On the 23rd of October 2021, Andrew Goodall and Collin Vaughan discovered the “Wabbit Twactor” on eBay after searching for the ultimate warbird towing machine for the Harvard MK4, known as the “The Wacky Wabbit.”
Initially, Andrew was interested in the newer more modern options available for towing aircraft so, Having searched the latest gadgets for towing aircraft, from remote tugs radio-controlled tracked vehicles to ex-military tugs, Collin suggested the good old Massey Ferguson TE20 tractor! After a couple of weeks searching eBay we found the perfect candidate.
Collin did most of the research and found this beauty pictured below. Initially manufactured initially in 1947. Not wartime but close enough! Grey is the traditional colour for the TE20, “The Little Grey Fergie” but not this one!! “It’s only paint”, it can be replaced anytime, so it was decided to restore it in keeping with the Desert Air Force Harvard (DAF) “Wacky Wabbit.” The paint “Light Stone” was purchased from Marcus Glenn, the correct colour for WW2 military vehicles… Perfect!
The Ferguson TE20 is an agricultural tractor designed by Harry Ferguson. By far his most successful design, it was manufactured from 1946 until 1956 and was commonly known as the Little Grey Fergie. TE20 (for “Tractor England”) to be built by Standard Motors at their Banner Lane plant in Coventry.
It marked a major advance in tractor design, distinguished by lightweight, small size, manoeuvrability and versatility. The TE20 popularised Harry Ferguson’s invention of the hydraulic three-point hitch system around the world. The tractor played a large part in introducing widespread mechanised agriculture. In many parts of the world, the TE20 was the first tractor to be affordable to the average farmer. Many TE20s remain in regular use in farming and other work and the model is also a popular collector’s item for enthusiasts today, and finally an aircraft tug!
All that was left to do now was put Collin to work!! Collin Vaughan – Project manager and restoration expert – www.TheOddityfinder.co.uk
The Fergy was picked up and loaded on a trailer and recovered to the Oddity HQ in Essex for Collin to examine for the forthcoming restoration. Unfortunately, it was found that it had quite a bit of corrosion on the metalwork and odd-sized wheels! So back to eBay to purchase some new mudguards, footplates, wheels and tyres, amongst many other items!
The radiator grille was badly corroded and damaged. It needed attention, so it was back on fleabay to purchase a new one! Again the old radiator grille was put back on eBay and resold to help keep the costs down. The restoration was made easy using the products from Bit Hamber for degreasing, cleaning and priming. Great products that proved invaluable.
Once the wheels were removed, it was clear that it would take too much time to fill the corrosion. We decided to buy new wheels and sell the others on eBay. This saved us hours of work as we were on a tight timeline… We did an excellent job as they were both different size wheels!
Now for a couple of hundred quid, we had ourselves a matching new set of wheels. All that was needed now was to purchase some new tyres and tubes, get them fitted and spray them. We wanted the grass tyres that look like P-51 tyres; however, they are like rocking horse poop to find, so we went for the standard easy to buy tyres.
Collin did a great job painting the new wheels and fitting the fresh nuts, which finished the look… She’Finally, she’s starting to come together! The degreasing and priming were done with a product manufactured by Bilt Hamber Laboratories.
The wings were also badly battered and corroded and different sizes, so we purchased two new wings again on eBay and fitted them. This saved a lot of time, and again they look marvellous and symmetrical now painted in the desert light stone. Furthermore, the old wings go back on eBay to save money as we know someone with more patience and time will buy them.
As this T-20 is being restored as an aircraft tug, we need the tow bracket fixed to the front and the rear. Not as easy as it sounds as we had to get a fabricator to make all the specialist brackets and parts. As you can see, it all came together very nicely.
Below is the expertly fabricated front tow hitch made explicitly for this tractor. We find that towing the aircraft with the rear hitch is ideal. However, when putting the aircraft in the hangar. The front hitch works better than trying to reverse the beast into a tightly packed hangar that is usually full of very expensive. Spitfires and Messerschmitts, to name but a few! Loving the silver finish; it looks great against the light stone paintwork and breaks the colours up nicely.
This project started in early November 2021, and by February 2022, Collin had it looking like it was ready to roll! With all the new hitches fitted, it’s almost time to fit the bonnet and spray some period looking RAF decals on the bonnet.
The “Little yellow Fergie” needed some finishing touches to make it look military so we applied stencils for AJ841. This was the serial number of the ‘Wacky Wabbit’ when it was in RAF (DAF) service between 1942-1946. These stencils really make it look military along with some RAF roundels for good measure.
Below is a short video featuring some photographs of the restoration. She was made in 1947 and 75 years later she has had a new lease of life and we hope she will keep on going for another 75 years! You can see her at the Duxford Imperial War Museum where she shall remain for the next few years doing what she does best.
Collin Vaughan – Project manager and restoration expert – www.TheOddityfinder.co.uk
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