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Never Too Old

Author Photo
By Jon K. Widerman | Aug 1, 2001

1021 N. Carrington Buffalo, West Virginia 82834

I started in the old iron hobby at 66 years of age. One morning
my friend, Al Reeves, asked if I had ever done an old farm engine.
Naturally, I said no. He asked, ‘would you like one, and if so,
what kind?’ His brother Jim, who lives about 70 miles from us
happened to have a couple for sale. He was coming over our way the
next day. Al told me what Jim had and I settled for a 1 HP John
Deere ‘E.’ I had never even seen one except in pictures. It
was delivered to my garage the next day.

It was free, sort of. The flywheels would turn just so far, but
not a complete revolution. Several tries and the same result. Our
son John was helping me at the time. This was his introduction to
old iron, too. I was starting a ‘family thing.’ Although I
didn’t realize it at the time. After pulling the engine apart,
it was found that the bore had a huge rocker in the lower portion
of the cylinder. In other words, the bore diameter pinched down at
this point. The water jacket was found to be solid rust in the
lower part. No water had been getting completely around the
cylinder. First it took about four hours of slowly honing to get
the bore in shape. It was slow and tedious. The stock piston and
rings fit fine once the high spot was eliminated.

The rust removal from the bottom of the water jacket was
something else. The drain plug was rusted in solid. It twisted off
and had to be bored out. We tapped it next size over and fitted a
new plug. The plug hole gave me some access to the solid rust. With
several homemade tools and a couple of lengths of bandsaw blade I
started to dig. Over a period of a couple of weeks I finally got a
saw blade through. Once completely around the underside of the
cylinder, I continued to scrape with the saw blade. Finally, it
cleaned out with adequate clearance for plenty of water under the
piston.

Then it was a matter of sandblasting and painting all the parts.
Two or three coats of primer, some final sanding, then the John
Deere green. While waiting for a gasket set, a gas tank and an oil
pan to come from Hit ‘n Miss, I worked on the skids. I had some
nice old oak pallet skids that were 4′ x 6’ size. I wanted
to be near original size, which was 25/8
x 33/8‘. This wood was far too nice to
throw away that much. I cheated a little and ended at two ‘ x
4’. The extra depth really shows up nicely.

I assembled the engine on the skids while I was waiting for the
magneto to come back from Bert Herrera. After the mag arrived I was
ready to make her pop, or so I thought. I lined up the timing marks
and cranked it over. Not a pop. After a lot of trial and error, and
there was a lot, I discovered the mag gear mark was 180 degrees
off. There is no way the gear can go on the mag in the wrong
position. Once I hit the timing, the initial run was fantastic. The
satisfaction of this restoration is very hard to describe, but it
sure made this old guy happy.

After one season sitting on skids in 1997, I knew I had to have
a set of trucks. I couldn’t find any originals at that time.
Bob Campbell, in Iowa, makes a perfect repro set of the originals.
Once they were painted and the engine mounted, it became a lot more
portable. Also, it looked neater than ever, if that was
possible.

Since then I have done several Maytags, a Fairbanks Z and an
International.

The most enjoyable part of the hobby is the fact that now I have
both of our sons hooked, too. They are very much into looking for,
restoring and showing old iron. I am also extremely proud of the
quality of their restoration work.

New Exhibit at Heart land Museum

The Heartland Museum, 119 9th Street S.W., Clarion, Iowa,
announces the Grand Opening of their newly completed display of
vintage farm equipment and related toys. Titled ‘A Century of
Agricultural Machinery and Toys,’ the exhibit has over 100
large equipment pieces and 2,000 toy items on display. Centered
around the prestigious Larry Maasdam collection, with additional
items from other Wright County, Iowa, collectors, the extensive
display highlight items from 1860-1960. Many rare and unusual items
from numerous United States locations are included. Large signs and
advertising clocks representing related agricultural businesses are
also featured. For information, call 515-532-6000.

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