Brian Olson's 861 PowerMaster

In early 2010, I received an e-mail from a Brian Olson inquiring if any of my tractors were for sale.  He was looking for an 861 as this was the model he had grown up with on his family's ranch in Saskatchewan.  I replied that, at present, none of my tractors were for sale.  I suggested several websites where he might find what he was seeking.  

He continued the correspondence asking if I would do a restoration for him if he could find one of these tractors.  While it is ultimately my goal to do these restorations for others, I was not yet at a stage in my career where I could afford to spend the time doing a restoration now.  Brian is not one to take no for an answer.  He is owner and President of a Canadian company, PowerPin, Inc. that makes a unique tractor hitch that is sold to many tractor manufacturers to include as OEM products with their tractors.  The process of developing this product and building this company almost bankrupted him before he turned it around to the successful company that it is today.  He persisted and finally I agreed after learning that he had located a tractor in Kentucky and could pick it up and deliver it to me in Texas.  

I told him I had one of my own projects ahead of him and that it might be a year or more before I could complete his project.  He was agreeable to this timeframe and, in February 2010, delivered to me an 861 that at least was in running condition.  Someone had attempted to repaint the sheet metal but it looked like putting lipstick on a pig.  The fenders were in rough shape, the only working gauge was the oil pressure, the steering wheel was cracked, the seat was the wrong color for this model, and it was seeping oil from every seam and orifice.  
To its credit, it started easily and ran well and the sheet metal, except for the fenders, was in pretty good shape.

The tractor sat for several months while I completed work on another of my own tractors, my 641-D.  Finally in July 2010 I decided to make this project a priority with a goal of finishing it for delivery in the fall and began stripping it down for paint removal - the first step in my restoration process.  It is during this process of dismantling a tractor that I begin to see and take notes on parts, seals, and gaskets that will need to be ordered for the re-assembly process.  One of my first discoveries was significant rust around the valves in the rear wheels.  My guess was that, at some point, a previous owner had filled the tires with calcium chloride for added weight.  While this is a very effective method of increasing traction in these tractors, which have a lot of horsepower for their size, any leakage in the valve stems allows this very corrosive fluid to eat at the metal.

With the tires removed from the rims, I took the rims to a welding shop that was able to fabricate a patch using and shaping an old truck rim as patch material.  With that area patched, I drilled an alternate hole in the rim for the new valve stem, cleaned them up removing as much rust as possible, and repainting them to look as close to original as possible.  These were the spin-out rims which are almost impossible to find new or in good shape used today.

I had noticed that the tractor was difficult to steer.  Upon dismantling the steering assembly I discovered why; one of the sectors was badly damaged and several bearings were completely rusted out.  Once this was rebuilt with a new (used) steering sector and pitman arm, steering was much easier.  Replacing the thrust bearings on the spindles also helped this issue.  A generator was found to replace the alternator that had been installed and the starting motor rebuilt.  A new double clutch was also installed.  When the tractor is completely disassembled for restoration, a new clutch is much less expensive to install then than waiting for the existing clutch to fail at some future point.  The fenders almost always consume considerable time in the restoration process.  They tend to gather dust and dirt which retains moisture even when the tractor is kept in a shed.  As a result, they rust out in the lower rolled edge and where they attach to the fender frame.  One on this tractor was especially bad, but the previous owner had included another fender as part of the sale.  With a patch cut from the old fender, with much grinding and welding, and several applications of body filler, I was able to return both fenders to an almost original state.  A new taillight completed this part of the job.

The tractor was completed by mid-October and delivered on the originally agreed to date in late October.  Mr. Olson met me approximately 1/2 way between Saskatchewan and Texas.  With his permission, I include his comments that he later sent to me here:

Tim , I have been using the “861 Powermaster”  you made brand new for me a lot as we have had record snowfall so far this year . Not one issue, as it starts, runs and looks brand new. I am totally happy with everything you have done!  The tractor is very emotional to me as I grew up on this model and it brings back many fond memories. Those emotions are priceless. People seeing it think it is brand new and really it is. I am so proud of it and my new found friend Tim that did the restoration. To top it off it is a heck of a deal as I could have bought a new one of similar size for twice the cost and it would 20% off of the lot and deprecate rapidly. This 861restoration started gaining value as soon as I got it home.  Why anyone would consider buying new is beyond me.

The value to me is simply how many wonderful memories it brings back – thank you for your honesty, kindest and quality workmanship, you have a special gift.

As a former farmer and inventor of the “Drop Pin” tractor drawbar hitch I appreciate your business ethics and drive. My company Power Pin Inc. is the worlds largest supplier of standardized tractor  - implement draw bar hitching components. In all of my years of business I have never meet anyone whose work I admire as much as yours. Best of luck in the future and please call me anytime if I can help and promote your company.

 Kindest regards



Brian Olson

President Power Pin Inc.