old barns are a part of Americana. And so are old tractors. And the word Americana probably shouldn't be used to describe a person, but I have to ask myself - which is more Americana, Dwight's old tractor or the man who restored it?

Comments are welcomed here in the box at the bottom of this page. I really like reading those comments. You can ask questions there as well. I will try hard to give you a good answer.

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7 comentarios

22 jun

Once again a nice story and nice pictures. This story is like the stories that Charles Kuralt would tell on the CBS Sunday Morning, On the Road show when he was the host.

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22 jun
Contestando a

Thanks. That is a good compliment. I remember those stories...

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22 jun

Curious about the tires. Do they still make the same exact tires or did he have to get them custom made? The old ones were probably not usable anymore.

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22 jun
Contestando a

Thanks for the question!

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21 jun

Massey Harris was bought by Ferguson and was made for years, with considerable success, as Massey-Ferguson. As always thanks for the pictures!

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21 jun
Contestando a

Thank you for the information and taking time to comment!


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