My IH-dominated tractor collection!

Posted by Chris Graham on 16th January 2020


Like many collections, a lack of space is the main problem! Having said that, we are lucky that everything we own is undercover. With the exception of the 92hp, DT-268-powered Case IH 4240 Pro, all of the tractors are 52hp or less

Following numerous requests from readers, the editor provides an overview of his family’s IH-dominated collection, and the companies used to obtain parts and specialist services for their upkeep

I am unsure whether the tractors and implements owned by my father, brother and I can be classed as a collection, but having looked up the definition, it’s as good a word as any. The Oxford Dictionary describes a collection as: “A group of things that have been collected.” This is appropriate in our case, but in my mind a collection is a grand affair – like the one Paul Rackham had!

Anyway, with that aside, we certainly never had an intention to own a collection – it began with one tractor and two ploughs and grew from there!

The roots of our fascination with tractors goes back to my grandfathers’ day, when one was a labourer and the other a smallholder. It was the latter, dad’s father, that owned a tractor for cultivating approximately 30 acres that he worked in the Cambridgeshire Fens and although my brother, Dale, and I were inundated with the sight of agricultural machinery around our village, it was grandfather’s 1951 Ferguson TE-D 20 that we would sit on every week and marvel at as dad or his brother worked up a sweat starting it on the handle!

Sadly, grandfather passed away when we were still at primary school and the tractor ended up on mum’s side of the family – which was a blessing, as we were still able to see it from time to time and it was at this point in its history that it had an engine overhaul. Our uncle used it to cultivate the ground in and around his Lincolnshire greenhouses, where its small size and good turning circle made it well suited to the job.

Fast forward to the year 2000 and we were lucky enough to be presented with the opportunity to take ownership of the TE-D 20, along with the Ferguson single- and two-furrow ploughs that had remained with it. This is how it all started!

This Ferguson TE-D 20, registered KEW 593 in 1951, was purchased by my grandfather when it was several years old, along with Ferguson single- and two-furrow ploughs

The tractor received a cosmetic makeover not long after it arrived ‘home’ and we also undertook a few minor jobs to the electrical system, but it was soon ready for its first outing at our local working day, where it attracted a good deal of attention – largely because it was a local tractor.

We were fortunate to be offered a space in a local farmer’s barn for the tractor and ploughs and for several years we used the two-furrow plough at various events and the single-furrow plough at an annual ‘digger day’ on 27 December. It was here that Dale and I would alternate between roles – one would drive the tractor and the other would pace up and down behind, making minor adjustments to the plough and taking photographs/video.

The novelty of this soon wore off, as you can probably imagine, but the gentleman that gave us space in his shed was also generous enough to let us use one of his tractor and plough combinations – of which there were many! There was always a Massey Ferguson to borrow, but he also had an Allis-Chalmers ED-40 Depthomatic, Farmall M, Fordson N, IH B-414 and others – so it was quite an education.

IH connection
Needless to say, the desire to own another tractor became a hot topic of conversation between my brother and I, and for a while we were adamant that our new steed would be a Massey Ferguson 65 MkII Multi-Power. I can’t remember exactly why we made this choice, but I do remember that we soon swayed towards another shade of red when we decided that it was only right that we should be following dad into an association with International Harvester (IH).

He started working for E. Hildred & Son Ltd. of Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, soon after leaving  school – but Hildred’s was taken over by Rustons – a company that would eventually end up selling International Harvester machinery and other equipment from branches across Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Following Rustons’ closure, he went on to work for Case IH dealer Collings Brothers of Abbotsley Ltd., and so there has been an IH thread in our family for many years.

We were adamant that we wanted something larger than a Ferguson as our next tractor and dad tried to persuade us that we should look for an International 523. He told us about examples that had worked locally and what a great tractor it was – ahead of its time and something different.

I have to confess that we weren’t convinced, but this is largely due to the fact that we had already made our minds up – an International 634 is what we needed! Once again, stories were told about how even a brand-new one would force employees and visitors to head outdoors if one was started in the showroom, or how a steam engine would start with less fuss, but we were undeterred and set about finding one.

We owned this 1971 IH 634 for 12 years and enjoyed it immensely, despite its appearance. It was used with an IH B1-42 plough equipped with ACE bodies and the two made for a great pairing

It was the end of 2005 when we eventually found one that fitted the bill in the Tractor Mart section of T&M, but there was a slight problem. It was in Kent! Thankfully, the price enabled us to factor in transportation costs and in February 2006 we became the proud owners of a tired-looking International 634, first registered in June 1971.

Anyone with experience of these tractors will tell you that it’s a vast lump of a thing, weighing in at 2,969kg (6,546lb) and having a total length of 3,516mm (11ft 6½in). You would expect it to produce at least 80hp, but it is rated at just 66hp. The torque, however, is phenomenal and the 634 will happily pull a four-furrow plough with ease.

We always knew that the 634 would be a long-term project, as it needed a lot of work to get it right. The engine was generally good, but we overhauled the fuel injection system and front axle before we did anything else. New tyres also went on, as there was no way we’d be able to work with it given the tyres it had on!

Plough pairing
The next step was to buy a plough and so we opted for an IH B1-42 heavy-duty four-furrow conventional with ACE bodies from Westlake Plough Parts, in September 2006. This proved to be a good match for the tractor, but immediately demonstrated that there were problems with the Vary-touch hydraulic system.

We eventually ended up buying parts from a donor tractor to rectify the problem and this enabled us to work the tractor and identify other problems that, over time, were sorted – leaving us with a mechanically sound, but ‘cosmetically challenged’ 634. It was always going to be a battle to get the tractor as we wanted it, but once we had got used to the starting procedure, it always brought a smile to our face.

It provided us with three years of enjoyment until we added another machine to the ranks. There was never an intention to buy another tractor – it just happened! With dad’s words still ringing in our ears about how we should have bought a 523, the subconscious must have been at work, as Dale called me one day to ask if I’d seen the example for sale in Tractor Mart.

There wasn’t a photograph and the description was minimal, but we decided it was worth further investigation. Dale called the vendor, Tim Matthews from Tibenham in Norfolk, and he kindly e-mailed some photographs for us to look at it. First impressions were good and we went to have a look at it in March 2009.

My Tractor Collection

The German-built IH 523 is, in many ways, the ‘jewel in the crown’! The 52hp D-179 engine is fantastic and the Agriomatic-S transmission was way ahead of its time. We are very lucky to have a tractor in such good, original condition. NVF 147F was built in August 1967 and first registered in October of that year

Tim’s description turned out to be spot on and so we made a deal, with the 523 delivered by a friend of ours a month later. When we saw it again we were pleased with our purchase, as although the clutch required attention and we were pretty sure the engine needed a full overhaul, it was completely original and unmolested.

Through contact with Norfolk Record Office, I learned that the tractor was originally registered to Frederick James Baldry of Shouldham Thorpe, near Kings Lynn, and despite several attempts to locate members of his family over the years, I drew a blank. If any readers recognise NVF 147F or know the original owner’s family, please get in touch (

Over the years, it has had a lot of money spent on it! The front axle has been overhauled, using a combination of off-the-shelf parts and bespoke items from HD Precision Engineering Ltd., the clutch was overhauled with a new disc and bearings from Kramp, and the engine was overhauled with parts supplied by and specialist labour from St. Ives Engine Services Ltd.

It has also received a hand-made seat to match the original, from Evans Upholstery & Trimming, and a new set of tyres from The British Rubber Company. At the time, Goodyear Sure Grip tyres were unavailable in the correct size, so we opted for a set of Mitas that best matched the style fitted to the 523 when new.

Relative rarity
A year later and we had bought another tractor! This time it was an International 276 – not a rarity, but not as common as its more powerful sibling, the 434. At this point we had decided that it would be a great idea to have the entire range of IH models from this period (276, 434, 523, 634 and 706) and as we already had two, why not go all out to get the set?

The 276 was an eBay purchase from Gloucestershire and was definitely a case of looking better in the photographs than in real life! That said, it was reasonably straight and definitely too good to paint, so we took the plunge and ended up with our third International.

The 37½hp IH 276 was built from 1968 to 1974 and this one, registered PDD 446G, dates from the first few months of production. It was sold by R A Lister & Co. Ltd. of Gloucester and first registered in September 1968. The tractor is seen here with a Huard-built IH B1-23 reversible plough with Classic forecarriage and bar-point bodies

Its history is interesting, as with a bit of research and help from T&M reader Chris Connett, I discovered that PDD 446G is believed to have been purchased new, from R A Lister & Co. Ltd. of Gloucester, by Miss Randall of Upton St. Leonards, Gloucestershire. It was fitted with an IH 24-1 loader and worked on her farm, which was renowned in the area for its pedigree Jersey cattle.

The tractor was entered into a sale, presumably when Miss Randall retired, where it was purchased by Don Tinsley. How long he kept the tractor and how many owners it had in subsequent years is unknown, but it has proved to be a reliable little machine that has been the subject of sympathetic improvement.

The mudguards, so often the subject of extensive rot on Bradford-built Internationals, were tatty and so we chose to have them repaired by B Gowler – our local fabricator. Other specialist work has seen the steering wheel restored by Steering Wheel Restoration, of Kent, and the tractormeter overhauled by Speedy Cables (London) Ltd.

The bushes in the hydraulic rocker shaft were replaced with new ones produced by HD Precision Engineering Ltd., following technical input from Bradford-built IH parts specialist Ian Dennison. New Goodyear Traction Sure Grip tyres, from The British Rubber Company, were the most expensive items fitted to the 276, but they look great and along with the two, hard-to-find front weights purchased from Patrick Edwards Ltd., complete ‘the look’.

Then came the realisation that we didn’t have an appropriate plough for the 523 and so we ended up purchasing a B1-32 – a three-furrow version of the B1-42 – from eBay, in June 2010. This too was equipped with ACE bodies and proved the ideal implement to match with the 523, both for its size and patina.

Saved from the scrapheap, this IH 6-5 grain drill was part of the collection for a few years before it was sold on. The 6-5 was a 21-row drill with a 2.6m (8ft 7in) working width that could be fitted with hoe or shoe-type coulters and weighed in at 433kg (955lb)

Hot on the heels of the B1-32, an IH 6-5 mounted drill joined the fray. This was the epitome of an impulse purchase, as I happened to be driving past the farm that it had been on for many years when I noticed that it was about to be cut in half by the scrap man!

A bit of negotiation later and it was soon in the shed, collecting dust! I never intended to recommission it, but I couldn’t bear to see it scrapped. The fact is that it took up space that we didn’t have and was eventually judged to be a hinderance by all three of us, so was sold three or four years later. It was purchased by a gentleman that wanted to use it for sowing grass seed and did appear for sale several years later – presumably after it had fulfilled its potential.

Lean, then keen
Then came a bit of a lean period. From late 2010 to the summer of 2015, we enjoyed what we had and the only things we bought were parts (new and used) and hard-to-find items that we tucked away for later use. September 2015, however, marked the arrival of another spree of acquiring machinery.

The first item was a Foster Loadmaster tandem-axle trailer from a local farm sale (the same farm that the 6-5 drill came from) and then, over the Christmas period, classifieds were thoroughly scanned and I ended up spotting a Massey Ferguson 797 reversible plough for sale in Kent.

Not an obvious fit, you might think, but it was an implement that we had experience of through a friend. He had used one to good effect behind his MF 35X and we liked the fact that it was both unusual and compact. Its compact dimensions are actually to its detriment, as although its minimal length means the tractor doesn’t need too much ballast at the front, the poor point-to-point clearance means burying trash can prove hard.

My Tractor Collection

CFG 826C, our B-414, was first registered in May 1965. The 40hp BD-154 engine, dual-range transmission and Vary-touch hydraulic system combine well to pull the Massey Ferguson 797 reversible plough. The 797 has a hydraulically-operated turnover mechanism, fed from the tractor’s tipping pipe and returned into the hydraulic system

Just three months later, in March 2016, another tractor arrived – a B-414 acquired from a deceased estate. Mick Evans was well known for his restorations and on the Lincolnshire match ploughing scene and we fortunate enough to be able to become the new owners of the B-414 that he had restored about 15 years earlier.

Mick had bought CFG 826C from Scotland as a project and spent many hours getting it to show condition. Today, it’s beginning to rust in a few places, but the fact that it has been restored for so long and used for ploughing matches is testament to Mick’s prowess with paint!

Five months on and we were raiding the coffers once more. I spotted an IH 120 mounted disc harrow for sale at Daniel Elcock Machinery, in Shropshire, and we took the plunge. The patina of the implement is what attracted me and the implement has been used at several working events since – behind several different tractors.

The most modern tractor in the fleet is a 1998 Case IH 4240 Pro, which joined from a local farm dispersal sale, conducted by Barry Hawkins Auctioneers, in September 2017. We were looking for a tractor with a 40kph transmission and although we had our hearts set on a Case IH 844XL or 856XL, finding a good one at the right price proved impossible.

In the time that we have had it, it’s had some powder coating on the front mudguard brackets and bonnet elements by KDS Ltd., of Peterborough, replacement bonnet decals, and the air conditioning has been overhauled by M-Tec Engineering (UK) Ltd. One of the rear tyres also had a bad sidewall cut, but this was repaired by Tyre Revivers Ltd. of Kettering.

It’s a good example of the 92hp model and has done just over 3,000 hours, having been first registered in July 1998. It transpires that dad carried out the tractor’s first service too, whilst at Collings Brothers of Abbotsley Ltd. – a point that had slipped his mind and one that was nice to discover after we had bought it.

Out with the old
The arrival of the 4240 meant even less space in the shed, so we decided that we’d have to thin the collection out a bit and after some deliberation we concluded that the 634 and B1-42 would have to go. They took up a lot of space, for one, but the fact that the 634 was going to take a long time to restore – time that we didn’t really have – made it an obvious contender for the chop.

The 634 was sold in March 2018, and the plough in December 2018, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about the tractor. The 634 is a phenomenal model – probably the best early classic I’ve ploughed with – and is a model that Dale and I would like to own again one day. If we do buy a 634, it’ll have to be in original condition, as we don’t have the time or patience to restore one!

The final tractor in the collection is an International 454 – an early example, fitted solely with the safety frame, first registered in February 1971. I had known about this tractor since I first saw it in Hertfordshire in September 2010 and was lucky enough to buy it from its original owner in May 2018.

The most recent purchase is an IH 454, sold new by Braceys of Benington, and also fitted with the D-179 three-cylinder engine. UAR 458J was first registered in February 1971 and has many features that typify early 454 and 574 models, including an alloy radiator grille, plate-type steps, a fold-up diff lock pedal, bolt-together safety frame and no ‘52’ horsepower decal on the side panels. In this photograph, Dale is using it in conjunction with the IH 120 disc harrow – an implement with a working width of 2.4m (7ft 6in) and a folding frame

Since UAR 458J has been in our ownership it’s had a good deal done to it, but there’s still a long way to go. The front axle was an accident waiting to happen, so that’s been overhauled with a mixture of items made at HD Precision Engineering Ltd. and off-the-shelf parts.

The levelling box was missing, so a used one was purchased from eBay, the radiator was re-cored at Kempston Radiators Ltd. in Bedfordshire and the Bosch dynamo has recently returned from its rebuild at Cox Auto Electrics in Warwickshire.

We also fitted a double-acting spool valve alongside the existing single-acting spool, as the 454 is destined to become our ‘materials handler’ when our Ripvator FL20 rear-mounted forklift goes on.

Last, but by no means least, is an IH B-12 two-furrow plough that we bought to accompany the B-414 and 276 in September 2018. Like the B1-32, it has ACE bodies and should prove to make a good combination when paired with the Bradford-built tractors.

There are no immediate plans to add to the collection but, as you will have come to understand, this has been the case more often than not!


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