Dear Ole Mechanic;
You did a column not too long ago in which you said you liked old engines and tractors. My question concerns my Dad’s old Case tractor. He bought it new in about 1940 or '41, I think. We still have the original manual for it and while it has not been run since about 1980, it has been stored under an open shed roof. There is a plow, a hammer mill, and some other equipment with it. My question is, what is it worth? My Dad has passed on and no one in the family wants to fool with it. Thank You.
From Fredericksburg, Living in Austin
Dear From Fredericksburg;
Hoo boy, you want me to give you a price on a "pig in a poke," don’t you? What the heck, I will try, but you may not like the answer. The tractor is worth anywhere from $200 to $1500. The low figure is basically scrap-iron price and the high figure is for a running tractor in good condition.
Why the big price range? Because the value depends on a lot of things. The first thing that a prospective old tractor buyer will look at is the overall condition. Are the rear wheel rims rusted through? Many old tractors had a liquid-chloride solution put in the rear tires for added weight and traction. The chloride solution was used because it had a lower freezing point than plain water. Unfortunately, any time the solution would leak out it would just eat the rims away--sometimes to nothing on the bottom if the tractor was parked for a long time. Two replacement rims can cost over $200 each, if you can find them. Is the radiator grill broken, bent or missing? All too many tractor grills--and radiators too--have had an encounter with a fence post or some other equally solid object. Some grills were so prone to damage that there just are not any available at any price. Some more popular tractors now have reproduction grills made, but Case is not one of them, so collectors and restorers look closely at them. Are the fenders in place? Many were removed and lost. What is the condition is the rest of the sheet metal? Lightly-damaged metal can be repaired if it is not to rusty, but major damage or missing sheet metal can be a big problem.
If the overall appearance is acceptable, then a prospective buyer will start digging deeper. Is the engine locked up or are there any cracks in the engine block or transmission and rear axle housings? Hill Country winter weather can get cold enough to freeze water, and if the engine did not have antifreeze or if water got into the transmission and rear axle housings, there could be un-repairable cracks. The Case engine was prone to cracking along the side of the block. After sitting for 25 years or so, the engine may be rusted up tight inside. If any of these problems exist, then the tractor is worth little more than scrap price. A collector in need of parts might add a $100 if the tractor has parts that are needed. Of course, if there are any missing important parts--like the carburetor or magneto--the value will drop. A prospective buyer will also try to check to see if the transmission and drive gears are locked up. Usually the tractor will be put in gear and then rocked back and forth, or the engine will be cranked by hand with it in gear to see if the tractor will move.
If the tractor passes all of these checks, but won’t run, you are in the $500 to $800 range. If it runs but needs work, then you get into the $500 to $1000 range. If the tires hold air, if the engine doesn't smoke too badly, if the tractor doesn't leak oil or water and drives around OK, you get into the $800 to $1200 range. If the paint looks good too--$900 to $1500.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are rare tractors and rare models of tractors that can bring a lot more money but there aren't any late 30’s or early 40’s Case tractors that fall in either category, that I am aware of. The rare ones tend to be a much older tractor, or a newer (1950’s) unusual model that had very low production numbers. There is a joke about Case tractors of that era. Case was said to stand for “Can’t Afford Something Else”. Your best bet is to get in touch with a tractor club to see if some one might be interested in your Case. Heck, I would be interested myself, if I didn’t have way too many restoration projects already waiting for me.
Herr Professor Nuzanbolts