My Little Mini 'B'

History: The Call of Oil, Grease, and Green Paint

| February/March 2000

  • Little mini B
    My little mini 'B.'
  • The rusty hunk
    The engines that started the project. The rusty hunk is now running the Mini 'B.'
  • Sears tractor

  • Little mini B
  • The rusty hunk
  • Sears tractor

Box 1152 Tomball, Texas 77375

I grew up in a small Iowa town with a farm economy. My dad shelled corn and hauled products to market for the local farmers. I became acquainted with oil and grease at the tender age of eight, when I was allowed to 'help' service the trucks and John Deere corn sheller. Dad would grease the bearings and I would pump the grease gun handle.

At about age ten (1947 or thereabouts) there seemed to be large numbers of one cylinder Maytags around. That was the time electric mowers were taking over the jobs of pumping and running the wash machines on the farms. I don't remember all the details, but several single cylinder Maytags were 'acquired.' Best of memory is $5.00 was the going price. I regularly took them apart and at one point made a composite motor and attached it to my trusty coaster wagon with a pulley braised to the rear wheel. That was my first motorized transport.

The following years up to 1992 were busy working, raising family, traveling the world, living in England, South Korea, and other places. There was not much time for nostalgia or Green Machines. Then I retired......

In 1992 my brother, who still lives in Iowa, located a 1952 John Deere 'B' that had been used the past few years only for plowing snow out of a local small motel parking lot. The tractor was in good shape and brought back thoughts of a long time ago. I wanted that tractor! My brother met me in the spring in southern Missouri, pickup to pickup, trailer to trailer, and transferred the B.

That was the beginning of a renewed affair with oil, grease, and green paint.

It took another few years to get past using the 'B' for outings into the seven acres with grandchildren in the wagon. It was also used for our barn dances and hay rides for city slickers. As time went on, the nostalgia pull became greater, hence the trip to ExPo 97.

Well, that really got to me. ExPo was the event that put me over the top. Along with being agog at the large numbers of tractors and engines on display, I bought a 1937 IH LA 1? HP that was running and one that was just a heap of rust from the traders' area. I had no idea what was needed, just that it must be fun to try to restore them. The re-learning period began. It took lots of calls to suppliers, lots of rust removers, oil, gas, grease, hammers, etc. By 1998 the two LA's looked and ran like new. During the same time frame it seemed everyone I knew had Maytags for sale. That brought a dozen or so to the barn, including a 1914 upright.

A sale in New York state brought a 1928 Maytag square tub washer and engine into the fold. A farm widow in east Texas let a rusty old 1937 Turner hay press go from the field, and various other searches brought two old Wisconsin engines that would work on the hay press. Restoration of those fine old pieces of old iron gave the confidence to go a little further.

The Mini 'B'

Sometime in 1998 the LA's were both finished up, looking and running as new. Our old 1977 Sears garden tractor, sitting in the back of the barn, had been an observer of the restorations and for some reason, finally caught my eye. It had seen better days, the motor was shot, but the frame and tires were in good order. I visualized the frame with a big flywheel engine and green paint and the race was on!! A local welder I knew, who had been doing some cast iron welding on the Maytags, was tasked with making a frame for the LA to sit in.

The Sears tractor was cleaned down to essentials and the LA engine mated to the frame. The frame was made so the engine just slipped into it and could be easily taken out for oil changes, etc. All looked good, the flywheel was on the right side, the gear train lined up. With lots of anticipation, the tractor was taken out for a ride.

Great, right? Wrong!

Calculations were good, the engine looked good, the drive train worked as planned and the sheet metal really gave the tractor a finished look. BUT the engine turned the wrong direction! Much to my surprise, it had six reverse gears and two forward! Imagine the indignity when my dear sweet wife of 40 years hooped and hollered about the green snail on rubber tires. Getting the gear train reversed came about after the purchase of several V pulley belts and lots of idler pulleys. Along the way another age old innovation was seen using belting over the smooth iron pulley to increase fiction. That was done and it worked.

That's the story. I now have a mini 'B' that probably cost more than a new lawn tractor, but certainly is ten times prettier and a lot more fun!

A great return to oil, grease and green paint.


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