So we bought a wood and didn't have much money left - but needed a tractor to do the huge amount of work required to improve the woodland, make it better for wildlife and make it safe for people to visit and enjoy.
A local farm auction had a Massey Ferguson 188 tractor for sale. We had been looking at older "Classic" machines, but people wanted silly money for old wrecks with cracked engine blocks. We also knew we'd need a front loader, and this one fitted the bill. So, a few hours standing in a field, bidding, winning the bid, and handing over a wad of cash, we were the proud owners of a tractor! It was about 2-3 years old when registered in 1979, making it about 30 or 31 years old, but only had 5000 hours, and the engine seemed sound, despite almost every part being caked in 30 years worth of silage to a depth of several inches.
Neither of us had ever driven a tractor before, and Stephen had a practice round the farmer's field before venturing out onto the road, with me and his brother in the car behind, hazards flashing, while he got the hang of changing gear. Fortunately it was only a few miles from home, and we got home without incident. Now we had a tractor on the patio! This caused a bit of a stir with the neighbours, not to mention a slight inconvenience to some of the plants, but provided the kittens with a great climbing frame.
It needed a lot of work. It looked as if most of the fluids had never been changed, and the hydraulics were leaking more than a bit. Removal of the accumulated silage and cow poo took a lot of work - many pressure washings, together with much scraping with screwdrivers and trowels. We had no idea how to go about getting parts, but we got rapidly familiar with the local tractor spares dealership, and various tractor online web sites.
As well as a mechanical overhaul, we decided to re-spray it and make it look a bit more spruce, and also repair some of the rust holes with the new paint protecting against re-rusting. This was a major undertaking, with most of the family pitching in to sand down and re-spray various parts. There was quite a lot of bodywork re-fabrication required, including welding body panels, and structural welding on the front loader support mounting. New badges were not essential, but looked good, and the tractor required re-wiring so the lights could be made to function. New hydraulic hoses reduced the leak to a small drip. The cab was damaged beyond repair, and the frame had rusted away to nothing, so we just made do with the safety frame when re-assembling.
This has got to be one of the ultimate big boy's (and girl's) toys!
Here, in photos, is the ongoing story of its restoration... and the superb rotary slasher we acquired in Spring 2008 for bramble clearance