Do You Recognize This Tractor?

If You Change Enough Parts!

Way back when, I grew up on a farm. We had a variety of two cylinder John Deere tractors—from a “GP” to a model 730. My brothers and I all had our favorite tractor—mine was a ’37 “B,” just like what my grandfather had bought new.

I remember dragging the “B” home from the Stevenstown area. Dad put the front end in the back of the old pickup, a log chain from the front pedestal to the bumper and another to the drawbar bracket and down the road we went at 25 miles per hour.

Almost all the tractors Dad bought did not run. We would run a belt from belt pulley to belt pulley and spray some gas into the carburetor and they would almost always run. Clean the carburetor, change the points and a few other little things and off to the field they went.

Over the years helping Dad try to get things running or tearing down and rebuilding the motor or transmission—I got to know the two cylinder pretty good. Dad is gone now but my interest in the old John Deeres will be here forever.

After working on these old tractors for years, I had an idea. I started comparing parts from one tractor to another. I know that I had put 60 rods in an unstyled “A,” late “A” blocks in 60s and so on. I decided to make a tractor to go with the Johnny Cash song, “One piece at a time.” I wanted it to include parts of a “B” through some New Generation tractors.

I like the look of the unstyled “Bs” the best so I would make that look, if possible. I started looking through the parts I had, compared some gaskets and dug through several parts books. I finally came up with a plan.

Several of the parts I had at home were rusted so badly from years of abuse that I decided to make my tractor from what other people would throw away. I knew this would be a bigger adventure, but what the heck.

After looking at my tractors and remembering various things, I decided to start with a ’39 B crankcase. It had the four top bolts for a block and governor case with the oil line back for the valve train. The cracked block from a 50 John Deere offered a few problems, but a phone call and few hundred dollars—problem solved. I put in a set of aluminum 6.5 to 1 compression pistons.

The top four bolts on the block lined up perfectly. For the bottom four, I had to fill the regular holes in the crankcase and drill new ones. The rods were from the ’39 “B.” After a couple hours of grinding, the wrist pins fit just fine. Now the head—cracked, of course—went off to a welding buddy. A little more grinding and welding and back to the shop to grind the seats and replace the valves.

To add years, I wanted a carburetor from a 530. I didn’t have the oil shutoff for the gas tank so I had to adjust the float a couple of times to stop the running gas.

To bolt on the unstyled pedestal, I again had to drill four new holes for the bottom bolts. After measuring the center shaft, I found the Roll-O-Matic shaft to be one-half inch longer than the regular shaft. Off to the shop to make a one-half inch bushing and slide it together. I had to lengthen the steering shaft about four inches for the wheel to be positioned. The front wheels and tires are from a 1209 haybine.

The rear spokes were from an early styled “B” but the welded on rims were shot. I like bigger tires so I found a set of 14 inch rims that had been run loose. After welding up the holes and cracks, the center spokes welded in very easily.

I wanted the New Generation fenders so I thought to try a square rear end from a ’52 “B.” All the holes lined up perfectly and so did the gears.

Spacing from the rear end to the brake holes was different on the late styled “B” compared to the ’39 crankcase, so what to use for brakes? While digging through the shed, I found a set of unstyled brakes—they were bolted up and fit perfectly after installing new pads.

Years ago, Dad and my brothers had installed a box seat on an early styled “A” so I took that idea to fit my tractor. A couple pieces of iron and a couple more holes and the battery box was on. Since the New Generation fenders were to be installed, we also needed that seat. I sawed off the arm supports and bolted the seat to the sliding seat bracket.

I had run the tractor a couple of times but couldn’t take it for a walk until now. After running the tractor for a couple of hours, I thought I would see what it could do. I wasn’t disappointed when my newly rebuilt governor blew up at about 1,800 to 2,000 RPMs. It was just back to the shed for a couple more hours to rebuild it again and turn the speed down a little.

I take it to parades in our area where my neighbor or daughter drive it, pulling a 4-H float. We do get several heads to turn as it goes putting by.

I now need to redo the transmission to increase the ground speed. Four speeds and 8 miles per hour won’t let me go on some of the local tractor rides. I already have an idea to make my own Behlen style transmission kit. With my remodel, I think it will go about 20 miles per hour. I can’t wait for the wind blowing in my face.

By James Bettesworth