I bought a 1955 Case 400 tractor in the mid-1970’s to use on my parents’ small dairy farm in northern Dunn County, Wisconsin. The “400” (as we called it) served us well for many years. Eventually, I got married and moved off the farm, and my parents retired from farming shortly thereafter, ending three family generations of dairy farming. (The fourth and future generations of our family retain the farm and land for recreational use.)
My wife and I bought a new home with a large lot in the early 1990’s. We needed a lawn tractor for mowing, and the decision was made to trade in the old “400” in 1994—a decision I would come to regret in the years that followed, as it proved to be the most reliable and capable workhorse of the tractors retained on the farm. The Eagle Hitch on the “400” also proved to be invaluable and unmatched for maintaining farm roads and completing wood cutting tasks on the farm. During the time of first ownership of the “400,” it never had a major breakdown. The “400” always started and was ready to work.
Fast forward 22 years. In 2016, I was working for All States Ag Parts (ASAP) in Downing, Wisconsin. They are in the business of buying old farm equipment and tractors to scrap out for parts. One day at work I noticed an old Case 400 tractor in the ASAP salvage yard, like the one I used to have. The tractor was in terrible condition as it had been in a shed fire, and it had been sold to ASAP by the tractor’s owner so they could salvage what they could from it to sell. While looking over the old tractor, I noticed a hitch modification that was similar to one I had implemented on my old Case 400 tractor. I also noticed an alternator bracket that looked identical to one I had fabricated for a changeover to a 12-volt electrical system on my own Case 400.
I got to wondering about these observations, and that night after work I went home and dug in some old papers and found the serial number for my old Case 400 on the bill of sale from the trade-in for the lawn tractor.The next day at work I compared the serial number I found at home with the serial number on the burnt-up Case 400. Amazingly, the numbers matched! The charred heap was my old “400”! To me, this was more than just a funny coincidence. This was a second chance of owning my favorite tractor, as I still regretted parting with it in the first place. I decided then and there that I was going to buy what was left of my old “400” from ASAP and restore it. After handing over $200, it was mine once again. Although it did not look anything close to the classic farm workhorse I remembered, I believed it would again one day.
During the off-and-on six-year restoration project, I kept a log of expenses and of each and every repair made. The total cost of the restoration came to $4,715.26, including the $200 to purchase it from ASAP—not to mention the work, challenges, and frustrations—but it was worth it. Getting the engine to start again was relatively easy after it was cleaned and checked over. The rear end was a challenge to restore, as many of the internal components were stuck and had to be freed, and seals needed to be replaced. The rear PTO housing required the most work, including bearing and seal replacements along with installing a “new” used hydraulic pump and valve. Finding parts for a 1955 tractor was frustrating, with countless hours spent searching online and parts being ordered from all over the country.
While the farm has changed, the “400” is now better than ever and will still be doing the work it does best in keeping up food plots and wood lots for family enjoyment for years to come. And maybe I’ll show off my “new” old “400” in an occasional community tractor ride or tractor show. My tractor has come home to stay.
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