The 1939 Styled John Deere Model A Tractor

John F. Harris, Sr.
June/July 1988
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The 1939 John Deere Model A, serial number 479547, as bought. There were 11,000 of these 1939 year models built, serial numbers 477000 to 487999.


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RR #6 Box I67 Frankfort, Indiana 4604I

One day a friend came up to me at the Rough and Tumble Show at Kinzers, PA, in August, 1986, and asked me if I wanted to buy a tractor. He named three that he had for sale. The only one that I was interested in was a styled Model A. I asked him what year it was, but he didn't know. I told him that if it was a four-speed, either 1939 or 1940, I would be interested.

In the early spring of 1987 I went to see him. We went to see his tractors. But his tractor turned out to be just like my 1945 Model A, a six-speed of the years from 1941 to 1947. So I didn't progress any farther with any deal.

On July 11, 1987 I, along with many other members of the Clinton County Antique Machinery Club, began to move tractors into the Clinton County Fairgrounds for our tractor show in connection with the annual 4-H Fair at Frankfort, Indiana. There were 105 registered tractors there along with other drills, wagons, planters, plows, and a model Case steam traction engine. I took my old GP, AR, and BR tractors.

There were three tractors with 'For Sale' signs on them. One was a 1940 Model A. A closer look showed it to be a 1939 Model A tractor. It was all painted up like new, but there were a few things that I noticed that it needed.

All John Deere historians know that the 1939 Model A is merely a 1938 Model A in styled form. It had the old style engine and transmission. The 1940 has the new style engine like the 1941 to 1947 six-speed tractors, yet it is only four speeds. A brief breakdown of them is:

410,000 to 459,999, 1933 to 1937 open front 4-speed trans.460,000 to 476,999, 1938 open front w/12 spline rear axle and other changes.

477,000 to 487,999, 1939 styled, w/same as 1938.488,000 to 498,999, 1940 styled w/later engine and 4-speed trans. 499,000 to 583,999, 1941 to 1947 styled, same as the 1940 except six speed.

There are just 11,000 each of the 1939 and 1940 year models. And I rarely ever see any of them at any shows.

A few of the changes unique to the 1938  and 1939 Model A covering both the un styled 1938 and styled 1939 are the 12 spline rear axles and different rear axle housings from the earlier models.

Needless to say, I bought that old tractor, serial number 479,547. It was built on October 10, 1938 and shipped to the Indianapolis area. The enclosed photograph of it shows it in the same condition as when I bought it.

When I tried it out my overalls got caught in a split in the seat, so I replaced it with another seat that I had at home.

I am not sure at what serial numbers they changed from the low back seat to the high back seat, nor what number they changed from the straight overdrive lever to the curved one to fit around the battery box. This tractor had a high back seat on it, but it also had a straight overdrive lever. It now has the low back seat and curved overdrive lever. I may have to change one or both back if at some future time I find mine are wrong.

The restoration did not noticeably change its appearance, but did bring it closer to 'factory' condition. A close look at the photograph will show that the right rear wheel is a factory round spoke, and it has a rubber hose from the fuel tank to the carburetor, and one front tire is smaller than the other.

I wire-brushed the wheels, painted them, put on a pair of new tires and tubes, and new front lug bolts .Naturally, I ran the tap through the holes in the front hubs. My taps and dies are my closest and dearest friends.

Along this line I might add that the worst job I ever had was to run the dies on the 48 bolts of the rear steel lugs for my 1929 Model GP, and run the tap through the nuts of these bolts on a hot day.

A couple of years ago I bought a drawbar from a regular GEM advertiser near Elkton, Md. I used that drawbar on this tractor. Then I needed a complete sediment bulb, fuel cutoff, gas line, fuel line, and the unit holding the fuel cutoff lever onto the cutoff cock. The rear dash panel of the hood had a third hole cut in it, but I had a proper one on a nail in the shop. I put all these together while I had the hood and gas tank off. And there was that little bracket which holds the spark wire cover to the fan shaft cover, but again it was a trip to a nail in the shop.

The muffler is a piece of large pipe welded to the base, so it stayed as it is. I bought a piece of 5/16 threaded rod and lots of nuts and washers, and made baffles with alternate openings to cut down on the noise.

But I still had a factory round spoke wheel on the right side and a factory flat spoke on the left side. The rear tires are very good, and are mates.

On August 29th I put my tractor show 'ticket', number BR-333353 on my old truck and went to the show at Portland, Indiana. There was a big traffic jam, and everybody was going to the show. Once there, I cranked up that 'ticket' and rode around the show all day. I never shut it off until I was loaded, and ready to head for home. And, believe me, I had a most wonderful time at that show.

One of my rides around the Jay County Fairgrounds took me over through the flea market area. You would never believe it, but one off the venders had a factory flat spoke rear wheel, JD-1271-R, 8x36, that was an exact duplicate to one on my 1939 Model A tractor. I bought it. And when I got ready to go home, I drove our old 1970 truck over and a couple men loaded the wheel for me.

Once home, I had a nice lot of wire-brushing and painting to do. Then it looked like a brand new wheel. I got the tire changed from the round spoke wheel to the flat spoke wheel, so I now have a pair of matching wheels and tires.

There are a couple things that I always do to all my tractors. First, I bolt a homemade step onto the rear axle to make it easier to get on and off the tractors. Another thing I do is bolt a homemade hitch onto the front steering post. And the third thing I do is carry a short homemade metal push-pole along on the truck. Sometimes I need it.

At one show, we were getting our tractors cranked up for the parade. My 1937 Model A just would not start. We coupled the push-pole onto it, and pulled it with the 1944 Model AR. We made about three circles around the grounds. We couldn't get a single pop out of that old Johnny-popper. I found that I had forgot to close the drain in the carburetor, and forgot to turn on the fuel. After an embarrasing correction the tractor went right off.

I also usually carry the old blower belt off our old 22 x 38 Frick. Once, the old 1941 Model G would not start. Here, I used the old AR and the belt. When I got the G going, I realized that I had a nice group of spectators. After all, 40 and 50-year-old tractors do get flooded, break down, and just plain get stubborn. They are like a mule, they like to get stubborn for no reason just when everybody is looking.

Restoring this tractor did not change its appearance.

I didn't tear the engine down. It runs real good. And, if it is not broke, why fix it?

There are several things that I consider essential in repairing tractors. First, I have an electric motor with a wire brush on the shaft. Then, I have small wire brushes that I use in electric drills, and, of course, the hand type wire brushes. I have a set of taps and dies that I use on everything that is taken apart, bolts and nuts included. My wheel puller consists of 3/4 inch threaded rods, nuts and washers.


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