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Heideman restores tractor to original glory

Jim Heideman enjoys the 1956 Ferguson 40 he restored. The tractor was purchased by his family in 1958.

RUSHMORE — For Jim and Gloria Heideman, restoring a tractor was a something of a scavenger hunt. Gloria spotted the original carburetor in a box of odds and ends. A missing elbow from the muffler was found in the grove. They drove to Michigan to get a hood and to Illinois for a replacement hood.

The tractor in question — a 1956 Ferguson 40 — is a piece of the Heideman family’s farming history.

“I came home from the service in 1958 and joined my brothers farming,” explained Jim. “They had bought a PTO-drive combine but didn’t have a tractor, so we found this tractor. I think it was at Chris Johnson or Johnson Brothers Implement in Worthington, at about this time of year. It was a brand new tractor, but had been used for demo.”

Early Ferguson 40 tractors were painted green and then switched to a combination of beige and gray, Jim noted. Massey Ferguson became known later for its distinct red machinery.

Jim and his brothers, Frank and Henry, used the Ferguson 40 mainly on the planter and combine, he recalled.

“When we got married, that’s what I started driving,” injected Gloria, noting that before they married she was a city girl who was unfamiliar with farm machinery.

In February 1961, the tractor caught on fire. It wasn’t badly damaged, but the paint was scorched. When the insurance company footed the bill for a new paint job, the Heidemans elected to make it Massey Ferguson red.

Eventually the Heideman brothers dissolved their farming partnership and split up the machinery. Older brother Henry initially got the Ferguson.

“When Henry wanted a bigger tractor, my brother Frank bought it,” explained Jim. “He started a tiling business and used it for that. He finally got a tiling machine, and then he put a belly mower on it and used it on the farm. Later, when he went out of business, he sold it to our nephew, Marv Heeren, and he used it for a few years. He had an auction in 1996, and I brought her back home.”

Jim used the tractor for small jobs such as spraying, mowing and raking hay. But eventually he decided he wanted to restore it.

In the 1960s, the tractor had been converted to LP gas, so Jim’s first task was removing the LP system. Gloria saved the day by finding the original carburetor.

“She spotted it on this wagon with a bunch of other odds and ends,” said Jim. “That saved us quite a bit of money. Then I had to find an air cleaner. I found it in Clinton, Mo., while we were visiting friends, at a salvage yard there.”

The Heidemans also located an original seat.

“We had to run all over for parts,” said Gloria.

While attending the Ferguson Expo in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 2003, they met a collector that had a spare hood — in Michigan. That meant another road trip, this time with grandson Kody along for the ride.

Jim ordered a replacement grille from a company in Mount Vernon, Ill.

He didn’t have to go far, however, to locate the missing muffler part.

“I found this little elbow laying in the grove,” Jim recalled. “It said MSF on it. Turned out I needed it — just this little pipe.”

While he was hunting down all the necessary parts, Jim tuned up the tractor’s mechanics.

“Some people take them all apart,” he explained. “Mechanically, it was in pretty good shape, except for a couple of leaks I attempted to fix. I still think I’ve got a couple.”

Jim turned to Greg’s Restoration in Ellsworth to improve the tractor’s appearance, completing the project in 2004.

“He painted it for me, straightened out a few dents,” Jim said. “That was the most expensive part of the restoration.”

“We had to go over there every week to see how it was coming,” Gloria added.

The Ferguson 40 now sports a classic combination of DuPont Beige No. B8421A, Massey-Ferguson Metallic Gray and Rustoleum Red for the grille. Jim added decals purchased from a vendor at a threshing show.

In the 10 years since the restoration was completed, the Heidemans have taken the Ferguson 40 to a number of shows, particularly favoring those that have featured the Ferguson. The restoration project was also featured in an issue of Antique Power, a tractor collector publication.

“I get a lot of comments, especially because it’s got such a good paint job,” noted Jim. “It makes me feel good when people say they haven’t seen a tractor like this. Some people say ‘You painted it the wrong color.’”

Now retired from farming, the Heidemans continue to live on the home place south of Rushmore. They don’t use the Ferguson 40 very often — just for some light duty where it won’t get dirty, or for shows and parades.

Although he has a soft spot for the “Fergie,” Jim admits that he more favors another machinery brand.

“Really, I’m mainly Farmall,” he said. “But I always liked the tractor, and it was rare.”

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers may be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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