Engine With A Long Story

Author Photo
By Nicholas A.Freeland | Feb 1, 2000

P.O. Box 623, Wright, Wyoming 82732

This story is one about a 1931 1? HP John Deere model
‘E’ hit and miss type engine. The serial number is

The story behind the engine is a long one. Most of the pieces
for the engine had been collected over time by Mel Reints at
Pacific Hide and Metal in Gillette, Wyoming. Mel is a friend of
ours, and in 1994 Mel gave me all the parts he had for the engine.
Since this is a basket-case many more parts had to be located for
the engine in order to have a complete engine.

In early 1995 work began with brazing up the rear corner on the
magneto side. Then it was put in our Bridgeport Milling Machine to
put a good edge all around the bottom of the block. Later in the
year my dad had to go to Ohio to watch the undergoing construction
of a Marion shovel for the Black Thunder Mine (he works there).
This lasted into spring of 1996.

Just when work was beginning to get going again my mom found out
she had breast cancer. That ordeal lasted ’til December. In
1997 I hoped for better luck. We had planned to go to our land in
South Dakota for Dad’s fortieth birthday. When loading up the
truck to go, he fell out and hit the concrete and broke his right
arm. The only thing different about this broken arm is it was
broken in four major places and shattered his elbow. In all he had
30 pieces. He was taken to Campbell County Memorial Hospital where
Dr. Allegreto put his arm back together with about 20-plus screws.
Later his arm was strong enough to use and we went to Black Hills
Steam and Gas Threshing Bee.

I found a guy who had an igniter and a fuel line which I
purchased. After returning I bought some sand and then blasted the
block. We noticed a spider web crack in the top of the water
hopper. The physical therapist broke my dad’s arm so Mel welded
the top of the block with his big MIG welder.

The crankshaft that Mel gave me was bent so badly I needed to
find another one. I asked Mel and he had another crankshaft and I
asked if he had or knew where I could get a magneto, and he had
both, but the magneto was in extremely poor condition when I got
it. The crankshaft was then mounted up in our Clausing lathe to
polish it. Then crankshaft bearings were picked out of a bunch and
scraping began.

When the scraping was done, it was time to make some valves and
work on the head. I bought some valves at NAPA and we made some
valves and seated them. Next I had to buy a new exhaust lever,
springs, choke plate, and mixer needle valve. With all of these
parts, I had it basically complete, except for the igniter.

We then had to redo our downstairs bathroom and I had to help,
but it was to my advantage. For helping I received a crankcase
cover from my parents.

Next was how to make a gas tank with rounded ends. My dad
thought we should use a valve cover and we found one off an old
1946 GMC at Pacific Hide and Metal. We figured a size and I cut it
down with our 4′ cutoff wheel. I found an old shelf at Pacific
on another trip we made. I figured and cut a top for the tank with
the cut-off wheel. I wire-wheeled it and then held it in place
while he tacked it. Next, Dad welded it with our SP-100 Lincoln
Electric MIG welder. An oil pan was also made out of the shelf,
along with other scrap metal; some thick shims were also made from
the shelf.

Christmas came and I received as gifts a rough cast piston, the
last few gaskets, governor weight, and many other things to help my
engine along.

Then it was nearing February 25, my birthday. For my birthday I
pitched in half the amount for a set of new trucks (cart) for my
engine. I also received money from other people which I used to buy
a muffler and a pair of skids. (I tried to find some hardwood to
make my own, but didn’t find any, so I bought them.)

We then started cutting the piston down to size. With warmer
weather we had to get outside projects done. The last week before
school got out for Christmas, we started cutting the piston ring
grooves and bored them, spot faced, drilled and taped, and put the
slit in it.

For Christmas 1998, I got many things, like a 100 foot roll of
old fashioned yellow and green striped ignition wire, a
reproduction funnel, some igniter parts, decals, igniter and
magneto book, some 1/64 scale John Deere tractors, John Deere
sheets and John Deere books. The best gift was the job Bert Herrera
did on my magneto. I did not know that my magneto had been sent to
him but when I opened the box, it was the biggest and best
surprise, a rebuilt magneto. When I was opening up all of my other
gifts, I kept looking over to see the magneto all bright and shiny.
The job that Mr. Herrera did on my magneto was excellent. My
parents had to pay for the parts and then send them to him.

Next on the list, I needed to fix the junk igniter that I had
bought. How we fixed that is by bending the bent shaft true again
and by drilling out the igniter body and putting bushings in,
because it was so sloppy. After that I hand-lapped it for a
leak-free seal and put it back together with a new mica tube and
new mica washers.

I also needed to finish making my piston, which I completed.
After accomplishing the piston we had to make a wrist pin. One was
made out of a piece of drill rod that I bought. Fixing the governor
was also one of the things that I had left to do.

Fixing the governor took a lot of work. Since I only had half of
the governor, we had to look at a lot of pictures to see how to
build one. We cut off the broken part in the band saw and then
bored a hole in the end of it. To make the shaft we took
measurements off of the block and made a press-in shaft. We had a
gear that was bought from Hit and Miss and then faced it and
pressed it on as well. We put a small amount of braze around it to
insure it would not come off.

I needed bushings for the cam and the governor, so I bought some
from a place in Gillette, but they were too short. This problem was
solved by buying four and putting two in each hole. The length of
them was determined by how things had to line up. The pictures in
the arts book did not show if they had oil grooves in the top, but
we put some in anyway.

After all of the parts were made, it was time to start
assembling. Assembling did not take all that long since we already
knew how things had to be. During assembly, it was on two stacks of
three 2×4’s, so that it could be painted.

Before we could paint it, I had to clean it off and re-prime it,
because it had gotten dirty. It was painted in three stages. The
first stage was the wheels and the bail. The second stage was to
hang up the truck axles and braces. Then, the last stage was to
paint the engine itself.

It was now time to put on the pieces that did not get painted
John Deere green. The pieces that were left off were the wire,
Fahnestock clips, hopper plug, oil drain, choke plate and of
course, the magneto. After the paint dried for a couple of days the
decals were installed. Since I was still in school during all of
this, I had to do everything after school. So I hung all of the
parts and then when my dad got home, he would paint (he’s
better than I am), and I would watch (my dad could not see the ear
to ear smile because of my respirator).

Then it was time to do the final assembly of all of the pieces.
I first assembled the truck parts to the varnished skids. For the
axle braces, carriage bolts were used. The way it was done was to
countersink them to the inside of the base. On Friday the engine
was carefully lowered off the sawhorses and set on the truck. Then
the magneto and all of the other parts listed above were put on.
The magneto bolts were difficult to get tight. After this I filled
up the gas tank, and filled up with oil, too. I choked it and
rolled it over a lot of times very quickly. After about 20-plus
turns it fired up. I have to say it ran quite well once I got it

On Saturday I filled up the water hopper and started it up, but
after a while it kept on double sucking and then died. After
looking through a ton of books, I called Mr. Herrera and he told me
that my magneto was probably out of time even though it was timed
when installed. I pulled it apart and sure enough, it was. The
problem was halfway fixed. It still kept double sucking every now
and then, so my dad suggested that I buy a new fuel line and seat
even though we reseated the line. I did so. Then the double sucking

The gas can is one that my dad used to put gas in but hadn’t
for quite some time. He gave it to me and then I sandblasted it,
painted it, and then put an engine decal on it. The oil can is one
that I bought in a hardware store for $3.00. I also had to paint
it. The funnel was the one that I got for Christmas. It is a
reproduction. All of these things are just for show and are not
actually used for their intended use.

My engine and accessories, as well as our Gibson model
‘D,’ went to Black Hills Steam and Gas Threshing Bee. The
Gibson model ‘D.’ now resides peacefully under a sheet (to
keep dust off) in our shed in the back waiting to go to the show
again and to get out on a weekend just to hear it run.

There is something that should be noted about this restoration,
and that is, the paint job. It is no where near stock. If you must
have a stock paint job then paint everything green except the
magneto (black), and the yellow decals. This is true with or
without a truck. It took me about 3? years to do all of this, and
that is because I had to earn all of the money that went into it.
It took about $ 1,000 from start to finish. This magazine helped me
in finding many of the parts that I needed.

Here, in Wyoming, we continue to stay busy on various projects.
I thank all who helped in the restoration of my 1931 John Deere
engine. I think that it was a great success.

Gas Engine Magazine

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