Driving a tractor.

Oliver Tractor in Vermont

I spent the day today on a tractor. I rent one every few years to re-grade our gravel driveway. Grass and weeds completely take it over if left ungraded for too long. I get a little better at the job each time I do it, and this time I think it looks better and is much more evenly graded than any previous time I’ve done it.

Diesel Power!

The tractor I rented is not an Oliver, as they have been out of production since the late 70s. I just had these pics in my collection of car photos as my friends the Markowskis in Vermont collect Olivers. My rental for today was a small Kubota B7800 and this is the view I had for several hours today:

Here is the whole tractor:

Kubota B7800

Kubota B7800

At the tail end is a box blade scraper, which is the main tool used in this job. This year I started the task by deploying the “teeth” at the front of the box. I set them at their lowest point and broke up the hardened bed under the gravel. After that was done I raised them up and finished the job.

the box blade

All those years of watching Zambonis has paid off, as I’m able to run over the whole driveway, (which is HUGE by the way,) in smooth overlapping patterns. From 8:30 AM until about 1:30 PM I circled the property in set patterns. The end result is a nice clean even spread of the gravel, and the removal of all the vegetation trying its best to obscure the drive. It had gotten so thick in the front drive that people often mistook it for lawn and didn’t drive on it! The area under the tractor in the above photos was all grass and clovers a few hours ago. Now it is smoothly graded gravel. It is a tad dusty now, but one good rain (which is never too far off here in the Pacific Northwest) and that will be fixed.

The Kubota is a nice little tractor. The little 30 HP 4-cylinder Diesel has massive torque for it’s small size, and it only slipped a few times when the box was well loaded and I was climbing the steep parts of my driveway. Mostly I was able to raise the blade ever so slightly to lighten the load, while upping the throttle just a bit as I started to climb the slopes, and it would just keep chugging along. I really wish I actually owned a tractor. The house’s previous owner had one and I made him an offer to buy it, but he turned me down. Oh well. It costs me between $100 & $200 to rent this one for a day, including delivery and pickup. Since I really only NEED it once every other year or so it doesn’t make sense to buy one, but I know if I had one I’d use it more often. I’m just too cheap I guess.

The little Diesel in the Kubota

Still Life with Cranks

What turns yours?

Unlike previous “still life” engine porn shots this one is something of a snuff film…

…and also a bit personal.

That pair of cranks you see are from my engine. The one at the bottom came out, and the one at the top went in. This was several years ago when I had Geoff Pickard of Chilliwack, British Columbia open up my engine. It started with a knock that seemed to be coming from the #5 cylinder wrist pin bushing. Once the engine was open a veritable house of horrors was discovered, including this badly worn crank.

I’m still angry, so many years later. Angry that my father paid so much money to a restorer who did nothing but botch and bungle this job. Literally everywhere we looked in this engine we found just plain shoddy workmanship. It wasn’t confined to the engine either, as I’ve spent the past several years rebuilding or replacing a lot of other parts of the car too, suspension, brakes, etc. The car ran. It just didn’t run for long. Maybe someday I’ll get over it.

I’m not holding my breath though.

Alfa Romeo Montreal

Yesterday’s Car Photo of the Day was a glimpse of an Alfa Romeo Montreal.

Perhaps it is my age, but I really think the Montreal is a beautiful car. Not is an objective sense, as in being a timeless design, but rather for its particular position in its particular time. It captures so well the early 70s Zeitgeist. Like an elegant Pierce-Arrow from the 1930s, a finned GM behemoth from the late 50s, or a VW Mk1 Golf GTI from the 80s, the Montreal just looks right for its time.

Powered by a small-displacement DOHC V-8, it had 200HP and was as fast as a contemporary Porsche 911. The Montreal was displayed as an unnamed concept car at Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada. Sold from 1970 through 1975, it was a significant stylistic departure for Alfa Romeo. Less than 4000 were built. Despite their rarity, and ‘halo car’ status when new, the market has not been kind to them, valuing them only slightly higher than their GTV contemporaries. Perhaps this is due to their lack of racing history compared to their Alfa brethren who were all actively campaigned on the track.

To me the car captures so much of what the early seventies was. It evokes the looks of the sports car racers of the day, from the GT-40 to the 917, while still being a car for the street. Bertone did an excellent job crafting the overall look. The Montreal is just one of those cars that I could not refuse. Not that I’ll ever go out looking for one, but I’d never turn one down if it appeared. Like any other era, the early 70s had its share of dreadfully awful and ugly cars, but this Alfa Romeo certainly sits in the rare category of Beautiful Cars of the Early 70s.