If you walked out into a field of corn back in 1969 or ’70, you could find Bill Ploetz cultivating with his future wife riding on the fender. If you stopped to tell him that someday his father’s tractor would be capable of doing 70 miles per hour, you would probably get some strange looks.
But fast forward a few decades and that is just what this Portland, New York, resident did.
The Ford N-series was produced from 1939 to 1952, and the 8n was one of the most popular tractors before the imported 4×4 tractors hit the market — even if a quick ride around doesn’t spot a few still sitting around.
Power comes from a 1983 Mercury Marque 302. It had 19,000 miles on it but was full of sludge. He cleaned it out and put in a new oil pump and screen. An electronic ignition was added then an electric water pump. Ploetz said the engine made plenty of power for what he wanted to do so he did not modifications.
The old four-cylinder that the 302 replaced was part of the frame. It wasn’t a problem for the horsepower that it made but 220 is too much, so a cradle had to be made. Ploetz said that Ford used the same transmission spline for years, so after the spacer the engine slid right in. The clutch linkage had to be reworked to allow more travel in the throw-out bearing and it needed a special spacer to keep the starter motor from binding.
The throttle had to be reworked for a more progressive profile, as Ploetz said it would jump from 1,000 to 5,000 too quickly.
A broken piece of cast was on the inside of the rear end and it needed to go. Ploetz remembered his dad driving the tractor around while dragging one wheel, and that would not work for what he wants to do. He mated a ’58 rear end to his ’48 front end and that took care of the problem.
I was a commercial tire serviceman up until 2010, and, every once in a while, even I learn something new. Added weight in the tires is not calcium chloride, but beet molasses. Beet juice is heavier and nowhere near as corrosive.
As it sits now, beets and all, it is around 5,500 lbs. that adds up to too much traction in the back and not enough weight in the front. He plans to remove the weights and add beet juice to the front tires so the front will stay down.
For safety he added a seat belt and a roll bar. “On paper this thing will go 70,” Ploetz said. “I went up to about 35 and that’s fast enough for me. It is scary to drive.”
Future improvements include a larger radiator. After four pulls or so the engine gets too hot. The hood may be reworked to hinge open, then new paint.