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Tale Of The $1,300 Combine

You didn’t want to touch it or lean against it in certain places. It had what Ben calls the “factory-installed leaky hydraulic system” that all of our 750s have, except this one was much worse.

There it sat in the hot summer sun. It was a Massey Ferguson 750 with a silver cab. Our son Ben and I had both noticed it in the auction fliers and we thought it might be a good addition to our fleet of 750s or perhaps a source of parts to keep our other harvesters harvesting.

From a distance it looked fine, but you didn’t want to get too close to certain parts of it or downwind from it too long. The last owner hadn’t cleaned it out after the last harvest one or two years ago and my nose told me that with the heat of the sun something was fermenting inside this red machine. (I later heard that the owner’s health was poor, which was probably why it wasn’t cleaned up properly. Even when I’m in good health, the prospect of cleaning out a combine is pretty low on my list of things I love to do.)

You didn’t want to touch it or lean against it in certain places. It had what Ben calls the “factory-installed leaky hydraulic system” that all of our 750s have, except this one was much worse. The whole inside of the right tire was a soggy mess. Also the engine leaked out of the front somewhere and had created a four-inch-thick wad of oil and dirt from the front of the engine to the bottom of the cylinder gearbox.

However, the parts that I could see and felt safe enough to touch looked reasonably sound. No loose walker boxings, no holes in the sieves, a bit of the usual duct tape on the elevator bottoms, air in all the tires and the cracks in the tires weren’t wide enough to see the tubes. It started well and the Perkins diesel purred like they always do. I heard a bit of a rattle in the engine fan shaft, but otherwise it seemed OK. They didn’t run the threshing mechanism, but I suspected they didn’t want to stir up things better left unstirred.

It had the usual pickup of some kind attached. Since we’ve straight cut most of our crops for years, we weren’t too concerned about the pickup.

So after a bit of bidding we were the proud owners of this glorious machine. When we came to drive it home I’d forgotten to tell Ben about the loose fan shaft on the engine, which rattled ominously when the engine idled. Luckily we shimmed it up with a few washers and quieted it down enough to drive it home.

It sat patiently in Ben’s yard until we had terminal variator problems with Ben’s combine and decided to park it and let it think about its behaviour for a while. Ben and our other son, Dan, worked a couple of days cleaning up this wonderful new machine as well as replacing several parts, including that fan shaft and the rethresher. Our two other parts combines came in handy and supplied us with most of the parts we needed. The pickup was tossed in our ever-increasing pile of unused pickups.

We got it to the field and it ran fairly well. There was an annoying thump under the floor at times and the engine oil leaked out the front cover quite a bit. But it put the wheat in the hopper and ran without a problem until the wet weather stopped us. It has a quieter cab than our older 750s, better monitoring systems and a few other changes, including a higher unload auger — which we appreciated with the semi-trailer.

We did a quick fix on the leaky timing cover with silicone as well as adding a set of filler bars to help thresh the wheat. We run filler bars in all the combines over the first three openings in the concave.

Ben found that the thumping under the cab was due to a repair

panel on the bottom of the feeder house. It had been installed but not welded or sealed completely. The grain had worked its way under the panel and raised it up so that the paddles were banging on it. Another quick fix was needed. Seeing that the paddle belts needed replacement anyway, Ben trimmed the edge of them so that they’d clear the bottom of the feeder house. This is not found in “The Book Of How To Properly Repair Things,” but the grain went into the combine quite well.

Once the sun shone, the combine was back in the field and worked without problems until the end of the harvest.

What’s the future for this combine? Our plan is to have three running combines, of which two will be in use and the third for a spare. This should work well for either spot. How many years will we get out of it? This thought crossed my mind when I was thinking of our Super 92 Massey combine I bought in 1983 for — coincidentally — $1,300. We ran that combine for over 20 years and it still runs quite well. Are we going to get 20 years out of this combine? I’ll tell you in 19 years.

If you compare the 750 with the Super 92, the dollar value is actually cheaper on the 750 because we bought the Super 92 with 1983 dollars — which had a bit more buying power. (According to Ben’s research, $1,300 in 1983 would be the same as $2,500 today.) Also the 750 has a cab, air conditioning (which needs charging), a diesel motor and a 50-inch cylinder. The Super 92 had no cab, a gas engine, and a 36-inch cylinder.

The moral of the story is that there’s some pretty decent machinery out there that’s selling pretty cheap. As long as you have the patience and knowledge to fix and repair, you can keep your capital cost of machinery quite low. The paint may not be too shiny but the payments are low. Check with me in 2029 to see how this machine is doing.

Ron Settler, his wife, Sheila, and their sons Ben and Dan farm and run a repair and salvage business at Lucky Lake, Sask.

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