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Oliver Cult


In 1999 the first investment made after purchasing our land was to buy a piece of equipment to help with the work of clearing, cleaning and preparing the site. There was a bladed road that concluded at a 90ft circular clearing. The house foundation and improved road work was hired out. The rest was up to me and my little buddy Oliver. I think it is appropriate to name your farm animals, but question if it is prudent to name your farm equipment? In my defense, he was 50 years old and came to me already named! From all I can gather he was born, sorry ‘built’ in 1948. An Oliver HG42 crawler. Powered by a 4 cylinder Hercules gas engine. Fitted with an after-market Anderson hydraulic dozer blade. A simple up and down action, with no sideways articulation. He was homed in Shelton WA. when found him. I bought him from Jay Hupp for $3000. He said that’s what he had paid, and if I kept him running, he would always be worth that or more. I knew nothing and cared less about the details of what that meant, I just wanted to move some dirt. The first thing I built was a wiki-up tractor shed to keep him dry. Three years previous, the property had been selectively logged and left. Downed branches and un-piled slash was abundant. With a cable chain and hook ends, I would stack plies of branches and pull them to a clearing for a burning. We dug up a few stumps, which always ended up making a much bigger hole that if I had the proper equipment. The good news, I had a dozer to fill it back in. The less the 5ft blade width was ideal for cut paths and adequate for leveling pads for the future greenhouses. All in all, I got plenty of work done for the money. He did require a few repairs from time to time. I replaced a steering band, rebuilt the magneto and had the starter in and out several times. In 2003 he was showing sigh for fatigue and I felt he deserved a reward. I decide to have the engine rebuilt. I found a retired machinist, capable of doing the job. He was a Model-A buff and the Hercules engine is very similar.  Plus, you could eat of the floor of his shop. That is a good sign. I am assuming that as with most dozers, the track frame is built around the engine. So, you literally split the tractor in half to remove the engine. Parts of that process are faded from my memory. It seems like it was a big job, and I’m sure I needed equipment help with lifting it out and placing back in. One of the big advantages that came out the rebuild was with new hardened valves and seats I could use regular unleaded gas. Yeah!  Got him all back together and ran him a few times. I might have put 20hr on the rebuild, and one day I tried to start him up and nothing. I wasn’t getting any spark. Although these are very simple electronically, you have to go through the process eliminating issue by issue. I just didn’t have the time or motivation. I was done moving dirt. To be clear in the ensuing years I did move dirt. Actually, yards and yards of dirt, 1 wheelbarrow at a time. Always from places that Oliver could not get into, so there he sat. I washed the mildew that would build up him a couple of times.  Mostly he just got stuff stacked on his tracks, cause he was kinda in the way! Fast forward to 2016. I had cut back and cleared some salmon berry on the uphill side of the last greenhouse, thinking I might expand another growing area. A bigger job than my back alone felt good about. This project, combined with a little inspiration from a guy I contacted on Craigslist that was selling his tractor, I now had a reason. The act of bringing Oliver back to life started in January of 2017. At this point it’s too long a story to get into all the details. I had the carburetor rebuilt and took all the electrical part out and bench tested. Did a tune up kit on the magneto, which revealed a loose wire as the simple answer to the original failure. In the process, I spent more time reading a studying the owner’s manual and visiting on-line forums. There are a lot of thing that I should have been doing in between moving dirt. I am pretty good at landscape maintenance (It’s what I do) but apparently, I suck at mechanical maintenance!

Somewhere around the middle of March, everything was replaced a ready. I had dripped a little Marvel Mystery in the cylinders and hand rotated the pistons a few times. I hit the switch, it cranked and puffed but didn’t fire.  Dam!  I checked and it was getting spark. There is a view hole to a timing mark in the bell housing and a view window in the mag cap to see the rotor. I thought I had them lined up right. Slept on it a couple nights and decide I had to pull the magneto and re check the timing mark. I’ve now pulled the Mag. several times, so it was getting pretty routine. Tightened it back up, hit the switch and after 13+ years of silence came a beautiful sound indeed.


At this time, he is still not able to move. The clutch plate is stuck. A common problem and to this point has become quite a challenge to overcome.  I’m plan to move some dirt, keep him clean, and sell him. I could keep him and be another member of the Oliver owner club, but I don’t need to be a member of another cult.  

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Oliver under cover

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All clean with no-way to go