1949 BF Avery Tractor

Copyright © 2005, Matt Runion. All Rights Reserved.

Dad and I were offered a free tractor. The catch? Drive over four hours away, load it on a trailer and driver home. The only thing we new about the tractor was that it was old, small and was once painted red...

My Father-In-Law has been hunting in Bath County, VA for many years. He was on a hunting trip a couple of weeks ago (in April) and came across "a small tractor, 'bout the size of [mine] but reddish orange in color". He thought the year of the yet-unknown tractor was 1939. [It turns out it was a 1949 Avery, not a '39.]

The Dad-In-Law went on to say that the tractor ran when it was parked [an unknown time ago], but currently the condition was not known as to whether it would start or not. It was easy to get to, but both front tires were flat. The guy that had the tractor didn't want it anymore because he was not restoring tractors much anymore (Wow!) and gave it to Dad-In-Law.

My tractor is an Oliver 550, so something about that size means a small one. Given the year and color described, my Dad and I tried to divine the model and such, but was not sure of anything.

Plans were made as to how to get the tractor home. From where we lived it was a four-and-a-half hour drive up to retrieve the unknown tractor. The Father-In-Law has a tandem axle trailer that is more than up to the task of hauling back the tractor, so that was going to be used. My Dad has a truck that will pull the tractor, but it didn't have a trailer brake modulator (or whatever it's called). It was decided that the best thing to do was for Dad to put the brake modulator on his truck, since it was such a long haul, then meet the Father-In-Law, get the tractor and drive back.

Saturday, April 22nd was the day Dad and I left for Covington, VA. We left about six in the evening and drove up to Covington to spend the night. We had supper, good sleep and a great breakfast the next morning. At about 9 o'clock we headed out to meet the Dad-In-Law at the 220/64 junction. The Dad-In-Law towed the trailer up that morning and we followed him on from 220/64 to where the tractor was -- about 20 more miles away.

When we pull into the place where the tractor was, it started pouring down rain. We met up with the tractor's owner (Will?) and went into the little barn behind his house to wait out the storm. In the barn was a small green and yellow John Deere. (At this point Dad about flips thinking THIS was the tractor we were getting to take back, he tells me later after we've loaded the "red sled"!). Will asked if Dad wanted to hear the Deere run, and obviously he did. Will gets out the hand crank and gives it a couple of turns. The little Hercules engine in the John Deere 'L' fired right up! Will idled it down to almost nothing and it just popped and went on about it's running. Will had won a few trophies with this one I hear.

The rain shower left as quickly as it came, and we went outside to see the tractor we were actually going to take home. Sitting beside the driveway with a single briar bush growing beside it was a little ruddy, dirty, reddish, old tractor. I nosed around and quickly found the nameplate in the battery box. "BF Avery Model A" it says. I told Dad and he just said "Yup." Apparently he'd seen one before!

Will says he'll pull the tractor out into the driveway while I back the trailer up and line it up. Will also filled one of the flat front tires earlier in the week and it was still holding. The other tire was shredded, so there wasn't even a chance of airing it up. The tractor described as "about the size of [my] Oliver" wasn't nearly as heavy. It was easily pushed by hand on the almost level driveway.

After backing the trailer close to the tractor, Dad got out his Christmas present -- an electric, portable winch. He'd not used it with anything yet and we were dying to try it out. We hooked up the winch to the trailer tongue jack, attached the wires, fed out the cable and hooked it to a chain attached at the rear of the little Avery. We winched that tractor up with no problem at all! Right on to the trailer it went, and we strapped it down for the ride.

With the work done we got more of the scoop on the tractor. It was given to us for free, just for taking it away. Will had no time to restore anything. There was a big Minneapolis Moline looking brand new beside the house. Will said he used to take that one to pulls but quit doing it. The little "L" mentioned earlier was another thing he'd completed. He just didn't want to start another project.

The guy that had it before Will was a master mechanic and was working to restore the little Avery. He got it running, converted it to twelve volts and was driving it around the yard every once in a while. One day the wife told him he had four days to get rid of the tractor, or she was going to leave him. He called Will and asked if he wanted the little Avery. Will told him he didn't want to buy any more tractors to restore, he didn't have time. Will's friend said "Who said anything about buying, you can have it!". Will took it. I don't know how long ago that was, though.

Dad and I began inspecting the tractor while it sat on the trailer. I checked the oil and it looked brand new. Will was fiddling with the hood -- which was only held on with wires through the screw holes right now. He said to make sure to re-cover the exhaust hole when we got it home. The cover he had on it came off while loading it. Cool! It had been properly covered! The intake pipe and filter had been removed so no water would run into the carb. The Father-In-Law looked in the radiator and said we need to add water before running it. Will said that he'd drained that so it wouldn't set with water in it. This is sounding better all the time! The gas tank was empty, so was the settling bowl. The tank was covered and no water was in it. The back tire rubber was pretty good, but the front tires will need replaced for sure. The clutch was not stuck to the flywheel, the PTO/belt pulley would engage (not turn) and freely turn when disengaged, the hand brakes worked, it steered easy even with a flat. The motor would turn when you put the tractor in gear and rocked it.

Counting the brake modulator for Dad's truck, the motel, the food and the gas, we have about $300 into this tractor. Do you think it was worth it?!? Dad and I can't wait to get to the point when we try to start it!

Update: The tractor was sold in November 2006. Dad and I just don't have the time and resources to start a project like this. I sure hope the tractor ended up at a nice home with someone who can fix her up right!