A Kansas 'HR' John Deere

Smallest horizontal two cylinder tractor

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5166 S. Vine, Wichita, Kansas 67217

As long as I have been building small tractors I have wanted a small two cylinder tractor. Some thought was given to build a two cylinder engine from a two cylinder air compressor. I decided this would be more work than I was willing to take on. A John Deere BR has always been one of my favorite tractors, but it is too big. It didn't take much research to realize a John Deere H is the smallest horizontal two cylinder tractor built, so I decided to modify the H to look like a scale BR. After studying the project for a while, I realized the clutch pulley on the HR doesn't line up with the crankshaft. I felt this would look wrong for a scale BR. After giving up on the project for a while, I got to thinking about a small two cylinder tractor again. It dawned on me it wasn't necessary to build a scale BR, I could just build an HR. Of course John Deere didn't make an HR, or an unstyled H. My preference is for the unstyled tractors so I decided to build an unstyled HR. As this was to be a major project, I decided to try to make the tractor look as 'factory' as possible.

I traded my friend David Linneburr out of a very tired H with hand start. The front end, radiator, and all the sheet metal was left with David. After hauling what looked like tractor remains home, the engine got a minor overhaul and the usual cleanup. Now the real work started. Each rear axle housing was narrowed five inches and brazed back together. Then the axles were cut off at the splines. The out board bearing mount on the axles was moved in five inches to match the housings. This was done by welding a bead on the shaft for the new bearing mount and then machining off the old mount and turning the weld for a new mount. I borrowed a lathe from Virgil Ewy, another friend of mine, to do the turning. It would be difficult to do projects without input and help from friends like David and Virgil. Next the splines were machined out of inside the hubs. After the hubs were put back on the axles, three holes were drilled between the hubs and axles three inches deep and three eighths inch diameter pins inserted. This completed the major work on the rear end.

Now it was time to tackle the front end. David and I discussed whether to cut six inches out of the fan shaft, but we decided the tractor would look better shorter, so six inches came out. About twelve inches were taken out of the front frame. The front axle is built from sheet metal and strap iron with three-quarter-ton Chevy front steering knuckles. The spindles and hubs are International combine which fit John Deere wheels. The steering arms and the tie rod are also Chevy, much modified. I don't know what the steering box is from, but the extension is Gleaner combine. I tried to run the steering shaft through the engine but there wasn't room so it had to stay outside. A support for the axle was made and bolted to the frame then a wishbone was built to support the axle.

This project was broken into phases and tackled one at a time. Now it was time to tackle a more difficult phase, the radiator shell. A small car radiator was found in the same junk I find a lot of parts in. A shell was built around the radiator using four inch channel and sheet metal. I had looked in my junk for a knob for the radiator cap but I couldn't find one. One day while walking by a desk at work I spotted a knob laying on top. I asked the person at the desk if I could have the knob and they said yes. You never know where parts can be found! The knob was from a chair back and was perfect for a radiator cap. A piece of sheet metal was pounded in a curved shape for the cap with strap iron welded around the edge. Letters for the John Deere on the front of the radiator shell were sawed from one-eighth inch plastic and epoxies on.

Thin sheet metal was used for the hood contoured to fit the radiator shell. I could not find a gas tank the right shape or size, so one was formed of sheet metal. An Allis air cleaner was found for the air cleaner, which was mounted on the right side because there was no room on the left side.

Fenders and the floor boards are also thin sheet metal. Rivets are used to fasten the fender parts together. Usually the first question asked about the HR is how did I get the beads in the hood and fenders. I tell them a block of wood was hollowed out and a hammer used to put the beads in. The next question is how much body putty was used or a statement such as how did you get the beads so smooth. About then I confess a roller machine was borrowed from Virgil, but I did have to make the rollers for the machine.

Front wheels are from an H, the rear wheels are made from some twenty four inch rims welded to the H centers. Front tires are 4:00 x 15, rear tires are 9.5 x 24.

Now I will answer some other questions that are asked. What kind of paint was used? Primer was applied first and then Iron is used as a top coat. How long did it take to build the HR? Work was started in April and finished in January, with only a couple of small projects in between. Do you have a fancy shop? No. Except for the lathe work on the axles all other work was done with a chop saw, torch, welder, and normal hand tools. All sheet metal bending was done over a pipe on saw horses or clamped between two angles for sharp bends. Did you do all of the work yourself? Yes.

Earlier I mentioned my goal was to make the HR look as 'factory' as possible. During February, the Kansas and Oklahoma Steam and Gas Engine Association, at Winfield, Kansas held a chili feed to chase away cabin fever. I took the HR for something to show. After our next regular meeting David and I had to deliver some bus seats to one of our members' house. As we were unloading the seats the member asked where I found an HR. He said the John Deere book did not list an HR, so it appears my goal was met.

I am looking forward to showing the HR this season. It has been a fun and rewarding project. Sometimes you don't know what you can do unless you try. Many thanks to Virgil and David and others who helped and had input in the 'HR'.