Paul Stevenson has realised his dream of owning a big US-built International
THE BIG RED ONE
A fan of six-cylinder Internationals ever since he saw a contractor direct drilling with a 955 in the early 1980s, Cleveland farmer Paul Stevenson’s ambition of owning an American-built IH has recently been realised. Rory Day reports.
Farming 310 acres with his father, William, at South Loftus, near Saltburn-on-Sea, Farm View contributor Paul Stevenson has fond memories of International Harvester tractors that go back to him sitting on a ‘Snoopy’ at the Yorkshire Show when he was just eight years old. The feeling has endured and he has owned a Case-IH 1255XL since 2003 and a Case-IH MX135 since 2004.
After buying the Case-IH 1255XL, however, he decided what he really wanted was an American-built IH. This would only be to play with, rather than to put to work, and he considered something like a two-wheel drive IH 1466 from the early 1970s would be ideal. Last year, however, Paul ended up buying a larger and more recent IH 5288 that was built in the first half of the 1980s.
In fact, it was a tractor that he knew well as it had been operated by neighbouring farmers C., K. & D. Muir Ltd for the past 20 years. “I’d never thought about owning it,” says Paul, “although I once told Richard Muir that I’d like a US-built IH and he kept on at me to buy his. I think he wanted to still be able to see it in the area.
“What changed my mind was when our 1255XL started having trouble lifting the 4m combination drill when it was full near the end of last summer; that’s when I decided to buy it.”
Carrying the serial number 6012, the tractor is one of 1280 IH 5288s built by the company during 1984 and probably came off the production line in the late summer or early autumn. After writing about the machine in his Farm View column in the November 2011 issue of CLASSIC TRACTOR, Paul found out a lot more about its history.
“I was contacted by Ian Scruton of Wilfred Scruton Ltd, who sold the tractor when it was new,” he says. “They bought the tractor from IH in February 1985 and sold it to Martin Simpson of Seamer near Scarborough the following October. They then took the tractor back in as a part exchange in 1990 and that’s when it was then sold to the Muirs.”
Paul also spoke to Mr Simpson, who told him that he used it on a seven-furrow semi-mounted reversible plough with a press.
Once it moved to the Muirs, the tractor was hitched up to a 4m power harrow/drill combination and carried out that task for 10 years, during which time it was also fitted with a front linkage. In 2002, however, the purchase of a Case-IH Magnum saw the 5288 downgraded to slurry tanker duties for a few years, while since 2008 it had been used solely on the slurry stirrer.
“Unfortunately the tractor was standing outside all the time it was on the slurry stirrer, and this, combined with the fact that the Boulby potash mine is nearby, took its toll on the cab,” notes Paul.
After picking up the 5288 in late August last year Paul put it to work on a five-leg subsoiler working 16in deep. “It performed well, even though the spines were shot in the four-wheel drive front coupler so it was only working in two-wheel drive,” he says. “What this did show me, however, was that the tractor was basically sound.”
It also showed up a few other issues that would have to be dealt with: there was oil leaking out of the steering orbital valve and some of it was running down the back of the dashboard; while it was also having a few fuel problems. “I took the rear filter off and found it full of grey/blue sludge,” Paul says. “This was because the fuel tank was missing its cap and rags and obviously blue tissue paper had been used over the tank filler.”
Work to strip the tractor down started in October. “The cab roof was full of holes, one mudguard was home-made and the other was rotten and smashed up,” he says. “All the rotten bits that couldn’t be removed from the cab area were cut out and replaced with new steel. This was mainly in the areas below the side windows and in the inside of the rear cab pillars, but a lot of the top front windscreen frame also had to be cut out and new metal welded in.
“The cab interior was also gutted, and the steering orbital valve seals were replaced. Both half-shaft seals were changed, and I also fitted a new four-wheel drive front coupler,” he adds.
Another serious mechanical job was dismantling the PTO. “The brake wasn’t working and I was going to fit three new brake pads, but when I took it apart I found that the front bearing was on its way out and the teeth on the clutch pack were worn,” says Paul. “A phone call to my local Case IH dealer, Paxtons at Northallerton, gave me a nice surprise as the clutch pack was only £84 when I was thinking that it would be in the hundreds. I also replaced all the bearings while I was in there. Phil and Tim in Paxtons’ stores have really been a great help.”
Meanwhile the main bonnet panels, which were in pretty good shape, were rubbed down and primed. Some warmer weather just before Christmas also allowed him to get the chassis painted, although the preparation required a lot of elbow grease. “Mike Links of Triple R Tractors of Illinois restores 88 Series tractors and he recommended that I didn’t shotblast the chassis because it gets into places where it shouldn’t,” says Paul.
With the chassis painted in IH Gloss Black, which Paul feels is more like a satin black, the project was really progressing.
Right from the start Paul knew that he would have to get parts sent from the United States as the panels are no longer available from Case IH dealers. Thankfully the article in CLASSIC TRACTOR resulted in a call from Howard Sherren who put him in touch with Ken Updike of the Wisconsin-based Carter & Gruenewald Company which has been able to source most of his requirements. The roof proved to be a bit harder to find, but one was eventually found on a 3788 in a breaker’s yard by Mike Links.
“I ordered a load of parts from Ken Updike,” recalls Paul. “The items I needed first came by airmail, while the larger parts – including the full roof and mudguards from Triple R Tractors – came by ship.
Other help came from Andrew Brown of Suffolk who runs a host of IH tractors including a 5288 and the first 5488 imported from the United States. Andrew proved extremely useful with advice and supplying part numbers for many items, as well as identifying the lights, mirrors and so on that would have been fitted by IH in the UK as part of the homologation process that was required to meet UK road legislation. One thing that couldn’t be supplied by the Carter & Gruenewald Company were the UK market spacers that fit between the mudguards and the cab. Fortunately, one of the existing spacers was good enough to use as a template and Rob from Agri Plus Ltd of Stokesley, North Yorkshire was able to make replacements.
Agri Plus also helped Paul extract some broken exhaust manifold bolts and while the manifold was off, the rocker cover gasket was replaced and the tappets adjusted.
“One very strange coincidence happened one day after Id’ been on the phone to Rob,” says Paul. “Shortly after he rang back and said that a man who’d been in his workshop said that he had the original front linkage for the 5288 that the Muirs had sold a few years ago. I bought it and Rob then got some side plates made to fasten the linkage onto the side chassis rails for extra strength.”
When the engine was all back together, it was time to hitch the tractor to Rob’s dynamometer.
“It put out 175hp on the PTO and would sit all day running at 170hp,” says Paul. “This means it must be close to 200hp at the engine, which is good considering it hasn’t been tweaked at the pump and hasn’t done any hard work for years.”
Next on the agenda was painting the wheels. When new, the rims were painted IH Aluminium, but as this is no longer available, Case IH silver, which is a close match, was used instead.
“I also discovered that some of these tractors get repainted the wrong colour,” notes Paul. “I found out that the red that should be used is exactly the same as the old Magnum red, so I duly ordered some enamel from Paxtons. I had thought about two-pack paint, but decided to go with the correct enamel as that’s what it would have had when it was new.”
Paul then turned his attention to the doors and this turned out to be a job that was a real pain. “I visited Howard Sherren in October last year and came home with the old doors off an IH Snoopy that he restored several years earlier,” he says. “I replaced the whole left window frame with one off one of Howard’s doors and cut large rotten pieces out of my doors and welded in replacement parts from the old Snoopy doors.”
Right on cue, the first parcel from the United States arrived and as well as a full cab interior, it included weld-on door bottom skins. These were welded on the day they arrived and a tiny amount of filler was used to smooth the joins. “This is the only filler used on the entire tractor,” notes Paul.
The new Western-style cab interior was fitted and the wiring was checked over. A Bluetooth CD player was installed, while new sidelights and mirrors from Tractor Parts UK finished off the cab.
Next the main bonnet panels were glossed and the decals were applied. The tractor had come with a set of dual wheels for the front and rear, so these were painted using the Case IH silver.
“They are Terry Johnson wheels and I was short of a set of weld-on cleats for one wheel,” recalls Paul. “Philip Lake, our local representative for New Holland dealer Russell’s of Malton, managed to identify them and get me some new cleats. I also needed some replacement front tyres and ended up buying some good part-worn Goodyears from Cornthwaite Tractors of Lancashire.”
While Paul was waiting for his second shipment of parts to cross the Atlantic by boat, he had a visit from Guy Scruton who wanted to see the 5288. “Guy told me he had a photo of the tractor when it was new,” he says. “He duly sent me the photo and it was nice to have something to aim for with my rebuild.”
The waiting period for the parts also presented the perfect opportunity for Andrew Winter from Paxtons to visit and recharge the air-conditioning system.
Friday 13 April certainly wasn’t unlucky for Paul as that’s the day his crate of parts arrived from the United States. Inside was a complete roof with rear legs, front pillars, front eyebrow, mudguards, seat cushions, headlights, door handles and a whole host of other parts. Preparation work began straight away and the roof and mudguards were soon painted and left to dry.
“Richard Muir came to help me fit the roof, and it was a very tight fit as we shoehorned it over the air filter intake on the cab,” recalls Paul. “It took me two days to get it fully fitted, followed by the rear and side windows and the mudguards.
Next the front cab pillar covers were fitted, although with the UK additions of mirrors and sidelights, this was a bit of a fiddly job. Part of the difficulty was because the left-hand mirror needed setting a bit differently to accommodate one of two non-standard alterations Paul has carried out.
“I decided to fit an American modification to the gas strut on the left door,” he says. “It opens the door wider and much more easily than the bent metal rail that was fitted as standard, and it also prevents the door getting blown onto your leg if you are getting in on a windy day.”
One of the last jobs to get done was refitting the long bonnet. “This was one of the final stages in the transformation,” says Paul. “Putting it on again after it had been off for seven months was an important milestone, and it also made the tractor look much taller.”
Next the chrome exhaust was put on the tractor. This was the other non-standard part that was fitted and was made by the firm that supplies Kenwood trucks.
“I have seen photos of tractors in the United States fitted with these and I think they look good,” says Paul. “Also, the last 5488 to roll off the production line at Rock Island was fitted with one, as were the 7288 and 7488 Snoopys.”
The finishing touch was some red trim to go around the top edge of the cab. Once again, Andrew Brown came to the rescue giving Paul contact details for Key Restoration Services of Selby which was able to supply exactly what he needed.
“All in all, I’m very pleased with how my 5288 has turned out,” says Paul. “Apart from help with the exhaust manifold studs, front-linkage brackets and regassing the air-conditioning I can say I did it all myself.
“I’m really looking forward to putting the duals on and hitching it up to my 4m Dowdeswell HD power harrow with Kuhn Maxi packer and Accord drill,” he adds. “It’s a lovely quiet cab and very American looking with the Western leather-look interior. I might even get a Stetson but one thing’s for sure, I won’t be listening to Kenny Rogers – it’s more likely to be Iron Maiden and Motorhead!”
Paul Stevenson’s IH 5288 rebuild project has prompted him to start an owners’ register for 1980s International 5288 and 5488 tractors based in the UK and Ireland.
A total of 5905 IH 5288s and 3951 IH 5488s were built at the company’s Rock Island plant in Illinois, but Paul’s research suggests that not many more than 50 were imported for the UK and Irish market.
“I currently know of about 20 tractors that are still running,” he says. “So far, mine is the latest serial number I’ve come across, although I know there was at least one more sold after it.
Paul would like to hear from anyone who has one of these tractors and he can be contacted by email at email@example.com
Read previous articles that have appeared in Classic Tractor