The Story of the Oliver 1365, or Rust Can Be a Beautiful Thing
A couple years ago, I was contacted by one of our club members who lives near Livermore California about an Oliver tractor that a friend of his was giving away. His friend was a fellow Rotarian and they got to talking about his tractor – it had been in a bad accident and it was smashed up very badly; it had sat on his property after that for a while and now he wanted to have it hauled away for scrap. Our club member suggested that rather than do that, he check things out with the club first since it had Oliver connections and someone might be interested. He then contacted me as the Newsletter Editor about the tractor; and I made arrangements through him to meet his friend and get some photos of the tractor for the newsletter. In the meantime, I did some research on this model and discovered that it is very popular in the mid-west, and there are a couple web sites that absolutely rave about them. The specification data and features show it as having 59 rated HP, with a diesel Fiat engine, 2-wheel drive, PTO, and 3-point with front weights, independent and ground speed.
His friend operates a vast cattle ranch in the rolling hills South of Livermore. As you travel along the freeway running through Livermore and look to the South, pretty much all the mountains viewable to the South are parts of this operation. Just getting to his place involves a good 15 to 20 minute drive from central Livermore to a dirt road that courses back and forth up the mountain. These hillsides are very steep, and covered with range grass which can be very slippery.
We finally reached the top and met his friend. As he told the story, he had lost control of the tractor going down one of those steep hillsides and flipped it, in the process smashing in the front end and doing extensive damage to other portions of the tractor. Fortunately he escaped without major injuries, but the tractor was ruined. His wife is a local judge, and probably has a rather commanding manner when she wants to show it. Apparently she told him in no uncertain terms that “He Was NEVER Going to Drive That Tractor Again”, so naturally he was looking to get it off the property.
I took a critical look at the tractor; by this time it had been sitting out in the open elements for some time and it was pretty rusty in spots, with broken headlights, smashed tachometer glass, stove-in radiator core and front housing, bent top lid, and parts hanging off. But rust can be a beautiful thing, and while taking the photographs, I started thinking about what it would be worth to purchase an equivalent functional tractor versus what it would cost to repair this one. In the balance, I figured a person could still come out ahead by fixing this one up. In that same time period, I was looking for a tractor for our ranch property with a bit more power than the Massey 135 I had been using for mowing grass, and realized this would be a perfect fit. I ended up calling him back and committing to getting it hauled off the property. A few months later fellow club member Jim Chamberlin assisted with his trailer; we managed to roll it onto Jim’s trailer, and hauled it off to the Bechthold Tractor Shop in nearby Lodi.
My intention was to get it functional again, not necessarily looking good with a new paint job and all spiffed up. I was looking for a tractor to use at our ranch that would get dirty but would provide the muscle power to perform chores that we could not do with the equipment we had. But you know how it goes, tractor repairs morph into big projects that take a lot of time and enthusiasm builds up as it starts to look whole again. I had many conversations with Bill Bechthold over the next couple months as he kept me up to speed on the progress. The extensive repairs included but were not limited to the following:
Securely bolt / weld loose front weights to frame.
Install replacement front grille.
Install replacement front hood sheet metal and brackets.
Repair punched-through leak in fuel tank.
Replace left front tire.
Installed a replacement substitute steering wheel center cap.
Replace starter motor.
Replace starter solenoid.
Install missing battery.
Replace decomposing intake air hose.
Clean out rats nest under hood.
Unstuck all control levers, quadrant etc.
Re-installed disassembled 3-point arms, installed missing long body top link and misc. 3-point hardware.
Manufactured a drawbar and side swing limit bushings.
Replace tachometer (original had rain water inside, very rusty).
Replace punched-through radiator core.
Installed seat cushion.
Added knob to high/low shift lever.
Install new lights and completely re-wire the light.
Replaced a jerry-rigged u-shaped hydraulic hose assembly on main feed to hydraulic filter on right side with straight metal line. This had apparently been set up this way so he could attach an implement.
Extended hydraulic hose on steering ram on left side so that it no longer rubbed frame when wheels are turned tightly; prevents possible blow-out.
Original muffler assembly curved underneath tractor, fire hazard. Had them make a new one pointing up.
Originally they were going to paint just the new front hood assembly, but the paint job morphed into a total re-paint with sandblasting. This added considerable labor expense but rust is now arrested.
As reported by the owner, the 3-point had a bad shimmy. He had already had the hydraulic head under the seat replaced and the problem went away for about a month, and then came back. Bill Bechthold said the root cause was probably either a dirty / clogged hydraulic filter or air bleeding into the lines. Bill cleaned and purged all hydraulic lines and the right-side filter; no apparent shimmy now going on 2 years of use.
Complete lube job (engine oil, oil bath filter, hydraulic oil, grease, clean hydraulic filter, power steering oil).
Install new fuel filters.
Brake check and adjustment.
General service and safety check.
Installed all decals.
Added radiator fluid.
Filled tires with solution.
The closer we got to completion, conversations involved painting the unit to make it look better. Doug Mannasero at Bill’s shop is an expert paint man and did one heck of a job on this unit, with detailed bi-color control knobs, decals, and the works. This is NOT a restoration, but it is a major repair with the aim of getting it functional and safe again. The repairs were very extensive, but the cost was still quite reasonable compared to the cost of purchasing an equivalent tractor of that horsepower and capabilities.
Jim and I hauled the tractor in early 2008 to our ranch in St. Helena. There it has performed admirably with a rotary mower, spray rig, and a 3-point dozer blade. The data shown on the operator’s plate is Model 63522004, SN# 736530 which makes it either 1974 or 1975 per the Oliver data book. I have not gotten around to contacting the Floyd County Museum yet to determine the exact build code. The original tachometer showed 4301 hours. 77” width at rear tires (12.4 x 28), 74” width at front tires (750 x 16), 125” long front to back (10.4 feet), and 78” wide (6’ 5”).