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1954 Ford 850 Tractor w/blown Head Gasket (at the very least)

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Well might as well start back in with a bang, or pop, or hiss, whatever a blown gasket sounds like. This was my all time dumbest purchase a couple years ago. I bought it running on two of four cylinders, and didn't even notice!

I have an excuse, but well, I don't think you're going to have much sympathy.  Here goes anyway. I'm a John Deere owner -- a 1951 Model M, which I have worked on and with for a dozen years. It has been vital to our lives here, dug the foundation for the house, hauled logs to the sawmill, plowed snow, scooped the pond, plowed the garden, moved milling machines and everything else... I'm totally familiar with it, know its every mood and sound.

But then I see an ad in Masachusetts Craig's list for a Ford 850, complete with a backhoe and loader (my Model M only has a pathetic rope operated pond scoop. And it's 54 horsepower compared to the green tractor's 18 (not that I'm complaining about that -- that 18 was "real" horsepower) at a price I could afford.

So I traveled an hour to look at it -- the owner started it up and operated the hoe. It looked like hell -- all patches of different color paint and rust, no sheet metal on it (though stored and available with the tractor) and a lot of angle iron patches and cruddy looking farm welds. But it ran, the hoe worked, plus the guy would throw in a bunch of other odds and ends, a snow plow, extra loader, etc. and to top it off, he'd deliver it. So I put a deposit on it and waited eagerly for the arrival.

When it got here a week later, the former owner seemed to have a little trepidation about crossing our stream embankments to get it near my shed. That's no problem for the John Deere, but I figured he must have been worried about the weight of the boom, or something. He did a lot of revving before crossing the 6 inch deep stream and nearly stalled it out. A bit odd, but I thought maybe he was an inexperienced tractor owner (he lived in a split level ranch house with about a quarter acre plot -- why he had a tractor at all, I couldn't guess).

Well the long and short of it was, I eventually discovered only two cylinders were firing -- after he was gone with the money. Took me awhile to realize that, because, and herecomes the BIG EXCUSE:

I was used to the sound of my Model M. It has 2 cylinders and they fire 90 degrees apart. Hence the common name "Johnny Popper" for these tractors. The Ford sounded okay to me when idled at the owner's house. Not too diffeent than the Deere. I of course hadn't brought a gauge with me to check compression, and never even pulled a plug wire while it was running to make sure it slowed. Just blithely assumed he'd mention something as important as half the engine being dead!

Dumb!!!  :bang: :hammer: :loco: :palm:

Winter snows came early, and I ended up just covering over the tractor with a tarp -- worried I had valve problems after checking compression with oil, etc. or other bad news.

Anyway, two years later, here I am, pulled the head and low and behold, a blown head gasket -- that should be an easy fix!!

Well not quite. Checked the head and it's about 12 thou warped in the middle pulling up off the deck where the blow was right between the center cylinders.

So I'm thinking about what to do about it. Which is why I started to look for that fly cutter I though I'd made last year, but probably didn't.

Anyway, open to all suggestions and help on this -- I'm happy casting iron and building little engines from scratch, but worried about screwing up a real one, for some reason.

I set the head up on the mill to see if I had enough travel. No, I don't.

Travel is about a half inch short of the length of the head.

Steve, if your travel is only 1/2" short, then a generously sized fly cutter will easily cover it all. As I'm sure you know, you need as much mass as reasonably possible in the body of the cutter. I've had good results with a suitably mounted cast iron 'chuck back plate' with the tool bit mounted in a drilling about 1/2" from the edge and secured with a radial allen cap screw.

Has the block suffered in any way? I'd be very tempted to test it with blue and a suitably flat bit of float glass. Quite likely to be somewhat eroded between those two cylinders.

Not familiar with the Ford 850 - may be it didn't get to this side of the pond. I've just sold my 1954 Fordson Power Major, so just have the Ford 4000 (1974) for all the field work. However as I am in the process of fitting a Twose 276 Hedge Flail I needed a cab to protect me from the flying bits. No suitable cabs at sensible prices turned up locally, so I've committed as of yesterday to buying a 1979 Ford 4600 which already has a 'Q Cab' fitted - sheer luxury  :ddb: When I've proved it hasn't got issues (we all know they only show up AFTER the sale !) I'll sell the 4000, in fact there's already someone locally knocking on the door demanding it

Just googled Ford 850 and found a forum maybe there can be some help there?

Thanks Andrew, Sid. :beer:

Andrew, I've done just fly cutter work on the iron I cast last year, and the steam engine conversion head. But never attempted a full size automotive head. So I don't have a lot of experience with flycutters, other than the few problems I've come across, ie this is coming from machinist ignorance.

So I don't know how you start a large fly cutter that is already overlapping one end of the head. Do you just come down in Z and start cutting in the first quarter of the work? Then the most of the back part will be cutting on the back side of the fly cutter. And the middle of the block will probably show tooling marks from the back and forward side of the cutter. Finally the far end will show tooling marks from the forward side of the cutter. Then do you lift the spindle, or switch off to return to the starting position to take another pass?

So if the fly cutter is 2-1/2" radiuus and the head is 1/2" longer than travel, I would need to start cutting 2-3/4" minimum in from the starting end.

The local old timey machinist in town told me that to cut a head I should have a tiny amount of forward tilt to the spindle, but not too much or it would make a gouge shaped cut. Not sure if I believe forward tilt is good, seems like it would cause problems if I tried to start past the end of a block in this case, since one end would be cut only by the leading portion of the fly cutter and one the trailing edge, and they would be a "tiny amount" different. "But not too much..."

Seems like I'd want it trammed as perpendicular as I can manage, instead? But like I said, I'm coming form ignorance here, please chime in.

Thanks Sid for the forum reference -- I do know about those forums and have even been on them before, but they generally come from a "bring it to a valve shop" perspective or "buy a new one". They generally aren't home shop machinists trying to learn to increase their skills. I kind of figured MM might be the place to ask people for help, since you'd understand why I'd ever want to do this myself without specialized equipment, or by using archaic methods!

I've even considered hand scraping, since I built my lathe that way, but sure wouldn't want to scrape .012" off. If I could get the head milled close enough to scrape to final bearing that would be do-able.

I've also read about the need for special surface roughness required now to accommodate  gaskets in modern tight tolerance engines, where hand scraping came up as a topic on Practical Machinist forum.

But I wonder if that would really be a problem -- this is an early 50's tractor engine, and compression is in the 6 to 1 range. I'm sure I could roughen it, also, if need be.

Andrew, the center where the gasket blow was is definitely lower, but it seems to be a relatively uniform bow out to the ends of the head. I put an indicator in the mill collet and traversed the head and there isn't a sudden dip in the middle. Total bow is about .012" IN 21 inches.

I have also read some about localized heating of the upper(convex)  surface of a head while applying pressures from the ends of a head to remove or reduce a warp. Localized heating seems a little risky with cast iron, and I think they were talking abou a greater degree of warp than I have.

In case you want to see the 850, as purchased where it stood, here it is in all its glory! Notice the pickup truck snow plow with its lift gear way out on the end of the loader arms.... must have been tough maneuvering that way! I thinke he only plowed his 30 foot blacktop driveway with it.


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