Finding The David Bradley, Part I

Bullet Nose  hood.

'Bullet Nose' hood.

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763 Moosehead Trail, Jackson, Maine 04921

Welcome to part one of my David Bradley story here in GEM. I'm Bryan Menard, antique engine collector here in central Maine. I'm just 17, so you can see I haven't been into this hobby very long. This story begins one day when I was at my job at the local hardware store in town. The phone rang, and on the other end was Mr. Jim Davis, a retired sea captain who lived on the ocean about ten miles away. He had read a write-up about me in the local paper concerning my antique machinery hobby. Anyway, he went on to say that he had an old David Bradley garden tractor that he had no use for, and to come get it! You bet I was excited, so I made arrangements to go look at it and see if it was any good.

When we arrived ('we' being Mom and Dad, two younger brothers and I), Mr. Davis escorted us to a pile of old stuff that looked like it was ready to be hauled off. So, where's the DB? Under the junk, of course! After hauling off the rubber rafts, tarps, inner tubes, wood blocks and mailboxes, we were looking at a 1946 David Bradley walk-behind tractor. Overall, the thing was kind of rough. The engine had NO compression, the tires were flat, and to get any rustier, you'd have to submerge the machine in the Atlantic for a few years. The good thing was that all the parts were there and intact. It was used, but never abused, just showed signs of many years of sitting around.

Whenever I see an old, beat-up machine I can't help but want to save it from never breathing life again.

I took it home two days later. I collect Briggs engines primarily, and the DB uses a model 'N,' so I took that off right away. After a few evenings of work (about eight hours), I had the 'N' back to what I thought was good shape again. No cosmetics here yet, just a good disassembly and cleaning up. The valves and seats needed the most work. I put the motor back in the machine and bolted it on. The gasoline tank isn't mounted on the engine, so I neglected to look at it very closely. After unstrapping it, I found a big rust hole in the bottom where dirt had collected. Fortunately, I had another spare Briggs tank that was identical. After hooking it all up, I set the fuel adjustments and pulled it over with the starter rope. It started right away and ran exceptionally well. One push on the clutch and we're off! We all took turns driving it around to make sure the engine and transmission were okay. Everything was fine.

About all that's left now is to give it a nice pretty paint job and fix all the little things. Considering the rust, it'll be quite a task, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm also looking for any information on David Bradleys like mine. I really don't know anything about them except they were made by Sears and that mine had a few flecks of red paint left on it.

If you have anything so far as manuals, proper paint colors, how many there are, etc., please contact me. Mine is a model #Sears 917-5751, series #129. Thanks for any information you have.

Part II of this story will show the rest of the restoration and the finished product. Hope to be back on these pages soon.