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The Chief--Dad's 149

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jstertz

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joshua donald stertz
It is funny how things work out sometimes.

As those of you know who have followed some of my other posts, my dad worked for Chief Equipment as a service technician back in the 1970's. He purchased his first home in 1975 and because it had an acre of grass to mow, he knew that he needed a capable garden tractor to take care of it. I know, at this point we all are thinking the same thing--buy a Cub! Dealer discounts, in house trade-ins, coworkers to help maintain it, cost break on parts, and the list goes on! However, nothing in the Garden Tractor realm was as big as Cub in the mid 70's. It was the tractor to own then and thus the prices were to steep for dad. He ended up buying a trade in 875 Wheel Horse that is pictured in the off topic section of this forum. That is the machine I grew up using. Although it is a solid tractor and did its job well through the years, dad always wished he could've gotten a Cub. Last year he finally did!

Our refrigerator was giving grief and we called a service guy out to look at it. He is an Oshkosh native and in the course of the repair I was talking with my wife about the Cubbie refurb project. Ben (the technician) asked if I liked old Cubs. Good One! He said that he had purchased a Cub from Chief Equipment several decades ago. He wasn't sure of the model but by his description I figured it was a 149. He said that he had had the engine rebuilt about ten years ago but that the PTO had stopped working about 8 years ago and so he parked it in the corner of the shed and that is where it sat. After seeing my tractors he said he would love to sell it to me if I would bring it back to its former glory. We settled on a price and I became the owner of this...

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It was missing some parts and the sheet metal was rough in spots but it was a tractor sold from the same dealership that my dad worked at and I've always liked the 1X9 series of tractors. Well, about this same time my dad was having difficulties with his "throw away" box store tractor that he had owned for a decade. it was just plain wearing out. Electrical issues, mechanical issues, worn steering, etc. He came over one day and saw this 149. I told him that it was from his old dealership and showed him the decal...

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He asked me what I was going to do with it and I told him I needed to get it running first and then I would see. Well, two days later he called me and said he wanted the tractor. I told him that it was his but that I thought we should make it a grandfather, son, son(my brother), grandson (my son) project. If we did it right, we could build him a tractor that would last him the rest of his time and could be willed to one of the grandkids! This thread will be about how we made that dream a reality. I hope you enjoy following it as much as we enjoy building it! Please feel free to interject and comment as the build progresses
 

wshytle

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Wayne Shytle
This appears to be the start of a wonderful thread Joshua. I really like hearing stories that connect people with places. The 149 is a great IH example for your father to end up with after a nice family intervention.

Keep up the posts!
 

kmcconaughey

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Kraig McConaughey
Joshua, great story! I'm looking forward to the refurb. Are you going to try to save the dealer decal or have a reproduction made?
 

jstertz

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The first essential place to start any refurbish, or in this case restoration process, is with "before" pictures. Although the Chief is a solid platform to start with, it still has beenwell used. Many mechanical parts are well worn and the sheet metal is in pretty rough shape beneath multiple coats of paint!

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After looking it all over really well and taking account of the missing pieces that we needed, I suggested that we obtain a parts tractor. We found a 149 with a blown motor and then began the disassembly of the Chief and the parts machine. The parts tractor is a later model production tractor with the "brake style" mechanical clutch. I suggested to dad that we upgrade the Chief to that style since he plans to use it regularly for mowing and snow removal.


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We have decided that we will use the sheet metal and dash from the parts tractor on the Chief because of its condition. Less time spent on rust removal and dent repair!

I recently purchased a 60" Haban for my CubKub diesel and the PO and I got talking. He said that his dad was 70 years old and had been cutting his lawn for over 30 years with a 147. However, he was getting to the place that he was having trouble steering it in the tight places. So, he located a super with PS for his dad but didn't need the big deck for the size of his lot. Score for me!!! Anyway this got me to thinking about Dad's Chief. I had purchased an 1862 parts tractor last year for some other stuff I needed at the time. However, I have a complete power steering setup on it. My dad is a young 62 years but even so, time flys and we want to think to the future. I told dad about my idea to retrofit the power steering system to his Chief. I told him if we are going to do this, we must do it right. I want it to look factory when complete. So the mock ups begin...


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Those of you who have had time under the hood on you 1X9 series know how familiar that looks.

But not this...

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Since the steering on the Cyclops series tractors is adjustable, their steering columns have a CV joint in the middle of the shaft. This allows the steering to pivot up away from the driver or down towards him/her. We couldn't make it adjustable w/o really messing up the factory looking dash. But I told dad that we could reset the angle...


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The factory cub angle put the steering wheel facing more straight up to the sky. I did a refurb on a JD 420 for a buddy this spring and I really liked the feel of the steering wheel angle more back towards the operator. So we angled it as much as possible.

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As we put this all together, Ill try to explain the process as good as I can but feel free to ask any questions about it that I might not have covered. The "plumbing" is going to be a challenge for sure!
 

jstertz

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joshua donald stertz
Thanks Guys for the positive comments already! It is a big project with a long way to go but I know that it will be worth it in the end. This machine will be an excellent example of the simplicity of of the original Cub Cadet design and yet it will meld many of the more modern improvements without compromising reliability. Kraig--We have decided to keep the original decals. They had some grime and over spray on them but dad was able to use one of the world's most effective yet unaccepted cleaners, gas, to make it look new again!

OPERATION PLUMBING!!!

Now that we had the lower bracketry in place as shown in the previous post, it was time to get to the lines. We had all the exisiting lines from the 149 and all the lines from the 1862 parts tractor but obviously things that are different are not the same. The controller for the lift on the 1862 and the 149 are at least on the same side of the tractor dash. We discussed several possibilities of how to accomplish getting the correct lines bent in the correct places without having to do it multiple times. Dad came up with the idea to use a heavy gauge green wire to bend the correct angles and cut to the lengths we needed.

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We then took the wires to our local tubes and hoses shop along with the existing lines that we needed adapted and he went to work fabricating it up for us. As you can see, he was able to do a very good job and we only had to make minimal adjustments as we installed them.

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It is a really tight squeeze with the lift ram linkage on the right, the drive shaft in the middle, the CV joint on the steering shaft, the speed control linkage and the lift controller on the left! However, we were able to get everything in place.

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Once we had the plumbing in place, it was time to fit the bracket for the power steering ram. I brought the now stripped frame to dads from the 1862 and we were able to make measurements and drill the holes in the proper places. I then put the super steer axle on the front of the Chief frame and hooked up the ram to it.

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We now had a "working" power steering unit assembled on a tractor that never had one from the factory. Before we got started on the paint, I told dad that we had better run and test this thing out. The last thing I want to see is complications when all the finished paint and assembly is done.

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What a rag tag looking machine at this point!!! However, with the exception of a couple of leaking fittings, we have successfully retrofitted a modern power steering system to on old school tractor!

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It steers super easy and turns on a dime! So far, Dad claims it is worth the effort and I agree. Wait till we have a blower and a cab on this hog!!! Then he'll really be glad for that power steering.

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Now we have to adapt the upper steering column to the length that it needs to be and then build a support bracket for it. Another day, another modification...
 

jstertz

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joshua donald stertz
Tonight, I write this latest post from the seat of my 1772 CubKub out in my shop! The weather here in east central WI has been really hot and muggy this last week and tonight the humidity has tappered off and there is a beautiful cool north west breeze. So I thought it might be fitting to relax in the shop for awhile and share the latest update on the Chief.

Since we now knew that we had an operational power steering system it was time to finish the upper end of the steering shaft. As was shown in the earlier pics, the shaft was too long from the 1862. Dad was talking about cutting it to the factory length but I told him to sit on the tractor and hold the steering wheel at a natural position for him and then we'd mark it and cut it there. We would also need a way to hold the steering shaft in place. This is where the old parts from the 1862 came into play. Dad fabricated a bracket to hold the square nylon bushing which holds not only the shaft but also the shortened sleeve from the original 149 column. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words...

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Those are the pieces and modifications that needed to be made to make the upper part functional and factory appearing to anyone but the most avid Cubber! Here is the finished bracket...

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The bracket is sized to go from tower wall to tower wall. I wanted dad to weld it but he favored drilling and bolting it in place. The heads of the bolts show but they are just below the dash tower and when painted I guess they won't stand out. Dad wanted the option of ease of removal if need be. I suppose he was right...

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Now that the steering restification project was taken care of it was time to get on to the disassembly and sheet metal prep. The parts 149 really has some clean metal and so we now enter my brother Nate. Nate has been involved with painting off and on for the last decade. He has watched dad and I do several other projects in the past but he never personally got involved. I asked him if he would be willing to get on board with this project. He was skeptical but did it anyway and I think he is going to like it...

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We're on a roll now so...let the disassembly continue!!
 

fcurrier

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Frank A. Currier(Northern Maine)
Josh, you're doing great! I've said it before and I'll say it again - those that take the time to post "progress pics" are a boon the "hobby".
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kide

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Gerry Ide
Josh - great pics and story line... Keep it going!! (BTW - of course your dad was right about bolting rather than welding - always think about future maintenance on these projects - and besides, Dad is always right - right??)
 

jstertz

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joshua donald stertz
Frank and Gerry--Thanks for the encouragement!!! We are excited to see the end result of all this work but the process is part of the fun too. I love to be able to share it with you guys and appreciate your comments except when you state that "Dad is always right"!!! Just Kidding! I learned a long time ago that Dad has a reason for what he chooses to do and I'd do well to sit back and learn something!!!

I forgot to put these pix in my last post. These are especially for Kraig--Check out dads Chief key fob...

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I thought this was a super cool piece for Dad's Chief!
 

jstertz

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joshua donald stertz
It has been too long since I've given you an update on the Chief project. We haven't lost interest, I just haven't had as much time to get my pix resized and formulate some posts. So here we go...

Now that the power steering is worked out, we got right on complete disassembly and paint stripping. Here I'll let the pictures do the talking. Feel free to ask any questions.

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Isn't it amazing the damage that battery acid does to stuff?

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These are some better pictures of the Cyclops power steering box and the tight space with which we had to work in order to fit all the plumbing etc.

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Dad even removed the "front axle pivot adjusters" from the Cyclops frame and welded them on his frame for the additional lateral support they will provide with the power steering stress.

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All the sheet metal was prepped to bare metal. Nate and Dad did a great job of straightening out the rough spots and getting it ready for the famous yellow and white...
 

fcurrier

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Frank A. Currier(Northern Maine)
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You're doing great (and making me thankful for not being on dial-up anymore).
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jstertz

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joshua donald stertz
No doubt Frank! I don't miss those days
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Some posts I have more to say--some, the pictures say it best!

Thanks!
 

jstertz

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joshua donald stertz
Dad and Nate had done a great job of surface prep and it was time to prime and paint. I had very good success with Valspars Farm and Implement paint on the Cubbie. So, I suggested that we use the same product for the Chief. After using their rattle cans, myself and my family were very impressed with the quality and consistency of the paint pattern. The spray nozzles they use work well and the paint comes out in a fashion that it lays on thick and is easy to keep a wet edge while spraying. One of the common problems with spray bombs is the paint comes out too thin and erratic. That is a recipe for either very thin paint that dries too fast causing an overspray condition or you try to apply it to heavy and gets nasty sags and runs. If you find a Valspar dealer near you they can likely order it by the case if you so desire. I don't know how perfectly it matches with the factory hues but it works for us. Time to put some color on the beast...

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These of course are the easy parts to paint. Mostly hidden when all said and done but they still look sharp with that fresh yellow replacing 40 years of chips, scratches, and wear.

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The guys did a great job laying down the initial paint. These projects always get really exciting for me at this point
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mschutz

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Melody Schutz
Joshua, That looks like it is coming along real well. Hope to see the finished product soon.
 

jgoodine

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Joel Goodine
Josh what a great job, it's post like this that give people like me yellow fever, thanks for taking time to share,
 

dtanner

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Donald Tanner
Thanks : just what I wanted to see: someone installing power steering on an older Cub. I would love to do that to my loader, a 129 but I don`t have the proper axle to do the change. I think I would need a different axle than the stock axle in my 129. I would like any info on the swap to a 129 using a stock axle that you might have (ideas) will the stock axle stand the workings of a power set up ? I will have to add a ported rear end and have one for the job. I have had all the parts for a few years but never got past how to connect the cylinder to the left steering wheel. Thanks for any info you might have for me :
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jstertz

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joshua donald stertz
Thanks everyone for the positive comments. I've certainly enjoyed taking part in another restoration/refurbish project. The fact that this one is for my dad only makes it a little sweeter.

Donald T--Someone else may have tried this and found out something different but I can only share what we found regarding the steering and ram upgrade. Dad and I had intended on using his factory front 149 axle because it was in much better shape than the 1862 parts axle we had. However, when we mocked it up with the ram bracket attached on the frame where it needed to be and attempted to bolt it to the spindle the tire hit the ram without allowing for much of a turning radius at all. I know with your fabrication expertise you could modify the factory setup to work. We had planned on doing that until I located another Cyclops axle that was in much better shape and we put that to work. You will notice in the pics that the casting is very similar but the spindles are quite different. Feel free to email me if you have more specific questions that I haven't adequately answered here.

Now back to the project--more prep and paint!

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Nate prepping headlight panel.

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Pile of "white" parts ready for primer and paint.

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We are getting closer to the assembly process! I picked up a parts 149 for a few of the critical little pieces that the Chief is missing. It is a late production run 149 with the "brake" style PTO. I think we are going to upgrade to that setup on Dad's tractor. I don't have much experience with those myself but after studying it over, it seems like that would be a little tougher more reliable setup than the older PTO system. The old one puts a lot of stress on that little button... Whatcha think
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