The JD Model L I'd Forgotten

JD Model 'L' tractor

Content Tools

67 Cook Hill Rd. Lebanon, Connecticut 06249

As 1 remember, it was the summer of 1966 that I was visiting a school friend, Dave Nichols. We were eleven years old at the time, and Dave's father John was working on a John Deere Model 'L' tractor. Mr. Nichols was having trouble getting this little tractor started.

When I first saw the tractor, I asked Dave, 'What kind of tractor is this?' He informed me it was a John Deere. I told him it didn't look like any John Deere I had ever seen.

Many years had passed, and I had forgotten about the 'L'. Recently, I was talking with Dave and asked him whatever happened to the tractor his dad owned. Dave told me his dad still owned the tractor, but it hadn't been run for years. It was sitting where his father left it-only over the years the brush and weeds were grown all around it.

I asked Dave if his father might be willing to sell the tractor. He said he wasn't sure, but I should stop by and ask him.

I went on strike in June of 1990 and had a lot of time on my hands. It seemed like a good time to stop and see Mr. Nichols about the 'L', so I did. I hadn't seen Mr. Nichols for many years and-was saddened to see how his health was failing and that he wasn't able to do many of the things he used to enjoy. I asked him about the 'L' and whether he would be willing to sell it. He asked me why I was interested in it. I told him that I had several old tractors and old gas engines and would like to try to restore the 'L'. He told me to make him an offer. A price was quickly settled on. As I drove home, I remember feeling happy about my purchase, and sad about Mr. Nichol's failing health.

The day I went to pick up the tractor, not only did I bring a trailer and chains, I also brought a scythe and an axe! After cleaning away the briars and small trees, I was ready to load the tractor, and home we went.

The tractor was in sad shape. The motor was stuck. The transmission wouldn't shift. The clutch wouldn't work. The air cleaner was gone. The draw bar was missing and the front sheet metal had been lying on the ground for many years.

When my wife and children first saw this rusty mess, they laughed and said, 'This is the saddest looking mess yet!' And believe me, there have been some pretty sad looking projects.

After removing the head, freeing the pistons, honing the cylinders, grinding the valves, freeing the transmission, fixing the clutch and getting spark out of the magneto, I was ready to try my luck at getting it to run.

The tractor began running on its own after I towed it around the barn about four times. I was elated-success! I didn't want to run the engine very long without water in the radiator, but when I added water, it ran out on the ground as fast as I poured it in. There were more holes in the radiator than there are in a pepper shaker.

Now that I knew the tractor ran, it was time for cosmetic work. Everything was taken apart, sandblasted, primed  and painted. The front tires were dry rotted beyond use, but the skinny little spare tires that they use on cars today fit just fine. The rear tires were still in decent shape.

With the air cleaner and the bottom sheet metal under the radiator still missing, and no draw bar or hand crank, I decided to pay Mr. Nichols another visit to see if any of the parts were left somewhere on the ground. I managed to find the draw bar in the weeds, but the other parts eluded me. The tractor is now near completion.

This tractor has become my daughter Elaine's favorite, and my favorite also, if only because every time I look at it, I think of an old friend and his father and days gone by.