Dad’s 1941 “A” Started It All

Don Dufner is famous for his six wheel drive, tractor built using three John Deere 830s. In this article from 1999 he explains how it all got started.

During my high school days, Tractor Supply used to send out a catalog with gasoline piston sets and power blocks for John Deere tractors. Our ’41 “A” had a hard time pulling a three bottom plow in third gear so we usually had to plow in second. It was an awful, boring job plowing an 80 acre field.

I talked my dad into buying a power block and I put it in the tractor. The power block raised the compression and increased the bore from 5-1/2 to 6 inches. It was supposed to give up to 33 percent more horsepower. The local John Deere dealer tried to discourage me as he said we would have transmission trouble. I would not hear of that.

After I installed the power block and the water pump, I couldn’t get over what a change it made in that tractor. I could pull a four bottom plow better than I used to pull three bottoms.

We soon bought two eight foot “LLA” press drills to replace our old 12 foot drill. I put duals on the “A” and raised up the drawbar hitch to the highest hole for good traction and was able to pull it in third gear. This was a little over 4-1/2 miles per hour. When the drill was full of wheat and fertilizer, the “A” was just able to reach full RPMs and was loaded to the maximum. After using it hard for about two years, it really impressed me as far as the power it had.

The next spring was a late spring and we were going to have to seed faster to get our crop in. I started thinking if only the “A” was eight to 10 horsepower stronger, I could seed in fourth gear which was six miles per hour. I had a nine horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine on a little tractor I had built. Fast idle was 3,600 RPMs on the Briggs motor and 1,200 RPMs on the “A” John Deere. I put a six inch pulley on the Briggs engine and bolted an 18 inch pulley onto the “A” flywheel and made a mount ahead of the radiator on the steering post for the Briggs engine. I belted it up with a long v-belt to the flywheel. I hit the starter on the “A” John Deere and when the “A” fired up, so did the Briggs. I tried it out in the driveway and it felt like it had good torque and the ratio was perfect.

When I went to the field with my two eight foot press drills, I started out in third gear to warm up and then shifted into fourth gear with the throttles half open. I slowly engaged the clutch. Both engines labored and I was rolling. I hit the “A” throttle and nothing happened. Then, I pushed ahead the Briggs throttle and instantly the “A” started speeding up to full throttle and I was off rolling at six miles an hour seeding with my little “A” John Deere pulling 16 feet of drill which should have had a 50 horsepower tractor on the front.

My neighbor was going home for dinner and had to stop and listen. He just shook his head and laughed at my combination. It was 90 degrees that day and I made two rounds and was really feeling proud of my power plant. Then all of a sudden, the smoke rolled out of the Briggs exhaust and the “A” started to lug down. Guess what? I melted the piston in my Briggs. I had to take the belt off and shift back to third gear.

Looking back now, it just reassures me that no matter how hard you work and abuse those old two cylinders, they can take it.

Submitted by,

Don Dufner

Buxton, ND