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A couple of years ago, I bought a Big Ten with attachments, largely because I wanted the tiller, rear PTO and tine extensions that were a part of the package.  It had been spray-painted green, without masking, and the engine had not run in several years.  But, the complete set of attachments (snowblower, 42" deck and tiller), the hydraulic lift, and the price convinced me to drive almost 5 hours, one way, to pick it up.   I put the attachments into use, and the tractor was parked, waiting ...  The next summer, Dave Christensen posted an ad to sell the Big Ten (shown just below), minus engine, with an incomplete, rare Hi/Lo pulley setup.  The Hi/Lo convinced me to drive about 3 hours over to Dave's house and pick it up -- and of course I had to make it worth my while -- so also I picked up a B-112 parts tractor (to complement my B-210) and a bunch of smaller stuff....

Click for a closer view

Before -- chassis with Hi/Lo (missing the correct shift linkage) and no engine

NOTE: I don't have pictures of the ENTIRE process, because I bought my digital camera  after I'd begun the project.

Click for a closer view

Before -- manual lift was also replaced with hydraulic, as were some of the sheet metal and other pieces

Before I could find time to start combining the two, I stumbled across another "deal."  This time I bought another running Big Ten, less the transmission/rear end, but also with the desirable hydraulic lift.  Included in the lot was a B-1 in SAD shape, several non-running engines, and several attachments.  All of a sudden, I had lots of parts, and no room.... Rather than fooling with the first, complete Big Ten that had sat for so long, I decided to quickly combine the second and third ones, and get a good tractor in operation.  (I still have the complete, original one with its horrid green paint job.) 

This is a story of that project, crammed into my busy schedule. My goal was to produce a good, working tractor -- not a show tractor -- that I'd still be proud of... and get it done and ready for winter use. It is not a "restoration" but more a "resurrection."  This is a story of that project, though not a step-by-step.  I'm sure others would do things very differently -- I have a farmer's heritage, after all ...

I had already removed the High-Low pulley, disassembled it, checked it out.  By placing an ad looking for parts on the site, I happened to "connect" with a club member who'd bought a similar pulley, minus the mounting bracket, but otherwise complete.   I had the bracket, but no shift lever.  So, I loaned him my bracket for him to fabricate a matching one, and in return, he made a shift lever for me -- what a deal!

I began by removing the front of the tractor above, down to the frame.  Then I rolled it out of the barn, soaked it well with Gunk degreaser, and cleaned it as good as I could.  After it dried, I rolled it back in, drained the gear oil out of the transmission, and stood the tractor up on its rear 3-point hitch.  (Note that it had no engine!)  This allowed me to remove the front axle, reinforcing plate and all supports, the footrests, and the steering gear.  I scraped and then used mineral spirits to remove all grease and oil, then sanded the frame as needed.  I primed all areas where bare metal was showing using Rustoleum's gray automotive primer, and spray painted it with American Accents (made by Rustoleum).  The color is Brilliant Yellow. 

I prepped and painted the "bulkhead" separately.  There was quite a bit of surface rust and pitting around the battery, so after sanding it, I prepped it with Naval Jelly Rust Conversion spray, then primed it with Rustoleum brown Rusty Metal (zinc oxide) primer.  Note that I am NOT a fan of this primer for two reasons: 1) it is hard to cover if you're spraying a light colored paint, and 2) it does not seem to adhere nearly as well as to the automotive-type primer. I've had it peel off down to bare metal on a couple of occasions.  In this case, I thought the extra rust prevention was worth it.

With all these pieces out of the way, I also washed the all the accessible areas of the rear end and transmission with mineral spirits (using a parts cleaning brush and wiping it off with rags) to completely degrease them, and lightly sanded what parts I could get to easily.  Then I washed it again with mineral spirits to remove any dust, and spray-painted the underside.  Then, I turned my attention to the front axle.  I removed and checked the spindles for wear.  Though slightly worn, there were no pits nor burrs, and they seemed fairly tight in the bushings.  But, there was considerable "slop" up and down in each side.  I added an extra thin washer to the top of the right spindle below the circlip, and tightened the left one by placing a large socket over the top of the spindle and driving the short steering arm farther down on the shaft.  This tightened them considerably.  I didn't bother servicing the wheel bearings at that time, because I was planning on replacing the front wheels and tires later anyway. 

I found that the bracket that holds the rear end of the front axle's "wishbone" was worn very badly, with the hole elongated into a oval.  It had even worn a groove in the wishbone itself.  Luckily, I had (among my many pieces/parts) a bracket that had a thick steel bushing welded to the back of it (don't know if it was original, or someone else's repair), so that the wishbone rode in this bushing and not just the angle-iron bracket itself.  Since the wear in the wishbone was where it passed through the bracket, the area at the very rear tip that rode inside this bushing was not worn at all -- that tightened it up as good as new and it should be MUCH more durable.  I cleaned, sanded, primered and painted all these pieces individually.  Then I reattached the axle to the tractor, complete with a new washer on the large axle pivot bolt.  I selected the least-worn of the steering gears from the two tractors, painted it and installed it.  I masked off the treads on the footrests, prepped and painted them, then reinstalled them.  Finally, I reinstalled the bulkhead loosely (only a couple of bolts -- just in case I needed to remove it again), installed the steering shaft with a new bushing without the collar (in case I needed to remove the bulkhead), and adjusted the backlash on the steering gear as best as I could.  This is MUCH easier to do with the tractor standing on its rear end!  Once that was done, I lowered the tractor back down on four wheels, jammed an old steering wheel on the steering shaft (I'd been using a pair of vice grips on the steering shaft while making adjustments), and rolled it out to take the pictures below.  I also refilled the tranny and topped off the bevel gear box with gear oil.

Click each picture for a closer view


1.  I had also painted the driveshaft black, using Rustoleum spray paint, and reattached it to the bevel gear box.

2. The Ho/Lo pulley is shown installed only as a "test fit" prior to painting it black also.  I was trying to determine where the bracket that holds the shift lever attaches to the frame.

Meanwhile, as all this paint and primer was drying, I had begun disassembling the other "donor" tractor.  I removed the engine and hydraulic lift, in addition to all the sheet metal, stripping it down to a frame held together by the bevel gear box.  I pulled the sheet metal off the engine and found a coffee can full of mouse nests!  I then pulled the head to check for damage or wear in the cylinder.  There were no significant ridges, nor scoring of the cylinder walls, so I simply cleaned all the carbon out and reinstalled a new head gasket.  These old Briggs are tough -- the cooling air flow must have been reduced to a small fraction of what it should be!  Once I reinstalled the head, I carefully washed the engine block down with mineral spirits, prepped it and painted it yellow.  It took considerable sanding to get the sheet metal smooth, before washing it with mineral spirits, spraying grey automotive primer, then painting it yellow. (NOTE:  Big Tens were the last of the yellow engines and transmissions -- B-12s and late-model 10HP B-10s had a black engine and transmission.)  It will be interesting to see how this general purpose paint holds up to engine heat over time, but since I had no source for high-temperature paint in the same shade of yellow, I went ahead and used it. 

Click for a closer view

At the same time, I was prepping and painting the hydraulic lift off the donor tractor.  Note that one of the very positive things about this hydraulic lift is that it is totally self-contained, and you do not need to "break any seal" and risk introducing air, dirt or any other contaminant into the system.  The pump, reservoir and controls are one assembly, held in by three bolts in the bulkhead.  As shown at the left, the double-action cylinder mounts to the same arms as the rear lift.  The other end, not shown, connects to a special bracket that mounts to the top two bolts in the front of the bevel gear box, above the yoke for the driveshaft.  By the way, these systems use 30W motor oil instead of hydraulic fluid. 
Once the hydraulic lift was installed, I installed the engine and connected the driveshaft.  The hydraulic pump is driven by a small 4" cast iron pulley that mounts between the driveshaft and the larger pulley that drives the starter-generator.  Note that there are complete Field Installation Instructions for the hydraulic lift already posted on the site.  Once the tractor's engine and hydraulic lift were installed, and the pulleys aligned correctly, I permanently installed the bolts that mount the bulkhead to the frame, adjusted the pump's drive belt tension, and added the top frame panel over the bevel gearbox, around the shifter. 

NOTE: The tractors that came from the factory with hydraulic lift use a shorter shaft on the lift mechanism, since no left lift handle was needed.  I did not "swap out" the long shaft for the shorter one, and you can see it sticking out in the picture to the right.  Without the lift handle, it is much more noticeable. Field installations did not replace this longer shaft, so I left it in.  Looking back, I wish I had transferred the shorter lift shaft from the donor tractor.

Click for a closer view

Click for a closer view

The picture at the left shows the engine installed, and the front grille/hood frame also installed.  Note that I did not mask off the decals on the lift controls and paint it.  Instead, I used a small paintbrush later, and painted the top, curved bar with the same black Rustoleum paint used elsewhere.  It may have been possible to mask off the unpainted parts, but I couldn't figure out an easy way to do so -- and I didn't want to open up any hydraulic lines and disassemble the controls.  Similarly, I painted the engine without the carburetor installed.  The engine had no carb when I bought it, and rather than have to mask it, I just waited to install a used one. The center PTO controls shown on the left were also later "swapped out" with ones that I painted black.
Next, I turned to some of the "cosmetics" just so I could see the results, and keep motivated to continue this time-consuming task.  I selected the best of the two grilles and cleaned it, using size "00" steel wool, then spray-painted with "shiny silver" paint.  There was a hole cut in the grille up high, above the top cross-member o I simply moved the Allis-Chalmers emblem up and installed it to cover the hole.  Similarly, I selected the nicest of the chrome side bars for the grille, scrubbed the rust and pitting off using the "00" steel wool, and then polished them with chrome polish. 

You can also see the voltage regulator, with its cover repainted black.  Similarly, you can see the duct tape that I used to mask off the front of the engine's main-shaft.  This served two purposes -- it kept me from losing the key that holds the pulley, and it protected the shaft while I was using vice grips on it to turn the engine over while I was painting it, and later while installing the tractor's driveshaft and tightening down the bolts.

I later replaced the aftermarket muffler with an OEM-style "coffee can" muffler, made by Nelson.  These mufflers, shown in the finished photographs, are still available from Simplicity dealers for about $40.

Click for a closer view

Click for a closer view

Here's another view of this status, with the repainted starter-generator and mount now visible.  I now wish that I had taken "before" pictures of the chrome strips so you could see how well they cleaned up with the "00" steel wool.  Note that coarser steel wool will likely scratch the chrome, while "00" is about the same abrasiveness as "Brillo" brand scouring-pads.

I later took a small, artist-size paintbrush and painted all the bolt heads on the tractor, including the rusty engine head bolts.  I purchased new stainless steel sheet metal screws for attaching the chrome grille strips and the rear fenders, but I couldn't find either stainless or cadmium-plated ones to replace the "common" steel ones that were on the tractor.  Note that one of Allis-Chalmers original sales points was the use of cadmium bolts to assemble the tractor from individually-painted pieces, rather than assembling the tractor, then painting it, including the bolts.  Sadly, over the years many of these cadmium-plated bolts had been replaced by unpainted steel -- now rusty!

Next, I turned my attention to the rear of the tractor.  I spray-painted the top and sides of the transmission, bevel gear box, linkages, etc.  I removed and spray-painted the High-Low pulley black (which it was originally) and re-installed it.  Note that I was lucky enough to find two new "pivots" -- the shiny aluminum connectors that connect the pulley's shift linkage to the pulley itself.  These parts are listed as NLA -- No Longer Available.  I could only obtain one of the little hard-rubber "buttons" (also NLA) that are used inside these pivots to dampen noise and vibration.  I had to make the other one, but at least I had a new "pattern" to follow.  I purchased a solid rubber test tube stopper and carefully carved it down to fit, using an "X-acto knife."  I also used the knife to carefully cut the necessary groove down the center of this button. 

Click for a closer view

Click for a closer view

I had already disassembled the High/Low pulley itself, checked it for wear, and replaced the grease.  These pulleys use several small, straight gears to perform the "gear reduction."  These gears wear on one end only, where they engage and disengage the larger drive gear inside the pulley.  According to Al Eden, you can simply turn these small gears around on their shafts, so that the other end of the gear wears.  I turned these over, as a part of my servicing.  Note that the kind person who fabricated my shift rod also fabricated a new set of "shift fingers."  This is the U-shaped piece of black metal held on by the two bolts in the top center.  It pushes the pulley in toward the transmission when you shift into High Range.  When in High Range, the visible outside hub does not turn, and the fingers help prevent that.  When in Low Range the entire pulley turns, and runs in the grooves in the pivots and the buttons inside them.  You can see the "brown circle" where the flange on the puller rides in those grooves.

I've heard some people criticize these pulleys, and I can't speak for this one's durability at this point.  However, I'm VERY pleased with this one so far.  It gives three quite usable gear ratios to work with: 1st-High, 2nd-Low, and 2nd-High.  3rd-Low is useful for moving around the yard or hauling things in the yard.  3rd-High is a true "road gear" that's almost too fast for my rough yard (at high throttle, any way), while 1st-Low is a true "creeper gear," very useful for tilling.

Having used both my B-210 and this Big Ten with my Johnny Bucket, I think this pulley setup transfers much more power to the ground than the Vari-Shift on my B-210.  I really like the Vari-Shift for mowing, but that's about it -- it doesn't feel like it has the low-end torque and "brute force" that this one has. (This is NOT an issue of traction -- I had my lug tires and extra weight on each tractor when using the bucket.)  I'm anxious to play with this one this winter, pushing snow with the heavy-duty dozer blade that I found this summer.
While the paint on the rear of the tractor was curing, I shifted my attention back to the front of the tractor.  This picture shows the carburetor and air cleaner installed, along with a test fitting of the dash with an old hood.  Note that I originally painted the air cleaner yellow, like an early B-10, only to find out that some Big Tens (and all late B-10s and B-12s) had black air cleaners.  I repainted it black later.  What sent me looking was the new white decals for the air cleaner....

Also visible in this picture is the black PTO linkage, which it was originally, according to the brochure on the site.  Note, however, that this brochure also shows (on the cover and scattered throughout) a Big Ten with a YELLOW dash -- which is a BIG mystery to me, unless it was pictures of a test "mule."

Click for a closer view

The dash was painted with Dupli-Color Truck, Van and RV spray paint, shade T-205W, Wimbleton White.  This is slightly off-white, but not nearly as dark and yellow as the original AC Cream.  It matches the nice sewn, pleated seats that I purchased from Sandy Lake Implement quite well.  You can see those seats best in the gallery photos, linked at the end of this story.

Click for a closer view

Slightly visible above, and clearly shown at the left is my reproduction front/rear ball hitch.  I had not tried fitting it to my B-210 since I had the mower deck on it, so I took another "motivational timeout" to try installing it on the Big Ten.

Talk about a handy attachment -- it fits both the front and rear, and mounts using only the normal two hitch pins on either end.  I learned the value of having a front, "spotting hitch" this past weekend when I finally cleared enough old tractors out of my barn (they're now stored underneath it) to put my fishing boat in for the first time.  Putting a 78" wide boat in an 84" garage door was a breeze....

Next, it was time to paint the rest of body parts.  In each case, I selected the best piece from either of the two tractors, sanded, primed with automotive primer, and then painted.  I wet-sanded the top surface of these primered parts, and sprayed primer again, filling the little pits, though I hadn't bothered doing that with the frame.  Then I spray-painted them with 4 or 5 light coats of yellow paint.  Knowing how it must endure (and also reflect) sunlight, I "color-sanded" the hood, lightly wet-sanding the paint between coats.  I didn't bother wet-sanding the undersides of these parts.  Finally, I sprayed at least 2 light coats of American Accents (same brand as the yellow paint) clearcoat.  I hung all the body parts up to air-dry for at least 24 hours between coats. 

Click for a closer view

Also barely visible under all the mess and paint cans at the bottom of this shot of my overflowing barn are both the ugly green Big Ten that started all this and a B-1, waiting their turns.  My nine year old son now wants me to build one of these for him -- I haven't decided which one to tackle next -- but that's likely next summer's project in my unheated barn.   The best part is that now that it is a "father and son" project, my hobby now has my wife's full endorsement!

Click for a closer view

This picture shows the first test fitting of the hood and headlights, both freshly painted.  The headlights are new, taken off an unknown brand of imported (Chinese?) compact tractor -- it was blue, is all I know.  I bought them off eBay for about the same price as a pair of NAPA (i.e. quality) rubber utility lights.  (I have a set of cheap WalMart rubber utility lights on my B-210 and am not very pleased with them -- I can't keep them tight from my constantly rubbing into my evergreen shrubs when mowing.

I really like the fluted lenses, and the "bug-eyed" look that the larger size provides.  These are dual-beam, with high and low beams.  I purchased an aftermarket two-position pull switch, and wired it so that the first position is "low beam" and fully out it is "high beam."  One challenge, though, was sufficient hood clearance because of their size. 

After this trial fitting, I had to remove the lights and light mounting bar, and bend the tips of the light bar down for more clearance.  Because the light bar is made of 3/8" stamped steel, I had to put the bar in my vise and heat it with a propane torch to get it to bend.  Then, another trial fitting, and then remove it again and repaint it where I'd just burned the paint off.  Throughout this entire project, I had several instances of this "one step forward, three steps back..." 
Once the sheet metal was painted, it was time to add the decals that I purchased from Wells Implement.  I used a spray-bottle holding water with a couple drops of soap to wet each area then installed the appropriate decal.  This allows you to slide the decal around slightly until it is located "just so!"  Then, I "chased" any water bubbles out from under the decal to the edges, using a small "squeegee."  Overall, this worked well, but some decals, particularly the dash (shown at the right) were made of such thick material that it was difficult to get ALL the water bubbles out.  I'm still using my thumb and chasing the bubbles out one at a time. 

This picture shows the dash assembled (except for the new light switch), ready for permanent installation on the tractor.  Both the dashes on these two donor tractors had the extra hole in the top of the dash, but neither had anything mounted in it.  I suspect that the hole was for a toggle switch, for lights perhaps, but I used the large hole that's barely visible (the decal covers it, and is not cut out yet) just below the leather key fob.

Click for a closer view

Click for a closer view

NOTE: The black steering wheel is NOT correct for a Big Ten.  It should be white, but I found a black one in fairly good shape -- all my white ones were badly cracked and broken.

The most difficult decals for me to  install were the long thin Allis-Chalmers logos down each side of the hood.  It was a challenge for me to get them running perfectly straight.  I'm disappointed with one side of my hood, but "Oh, well!"  The decal kit came complete with the engine decals.  The decals for the optional hydraulic lift were an additional price, but Mark Wells "threw in" the decal for the optional High-Low shift pattern.  The new decals make a huge difference in the way the tractor looks -- and the smiles it brings to my face.  I consider the price as money well spent.

At this point, I connected all the wiring, installed new points, plug and condenser, and finally tried started the tractor -- what a pleasure to hear it run!  I had some temporary hassle with the "kill switch" but finally discovered that I'd pinched the wire that grounds out the points when I installed the dash and tightened down the bolts that hold the sides to the bulkhead.


Next, I started to reassemble the rear of the tractor, starting with the seat deck, fenders and the new seat.  I had found a old tractor tool box on eBay that caught my eye because of the "angled" bottom on it.  These angles compliment the angles of the rear fenders.  (I have no idea what it came off, but it was red....)  As a part of my "parts tractor buy," I had also gotten a badly rusted old rear tractor light.  This one also intrigued me -- it too is dual element.  It has the normal utility rear light, but it also has a small, colored tail light bulb that shines through a round hole in the reflective coating of the utility light bulb.  There's a small toggle switch on the top of the light's housing that switches it from one mode to another -- a colored taillight for the street, or a utility light for working.  The dash-mounted switch simply applies the power, while the toggle switch on the light determines the mode.

I had to fabricate a mounting bracket for both the toolbox and the light.  I purchased a 48" piece of flat stock, 1/8" thick and 1" wide, and cut it to length.  Then I put it in my vise, heated it with a propane torch and twisted one end 90 degrees to provide a horizontal mounting surface for the light.  After drilling holes, primering and painting it yellow, I mounted it and the toolbox to the bottom mounting bolts for the seat back.  The toolbox also mounts with the upper mounting bolts of the seat back. 

I ran the electrical wire for the rear light through a clear, flexible tube to protect it  and "zip-tied" it to the bottom of the bracket mounted on top of the tranny that supports the seat and rear fenders.  Each end of that clear tubing is clamped in place with a rubber-coated clamp for electrical lines.

Click for a closer view


1. This picture also shows the air cleaner, repainted to its correct black color, and the appropriate decals installed.

2. While I was at it, I fixed a common problem with these seats -- "drooping" armrests.  Approximately 3" out from the end of the toolbox on each side, I drilled a hole in the light mounting bar and a corresponding hole in each tube (also now painted silver -- they were too rusty to salvage the chrome) that holds up each armrest.  Then I bolted the light bar and the tube together on each side.  These armrests are now solidly upright!

Click for a closer view


The final steps were to replace the old muffler with the new, original-style one, and to replace the tires and wheels all around, replacing the worn wheel bearings.  There are more pictures of the finished tractor in the gallery, as I was preparing for the recent New England club gathering. 

I'm quite pleased with the results.  It think it is a good-looking, hard-working tractor.  I've already used it quite a bit with my Johnny Bucket (in addition to other minor chores) to grade the old horse stalls underneath by barn to make room for storing all my parts tractors (out of the Missus' sight -- smile!).  I'm now prepping it for winter snow plowing and  snowblowing.

I'd like to thank the many club members who contributed to this project with their answers to questions, parts, and advice.  Without a resource like this club, this could never have happened!  I also hope this long story is of value to another club member -- it is not a "how-to" article -- others know much better than I how to do this.  Instead, it is a "diary" that shows that this is a project that anyone with little skills, but a bit of patience, can successfully complete.  Hopefully it will help encourage others to resurrect some of these tough old tractors!  I think you'll pleased with the result....

11 Oct 2001



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