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He Puts Old Deere Crawlers Back To Work
Ross “Wilky” Wilkinson of Thompson Falls, Mont., says he’s rebuilt and sold close to a dozen 1950’s and 1960’s Deere crawler tractors, and every one of them has a special story. “I started out fixing the first one out of necessity,” Wilky says, “and after awhile I just grew to like the work, so I kept at it.
  “One of the changes I make on most of the crawlers is to improve the winch or add one if it isn’t there,” Wilky says. “Most of those winches came with steel pivot rollers and pistons in the winch controls. When the brake fluid gets some air and moisture in it, the steel inserts rust and they won’t work.”
  Wilky removed the original steel control parts and replaced them with parts he made out of brass. “I polished them real well, put them back in along with new O-rings and the system holds pressure. I could leave the machine sit for any length of time and the winch controls always worked,” Wilky says.
  He bought his first model 440 because it was fairly inexpensive and it just needed TLC and not much repair. Wilky says he didn’t want to invest much into a rig just to move logs, and he figured it would be fairly easy to repair the drive clutches and build a canopy so he could work in the woods. He builds canopies out of tube steel and expanded sheet metal. He also repairs the hood metal and fixes other parts to put the refurbished 420, 440, 1010 and 2010 crawlers in good working condition. Some need engine work and others need transmission and final drive work.
  After working on several 440’s and 1010’s, Wilky located a 2010 Deere that had been sitting on blocks for 15 years. “The guy who owned it always had good intentions to fix it, but never made it happen. My son and I bought it from him, mainly because it had a 6-way blade, which we thought would be real handy around our place.”
   Wilky and his son started the tractor and it ran real well, but wouldn’t move. “We split the body apart and found a small wood chip in the entrance orifice of the expander clutch,” says Wilky, “and everything else looked good.” They felt fortunate because if the transmission had needed replacing, the cost would’ve been more than the machine was worth. After they put it back together it ran and moved just fine. They added a canopy, fixed the winch and had themselves a real “find” for skidding logs.
  Wilky has also re-built winch systems using parts borrowed from other equipment. He makes a cable swivel fairlead out of 6-in. dia. turbine governor bearings. The arch is made from salvaged bridge steel. Together, Wilky says, the setup works like it was made in a factory. “A good winch in the woods is worth a million bucks,” Wilky says, “and a bad one can ruin your back, your day and your pocketbook all at once. The ones I’ve fixed have paid for themselves many times.”
  Wilky says old equipment is getting harder to find, but he still keeps his eye out for possible renovation projects. He’s broadened his search from model 420’s, 440’s, 1010’s and 2010’s to include newer models like his 5200 MFWD tractor and even a Kubota U45 Excavator/Mulcher. “Most Deere dealers still have parts for the old Deere crawlers,” Wilky says.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ross Wilkinson, P.O. Box 1226, Thompson Falls, Mont. 59873 (ph 406 827-4916).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #1