If you’re considering buying an older machine, there will inevitably be both a learning curve and some tune-ups involved in making it look and run as well as possible.
The absolute first thing any new owner of an old tractor should do is track down the manual, and odds are we have it here on Ag Manuals. A manual will provide a comprehensive guide to the individual parts and how they fit together, as well as basic troubleshooting and operational instructions.
Along the way, there are other questions to consider.
Right off the bat, the first consideration is whether the tractor is for show, or for use. If restoring old machines to their former glory is a passion project and not a practical one, that has an impact on sources of parts and paint, as well as setting priorities in terms of expenditures. A show tractor should look great and be restored with original materials, where possible, whereas a tractor for practical use really just has to be able to perform the working tasks for which it was purchased.
If the price of the machine plus the estimated costs of restoring it are far greater than the resale value for a comparable restored piece of equipment, there is certainly a question of whether or not it is worth restoring at all, and whether it would be better to just buy a tractor that is in better shape to begin with.
Following from the question of what kind of state the tractor is in, is what kind of resources you’re willing to put into it.
This is not just a question of money--although that is one of the most important factors at play--it’s also a question of time, and a willingness to learn. Restoring a tractor means having (or gaining) some level of mechanical aptitude, spending time shopping around, and having access to resources like a proper manual, parts suppliers, skilled mechanics for the tasks you can’t accomplish alone, as well as a community of enthusiasts--like a club, association or even online community of individuals--who can offer advice and guidance from experience.
Finances, as mentioned to play heavily into the decision-making process in restoring a tractor. Setting a budget is important, but that budget can’t just account for the parts that are known to be faulty, unreliable, in need of an upgrade: it also has to account for surprises that turn up along the way. Leaving a $1000-$2000 cushion in the budget means that incidental expenses won’t end up derailing the entire venture
In any case, restoring a tractor can be a worthwhile endeavor and a good investment, provided some time is devoted to planning, and budgeting.