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Re-powering a Massey Harris 55

This old tractor was given a new lease on life with a Chrysler V-8 engine, 
and all the mechanical work was done outside

Marvin Torwalt of Love, Saskatchewan, needed a tractor and front-end loader to do some work around his rural property, which includes cropland, cabin rentals and a woodlot. He had experience modifying an old Massey Harris 44 tractor, so when he discovered a friend had a 1951, MH 55 sitting unused, he decided to do the same again with the larger model.

“I dragged it home and used it for a while with the original engine,” he says. “But it was too hard on gas and oil so I went to work on it. Having a spare Chrysler 360 CID V-8 sitting in a shed, I thought I’d use it to re-power the old 55.”

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Getting to work

Here’s how Marvin describes that process:

“Swapping engines involved building front and rear engine mounts, an output shaft for the clutch and, since the rear of the engine was one and a half inches off center to accommodate the Chrysler direct-drive starter, a short drive shaft using the sliding yoke and U-joints from an old Chevy motor home. The clutch output shaft was made from a shaft that came from my old 44 Massey Harris tractor.

“The starter drive had to be modified to fit the 360 engine and the oil filter had to be relocated so the rear of the engine would sit low enough to let the drive-shaft run fairly straight. The factory steering was removed and replaced with a hydrostatic unit from a 1660 Case combine. The Case combine steering cylinder was too light and soon broke, so I used one from a 760 Massey Ferguson combine. The Case combine hydraulic pump was mounted on a Chrysler air-conditioning bracket on top of the engine and hydraulic controls were salvaged from a 95 Massey Ferguson tractor.

“I bought a loader that fit a 9N Ford tractor from an antique tractor dealer nearby and, after some modifications, it fit my 55 perfectly.”

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photo: Marvin Torwalt

But when he used the tractor, the replacement engine would always overheat. After making numerous modifications, the problem persisted. So Marvin replaced the 360 with an industrial Chrysler 318. That didn’t correct the problem either. Eventually, he moved the radiator forward and that did the trick.

“I moved the radiator ahead three inches and lengthened the hood accordingly,” he says. “The V-8 engine had been too close to the radiator, and the width of the engine plus the hydraulic pump sitting on top meant that there was no room for the hot air from the rad to escape.”

That 318 has since been replaced with another one salvaged from a White-Cockshutt combine and the tractor is still at work. “The original four-cylinder engine burned between four and five imperial gallons of gas per hour,” he adds. “Neither the 360 engine nor the current 318 has ever used more than two and a half gallons per hour. And as an added bonus, if I need a tractor somewhere in a hurry, it will travel over 30 miles per hour. It pulls a 14-foot, deep-tillage cultivator quite well, and I have pulled a vintage five bottom Massey Harris plough with it.”

Well done, Marvin.

About the author

Contributor

Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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