General Notes About the Farmall M
PTO and TA

Super Ms
For a lot of years the Farmall M was in the big leagues--one of the few tractors with the power, capability, styling, and popularity to become a lasting symbol of modern farming.  It was one of the most successful tractors of all time, which has two implications for current sales:  One, lots of people still really like them, which drives the price up.  Two, many of the 300,000 or so that were built are still around, which drives the price down.  Typical auction prices for average Ms in running condition are around $1200, here in the midwest.  A non-running "parts tractor" might go for just a few hundred; a restored "show tractor" might go for three or four thousand or even more, especially if it's a Super MTA or Super MTA Diesel, the last versions of the M.
Old Farmall MSeverely worn, cracked, or flat tires will drive the value of the tractor down by a few hundred dollars; new or nearly new ones will drive it up by a similar amount.  Overall condition of the sheet metal is another big variable, with the front grille being especially likely to be bent up or missing the little insert near the bottom.  Even if that insert is gone, check to see if the bottom bar of the grille itself is still there--the inserts are readily available from aftermarket suppliers, but if that lower bar has been cut out you'll need more than the insert to fix it.  

If the gauges, lights, and starting and charging systems work, it'll save you the cost of repairing or replacing them later.  Optional equipment like fenders, a belt pulley, the toolbox that mounts on the lightbar, wheel weights, etc., are less expensive to buy already on a tractor than as separate individual parts.  Oil leaks from beneath the engine, brakes, axles, or power takeoff shaft aren't unusual and likely don't mean anything serious, but it can be a lot of work to fix them.  
(Click here for photos and notes about minor repairs I've made to my 1950 M)
Most Ms have an internal "Lift-All" hydraulic system for tractor-mounted implements like cultivators or a loader.   An auxiliary hydraulic valve was available as an option to provide two-way pressure for a remotely-mounted hydraulic cylinder, such as might be mounted on a trailing implement like a disk or brush hog.  Those valves and related components are frequently auctioned on eBay, so you can add them to a tractor that didn't previously have them, but it'll likely cost $150 or more by the time you get it all set up.
M cultivators M cultivators Auxiliary 2-way valve
M cultivators M cultivators Auxiliary 2-way valve
4-row cultivators on a Farmall M at a tractor show in Portland, Indiana.
Auxiliary hydraulic valve

Some Super Ms built in 1953 or 54 (and regular Ms with after-market equipment--see below) have an engine-driven hydraulic pump, as opposed to a transmission-driven pump.  That means hydraulic implements can be operated independently of the transmission clutch, which is a nice feature.  The "live" pump also has more pressure and a higher volume flow, so you can lift heavier loads and lift them faster than you could with the original transmission-driven pump.  If there are hydraulic hoses running along the right side of the tractor engine, from up by the distributor to back under the gas tank, the tractor has live hydraulics.  (The live pump is driven by the timing gear train, the same thing that turns the distributor shaft, so the hoses have to snake alongside the engine to reach the pump). 

Live hydraulic pump The live hydraulic pump on a Super M, on the right side of the engine between the distributor and the timing gear train.
If you're going to add a live pump to a tractor that didn't previously have one, check the spacing of the two top bolts on the distributor drive (it should be about 3" for older Ms, and about 3-1/2" for newer ones and Super M
s).  IH pumps will likely only fit the wider spacing, but you may be able to find a pump made by an after-market supplier that will fit the narrower spacing.
None of the M series tractors came with three-point hitches, but they can be added as aftermarket items.  At least three ATIS members have done so, and wrote the following descriptions.  (Note that all three also have live hydraulic pumps on their tractors.) 

Mike Sloane wrote: 

  "...I bought a used IH hydraulic pump that fits in place of the distributor drive between the timing gear and the distributor (that was $250 from Biewers Antique Acres).  Then I was fortunate to locate a used hydraulic valve and some other parts that were originally from a JD combine, complete with some long curved handles.  A bracket was made for the valve, and I mounted it on the right axle, with the curved handles coming right at hip level when sitting.  I bought various hoses, adapters, reservoir, and filter from Northern, a Worksaver Farmall 3-point hitch kit, and a 2x8" cylinder from CT.  Because the valve is a two way valve, I rigged up the lift cylinder for two way operation - it is much faster going down that way, but I needed one extra hose.  If I could have located a used OEM reservoir from a parts tractor, it would have made a neater job of it, but I ended up putting the reservoir under the seat - the battery remained under the gas tank. 

"Does it work?  Yes, it works fine.  How much did it cost?  I think I spent about $800 all together.  Was that worth it?  I don't know.  It was interesting and maybe fun to work through the whole process, but to spend $800 on a $1600 tractor was probably not an efficient operation -- I could probably have bought a similar 400 with fast hitch and live hydraulics for about the same money.  Fast hitch adapter kits from 2-point to 3-point are only about $60.  Also, if I had known, I would have bought the Saginaw 3-point kit, which comes with 2 cylinders and saved at least $200 - that would have made the job much more economically sensible plus I could have retained the Farmall swinging drawbar (you can't with the Worksaver kit unless you buy yet another adapter). 

"What you wind up with is a Cat II hitch with no draft sensing.  It does have sway control and good position control, but the only way to adjust the individual arms is by turning the lift screw sleeves -- no hand crank from the operator's seat like a regular 3-point hitch.  Since I only intend to use the hitch with a brush cutter, platform lift, or boom crane, none of those deficiencies are of any consequence, but I could never plow with that arrangement." 

Mark Sargent wrote: 
  "...We purchased a 3 point hitch for our M (regular old '50 M, but with an M&W live hydraulic pump) last year from Saginaw County Tractor Parts.  They advertise (with a picture that doesn't do it justice)  in Red Power magazine.   They are cheaper ($575 at the time - $595 now).  Includes two cylinders, painted IH red, fits like a glove, impeccable workmanship, Zerk fittings on every bearing service, and non-slip material on anything you might use as step.   The cylinders will be set up as one way or two way (down pressure) based on what you tell them you want.  The ad says they are the finest--and IMHO they are the best--based on the ones we have seen.  They have the roll-over "ball" type mounting holes in the lift arms to accept Cat I or Cat II  three-point equipment. 

"The valve is the IH auxiliary control valve (two way hydraulics) as depicted in the Operators Manual.  Ours uses the belly pump reservoir and has fitting on the control valve to give 'power beyond' to another valve if we needed to....  The Saginaw Three Point hitch with two cylinders w/down pressure hooked up to the IH valve and we have use it extensively (maybe with a tad of abuse) it works flawlessly.   Never ran into anything it worked at getting up/ down - whatever -  Boom Pole, 6ft Box Blade, 6ft Bush Hog,  Slip scoop-- (BIG rocks), and carry all.   If will lift the Back end (Down Force) of the Tractor too easily if you know what I mean. 

"There is a lot I'm leaving out so if you have any specific questions from a customer's perspective let me know. I have no conection to Saginaw other than as a satisfied customer." 

Stan Bass wrote: 
  "I also purchased my 3 point hitch from Saginaw Tractor.  In regard to its capacity if used with a single cylinder and usefulness with the old belly pump hydraulics, I've gone through three stages: 

"Stage I (single cylinder, no down pressure).  I first hooked it up to just a single cylinder from the one way valve with a breather on the top cylinder port and I was able to move 1000lb hay bales with it.  I once tried to pick up a transmission and axel assy from a Super C parts tractor.  It couldn't lift it, but if I lifted it with something else, it would just barely hold it up in the air.  I decided not to risk it and used an engine crane to hold it while I backed a truck under to haul it off. 

"Stage II (single cylinder, up/down pressure, live hyd).  When I got tired of not having down pressure and not being able to adjust the hitch when the clutch was in, I upgraded to a live hydraulic system from a Series II Super M and added a two spool valve for the 3 point and 1 remote.  As far as cost is concerned, I ended up with:  225 pump, 100 reservoir, 90 batt box/seat base, 40 seat suspension, @100 in hydraulic lines, 180 two spool valve that I mounted on the seat box convenient to right hand.  I took one circuit to the 3 point and used the second valve as a remote for the wheels on a cutting disc and the gate on a Gehl round baler.  Since the reservoir replaces the rear fuel tank support, I lost the regulator mounting (which was a blessing in disguise since it didn't work anyway) and switched to a 12V alternator at the same time.  This was an early SM (Series I with the belly pump hydraulic system).  I got a lot of the parts from either Steel Wheel or Mathis Equip that advertise in Red Power. 

"Stage III (twin cylinders).  Well I finally found a way to damage the hitch.  I was picking up another tractor (a Farmall B without the motor) from a trailer.  I couldn't lift it but found I could hold it up if I jacked the trailer up then let it down from under the tractor.  But didn't get quite enough clearance and when I dragged it off the trailer the rockshaft on the hitch bent so that one lift arm was a good 7-9 inches lower than the other at the tip.  I first thought something on the hitch frame was bent or broken, but the frame was fine, just the rockshaft twisted.  So I blocked the low arm and used the down pressure to straighten out the rockshaft forcing it the other way.  Then I went and got the second cylinder that had been collecting dust and routed new hydraulic lines to feed both cylinders together.  I tried again to lift the parts B tractor and this time with the extra capacity I lifted it right off the ground and drove away with it." 

A Saginaw hitch on a Farmall 400, photographed and owned by ATIS member Goodwrench.  Click on the picture to go to a larger, higher-resolution image.
Power Take-Off and Torque Amplifier:
The Super MTAs, built only in 1954, were the first Farmalls to have a live power takeoff.  Live power wasn't a factory option on older Ms and Super Ms, but an after-market hand clutch was available that provided a live pto.  Many tractors still have those clutches (made by M&W), mounted over the left brake housing, but parts for them are hard to come by.  ATIS member Stan Bass recently had to fabricate new disks for the M&W clutch on his Super M, after being unable to find enough replacement disks.  Here's his description, as posted to the ATIS Farmall list: 
  "For those of you that recall, last fall I posted a couple of questions on the main list about repairing the hand clutch on my Super M.  The update is that it now has new clutch discs and appears to be working great :-) 

"We measured the NOS disc I found and drew it in autocad, fed that through some other magic (I lost track) eventually to the CNC mill controller.  We did several test cuts out of wood until we matched the NOS disc perfectly. We bought a large sheet of the clutch material and milled them out.  The material was very hard on the cutter bits, a carbide bit barely lasted through one disc if we were lucky.  I put the tractor back together the first weekend using 2 new discs and the NOS disc (since we matched the disc up so well, I wasn't worried about being able to reproduce the NOS disc).  Doing just small quantities like this it ended up costing about $100 per disc. 

"My tractor had apparently sat for a long period at some point as the metal parts inside of the hand clutch (especially the brake drum which has the teeth that mate to the discs) were rusted and pitted.  What surprised me was that the old fibre discs were not worn down in their thickness, but their teeth had been chewed off!  My M was just driving off the stubs left on the teeth from the last disc.  The teeth on the fibre discs are apparently designed with very tight clearances so I spent most of my time with a file removing scale and getting a good surface on the teeth in the drum before they would slide in."

Stan also found out that M&W is still operating and may be able to help with information, and can be reached at (800) 221-2855. 

Super MTAs also introduced the "Torque Amplifier" (hence the "TA" designation), an IH innovation used on many following Farmall series tractors.  It was a planetary gearset that let the operator shift to a lower range while on the go, increasing torque and decreasing ground speed.  If you're looking at an MTA, check to be sure the TA works--you'll often see tractors advertised as having a "good TA" or "bad TA," or something like that.  They can be rebuilt or replaced if they're worn out, and are readily available from suppliers such as those listed below. 

 Starting and Running:
Most Ms have an electric starting and lighting system, but not all do.  Many have been converted to 12-volt systems, but the original 6-volt systems will work fine if the tractor is tuned up well and if the temperatures aren't bitterly cold.  If you're buying a new 6-volt battery, get the biggest one, with the most "cold cranking amps" (CCA), that will fit in the battery box.  The wiring harnesses on old tractors are often in pretty bad shape, but they're fairly simple to replace since everything is accessible.  Check out Robert Melville's Farmall wiring diagrams, and suppliers like BrillmansRhode Island Wire or OEM Tractor Parts for original-looking wire and components.

The brake pedals should have about 1-1/4" of free play--the distance you can push the pedals in before the brakes start to take hold.  They should be matched, so that both brakes engage at the same time when the pedals are latched together.  Look for oil accumulation beneath the brake housings, which is a sign of oil leaking past the seals and soaking the brake bands.  The clutch pedal should have between 1/2" and 1" of free play.

I've bought two Ms over the years and taking the tractor for a road test was a clincher both times--it's just a lot of fun to hear that smooth Farmall hum and to watch the world go by from up there.  And it's an opportunity to test the clutch and the gears, and to listen for unusual sounds from the transmission, and it's a decent way to judge engine lugging power as you start out in 5th gear from a dead stop.  But be careful:  Farmall Ms are fast in 5th gear, like 16 or 17 miles an hour.  When you're up high on that seat, on a vehicle with no suspension, that's cruising right along.  It's no problem on a smooth road, but hitting a bump or a pothole at that speed could bounce you right off the seat.  Start slowly and get comfortable with the tractor, the steering, the brakes, and the road before you try the 5th-gear test.

As someone else on the AT forum posted, Ms are notorious for having a worn worm gear or sector gear in the steering, which can cause the front wheels to shake in high gear.  You can check for this when driving the tractor.  Even at low speed, you'll be able to tell if there's a lot of free play in the steering--i.e., if you can turn the steering wheel quite a bit without actually turning the front wheels, or if the front wheels turn back and forth a bit on their own. 
  Narrow-front Ms can be hard to steer when stopped or when moving very slowly, but are usually fine once you're moving faster.  Backing into a tight space can be a challenge, since when you're half turned around with only one hand on the wheel, it can be hard to put much weight into steering.  I think old Farmalls tend to be harder to steer than old John Deeres, since the Farmall engine is right up front by the front wheels, while Deere engines are back close in to the rear axle.  (I think this is also why rear-wheel weights seem to be more common on Farmalls than on comparably-sized John Deeres, since that Deere engine placement helps traction). 

A spinner knob on the steering wheel can help, and is hugely fun to use when turning the tractor around at the end of a row, but it can also whack your hand good and hard if the front wheels hit a rock or a furrow or something, and the steering wheel suddenly spins.  None of the Ms came with power steering, although there were aftermarket companies like Behlen and Char-Lynn that made power-steering pumps for them.  I'd think that Farmall parts suppliers like Bates Corporation (Bourbon, IN, 800-248-2955), Steel Wheel Ranch (Everest, KS, 785-548-7437), Carter and Gruenewald (Brooklyn, WI, 608-455-2411), Sam's Tractor Parts (Noxapater, MS, 888-333-1690), Mathis Equipment (Cairo, MO, 816-295-4456), or Berkshire Implement (Royal Center, IN, 219-643-3115) would have some of those pumps for sale.

I don't think a wide front end would make much difference in the ease or difficulty of steering, but they're likely to be available from those same suppliers if you wanted to try it, or if you wanted to convert for other reasons. 

One other thing you might check:  Ms sometimes had a problem in the rear-end transmission.  There are two big "bull gears" in the final drive, centered on the rear axles, one on each side.  The bearings that support these gears wear out sometimes, and so a ball bearing would drop down and get caught between the gear and the housing, and punch through.  The problem could be fixed, and wasn't all that common to begin with, so unless there's a leaking patch in the bottom of the rear end your tractor is probably fine.  Just thought I'd mention it as long as we're talking Ms.
More About the Super M
1953 Super M Farmall The 1953 Super M Farmall I used to have, in the hilltop hayfield north of the farmhouse.  I love these old machines, the way they look and feel and sound and smell, and the things that they stand for:  working hard at an honest life, building something that lasts, staying in touch with those who came before us.  I'm sure I'll buy another one again someday.   
Being around old machines means touching them, looking at them, smelling the scent of hot metal and fuel and oil.  There's a lot of beauty in the simplicity and functionality of the design--both of the machine itself and of the individual details.  Here are some favorite details from my old Super M--the things that gave it its own personality.
Farmall Emblem
IHC Toolbox
Tractor Hood
The "Farmall" emblem was from an M rather than a Super M, but I liked it better than the "IH" pictogram.
This nice toolbox, mounted on the pto cover, must have come from an old IH potato harvester or cornplanter or something.
The air cleaner cap with the rounded screen isn't right for a Super M either, but I liked it also.  And check out that fuel gauge in the gas cap!
Starter and choke rods

Governor control

Ignition and ammeter
Virtual Super M:  Click on the starter ring, throttle lever, and ignition switch.  That throttle lever is an aftermarket item from M&W, replacing the original flat stock lever.

Plow lead
I think this tractor saw a lot of plowing duty in its younger years.  The drawbar shows evidence of heavy pulling, and this nice old hook hanging from the back of the seat probably connected to the trip rope from a plow or something.
Here's a summary of the various ways my Super M helped me convert money into fun during the years that I owned it.  Unless otherwise noted, all parts came from the Case/IH dealer.
  August 95:  Bought the tractor, serial number 49961DJ, for $2150.  Paid an additional dollar per loaded mile to have it hauled 350 miles to my dad's farm.

September 95:  New muffler and rain cap, new water temp gauge.  $30 for the muffler and rain cap, $35 for the gauge.

September 95:  Bought a replacement battery box from Bates Corporation (800-248-2955) for $92, but I never was able to get the old box off.  Two big stubborn bolts way down in the bottom of the box just wouldn't come loose.  It was hard to get a good wrench on them to begin with since the box was so deep--I was using a ratchet wrench with an extension and a deep socket, and so didn't have much leverage.  I thought about cutting the old box apart so I could get the handle of the wrench right down near the bolt, but it just didn't seem right--that battery box has served long and well, and deserves a more fitting end than to just be cut up.  I'd of course have thrown the thing away anyway if I'd gotten it off, but first I'd have looked at it, cleaned it up, treated it with some respect.  Anyway, the new box is still sitting in the barn, and I bolted an old license plate onto the side of the old battery box.  (The license plate was from when I lived in Arizona and just wanted a tractor, so it said "M FARML"--just the thing to cover up those rusted-through holes).

October 95:  New main battery cables, $81.

November 95:  New oil filter element and gasket, fuel strainer screen and gasket, and a new distributor cap, rotor, points, and seal.  $49 total.

November 95:  Bought a pair of fenders and mounting brackets from a salvage yard (Anderson Tractor Supply, Bluffton, Ohio, 419-358-8846), off of a Farmall 400 that had been wrecked.  The fenders were clean and straight but faded to a dull rusty color--not much trace of red at all.  One of the mounting brackets was bent up.  Cost $132.50 for the fenders, plus another five or ten dollars for mounting bolts and some 1-1/8" spacers cut from 1/2 inch iron pipe.  Getting those bolts into the threaded holes on top of the rear axle housings, which had 40 years worth of dirt and gunk and rust in them, required a bunch of WD-40, picking at with a little screwdriver and a wire brush, and general persistence.  (But it was worth it--raking hay on a steep hillside in June 97, I was mighty glad to have those sturdy fenders to lean against).

November 95:  Bought an air cleaner cap from another salvage yard right next to Anderson's (Tired Iron, 419-358-0390), for $10.  The screen underneath was all bent up, but the thing was otherwise in pretty good shape.  It was off of an M, not a Super M, so the screen is rounded rather than just flat.  Not historically accurate for use on a Super M, but I like it.

November 95:  Had a local auto body shop straighten out the bent fender mounting bracket and the air cleaner screen.  Only cost $10, but I had to spend a lot of time finding a place that was willing to do such a small job.

February 96:  Bought a set of 2-piece IH wheel weights from Anderson's.  Cost $52.75, plus about $50 worth of bolts, washers, and nuts.  (Those big 3/4" bolts are spendy.)

May 96:  Replaced the battery with a 6-volt Diehard from Sears.  $48, after $7 trade-in of old battery.

September 96:  Bought a mudscraper to go between the front wheels, from Anderson's, for $26.  I wanted one because they look cool, and because I'd gotten bogged down in mud once and it was really hard to steer.  I used a 12-gauge shotgun bore brush, chucked into an electric drill, to clean out the threaded mounting holes on the base of the front end bolster.  I haven't driven the tractor in mud since then, so I don't know if the scraper would really help or not, but it still looks kind of neat.

April 97:  Had a tire company come out and put new tubes and stems in all four tires.  Rear tubes (13.6 x 38) cost $39 each plus $25 each labor; front tubes cost $9 each plus $6 each for labor.  Service call fee was $35, making the total bill $193.

May 97:  Replaced the thermostat, since the old one was stuck open and the coolant never got above about 150 degrees or so.  Cost about $20 for the thermostat and gasket.  I used regular grease-gun grease to hold the gasket in place while I assembled the thermostat housing, after an AT list member posted that he'd used grease rather than commercial gasket sealers.  It's worked fine.

June 97:  Replaced the voltage regulator and had the generator rebuilt, since the tractor wouldn't charge reliably.  The new regulator cost $40.  A local shop rebuilt the generator for $85.00.  One caution:  I left the pulley on the generator since the shop needed it to do the testing, and the whole unit, pulley and all, came back with a nice fresh coat of shiny black paint.  The generator I didn't mind--it was black before, and was a rebuild before, but the pulley had been a nice weathered reddish-gray, with splotches of the original red still showing here and there.  I liked it being old and faded.  Funny what things turn out to be important to you once they're gone.

October 97:  New antifreeze, since the tractor had just had water in it since I replaced the thermostat in May.  Cost about $15.

Approximate total:  $2500 to get the tractor to my dad's place, plus almost another thousand in miscellaneous little odds and ends, not counting the many hours wiping grease and dirt out of the air cleaner, out from under the hydraulic reservoir, off of just about every portion of the tractor near a grease fitting, etc.  Good thing the tractor hasn't needed any real repairs, and that I'm not in this to make a profit...
  January 1999:  Sold the tractor for $2300, to a young Amish gentleman from northern Ohio who liked it because his father had owned a Super M.  I hated to sell it, but was glad to see it go to someone who'll respect and care for it. 

June 2010 update:  As the years have gone by I've looked at many other Super Ms at tractor shows but have never seen another with quite the same grille.  Asking around, I learned that most Super Ms had the same grille as on all the regular Ms, but some of the very late production Super Ms (serial number up around 50000) had these blanks where implement-mounting holes would later go on the Super MTA grilles.

My old Super M, ~ 1998   M / Super M grille

"Transitional" SM grille

Super MTA grille

Browsing eBay one day in the spring of 2010, I saw a beautifully restored very late 1953 Super M for sale... and it had the transitional grille.  I knew I was done for the moment I saw the photo, and I'm happy to now be the owner of that tractor.  And I still wish I'd kept the other one...

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Thanks for visiting!  E-mail me at if you have any comments.  I'm always glad to talk tractors and such. --Dean Vinson

Copyright notice:  Unless noted otherwise, I wrote all the text and took all the photos.  Feel free to make any personal use of them, but do not make any commercial or public use of them without my specific okay.  The photo of the restored Farmall M at the top of this page is used here courtesy of Antique Power Magazine.