Are You Guys So Talented ... or Just Plain Fast?

1940 John Deere H

Content Tools

1508 River Road New Hope, Pennsylvania 18938

Hardly ever does an issue of GEM go by that I am not amazed at how quickly many restoration projects are completed. The story goes something like: 'I picked up this rusty, broken, half-missing beauty in January and had it show-ready by May! Either you guys are retired, exceptionally talented, or just plain fast! All three maybe?

As for me and my 1940 John Deere H Serial #18825, let's just say we took the long way around the barn. Back in 1987 my father-in-law surprised me one day with a recent find of his that he thought would be a good first time project for me. For one hundred dollars I was the proud and happy owner of my first John Deere.

Now, we've all heard of the proverbial basket case. Well this worn out and very tired H was literally delivered in baskets, all but the frame, main case, axles and wheels, that is. I had old metal milk crates filled with broken parts, brackets, springs, pistons, valves, bearings, bolts ... you name it. Thank God almost everything was there. Now, that's the good part. The bad was that the head was broken, the block was split, the crankcase was full of mud, leaves, water, bearing pieces, maple seeds, and greasy muck. Three out of four tires were bad, the two front rims were broken, the radiator was full of mice, and well, I could go on and on.

To make a long story a little shorter, by around 1990 I had the little two banger poppin'. Oh, what sweet music! We recorded the first start up and have enjoyed this tape over and over.

We used the tractor for a couple of years to pull a small disc and a few wagons, then shut her down and got serious with the final restoration and paint job. By spring of 1995 it was time to start her up again. I remounted the magneto and carburetor and pulled her over. Only thing is, she wouldn't start. Lord, help me!

I had fuel, spark, timing and she would fire now and then and sometimes backfire through the carburetor, but would not run. I tried everything possible for about a week to no avail. After almost giving up (temporarily of course) on a Saturday afternoon, pow-pow, she exploded to life sending pieces of smoldering cloth high into the air from the exhaust stack. Here was my answered prayer.

Because of mice I had stuffed a wad of soft cloth into the intake manifold when the carburetor was off the engine. As you can imagine, the rag got sucked to the valves, part way into the cylinders and fouled things up until eventually burning up enough to pass through the exhaust. Oh well, I guess it's things like this that make this hobby interesting.

So to all you slow but sure restorers out there, keep at it, never give up, and watch where you put those shop rags!

I would like to thank Joe Gonyo for selling me his extra hood and grilles and also Ben Sr. and Ben Jr. for countless hours of help and inspiration.

The sign in the photo was a 'just for fun' summer vacation project.