The John Deere Model E: Important Dates and Milestones

Learn more about the history of John Deere engines, including the Model E, with the help of this handy timeline and overview.

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Dr. David Cave and Rie Fulk
Figure 1: A 1.5E High Base shipped to Minneapolis on June 10, 1922.

This work is the result of two very different efforts. One of us (David) had been developing a John Deere engine timeline for many years. That timeline was easy to look at to quickly grasp a visual image of when various versions of the Model E were introduced. Many key dates were in the fine print. The other of us (Rie) learned from his father: “If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing right.”

Father and son gained access to the John Deere archives in East Moline, Illinois, and were able to pull serial numbers and decision dates for key milestones enabling Rie to correctly restore early John Deere engines. In the last 40 years, Rie has made several trips to the archives and restored countless engines. We decided to merge the two efforts and make the information available to other serious John Deere collectors and restorers.

Let’s begin with a brief description of the Model E and its variations. For a detailed description from the oldest known existing Model E to the EP Northern, one of us (David) highly recommends the book John Deere Type E and its Variations by Rie Fulk. You will find it an informative overview, yet an armchair reader lacking boring minutiae. Rie saved the boring minutiae for this article! For information such as shipping locations and dates of your engines, visit Fill out the tractor serial number form with your engine serial number and model information.

John Deere shipped the first enclosed self-oiling engine in June 1921, a 1-½hp Model E (1.5E). That was followed in April 1922 with the famous embossed 3hp 3E. In chronology, it is interesting to note how many changes were made to these engines from 1921 to 1924, and how few changes were made from 1925 until the end of production in 1946. Looking at Figure 1,  a 1922 1.5E, notice a different base, fuel line, fuel tank, igniter, magneto, flywheels, muffler, needle valve, rivet style pushrod pins, etc., when compared to later years. Even the 1.5E pulley bolt pattern was different until December 1922.

The first variation to the base Model E was the 1.5 and 3E Battery introduced in 1924. We call them spark plug engines, but John Deere called them battery engines. Figure 2 is a 1924 3E Battery with its distinctive battery box, spark plug and missing magneto.

The battery engines were followed in April 1926 with the 6hp 6E, finishing out the base Model E line. Just two months later, in June 1926, came the kerosene throttle-governed engines; the 1.5, 3, 6EK. Figure 3 is a 3EK with its characteristic brass mixer. Jim White, a well-known John Deere collector and restorer, also gained access to the archives researching the EKs. Much of that information appears in “John Deere EK” in the Gas Engine Magazine June/July 2018 issue.

The 3EP protected, with its oil bath air cleaner, enclosed rocker arm and valves, enclosed push rod, tall BR tractor muffler, Wico high-tension magneto and flanged pulley came in 1937. A detailed examination of the EP engine can be found in Richard Dechant’s article “John Deere Model EP Engine” in the Gas Engine Magazine February/March 2010 issue. Jim White, again in the archives, retrieved much of the EP information that appears as “Fun Facts” in the Gas Engine Magazine August/September 2018 issue. With its distinctive tall muffler, Figure 4 is a 3EP sometimes called an EP Southern.

Although John Deere did not identify these as variations, several EPs were shipped back to the factory or Minneapolis and stripped of their oil bath air cleaner, tall muffler and flanged pulley. They were then refitted with the standard mixer, muffler and pulley and resold from Minneapolis. We call those Northern EPs. Figure 5 is a Northern 3EP with its still distinctive enclosed rocker arm and valves.

The following timeline should give a nice visual for those interested in John Deere engines.  Following that, for the serious John Deere restorer, is an archive documented list of decisions made by the factory and serial numbers where those decisions took effect. We hope this will be helpful to collectors.

Odds and Ends

The decision numbers and dates reflect only when the decision was made. The inventory dictated when the first or last engine would be impacted.

  • The John Deere fiscal year began November 1 and is not always reflected in serial numbers.
  • John Deere purchased Waterloo Gasoline Traction Co. March 14, 1918, primarily to get the Waterloo Boy tractor.
  • John Deere changed the green paint color around 1960. The proper paint for the Model E at the John Deere dealership is Classic Green paint, rattle can part No. TY25644. It’s not Home Depot John Deere Green nor Hunter Green.
  • Waterloo/John Deere introduced the open crankcase Model H (gasoline) and Model K (kerosene) mid-1919. The H and K were produced until mid-1926, overlapping the John Deere E.
  • Serial numbers were issued sequentially, a 3E might follow a 6EK. Further, the E, H and K serial numbers intermingled from 1921 to 1926.
  • Prior to 1900, the John Deere branch houses sold New Way and Stover engines. From about 1902 to 1917, the branch houses sold Root & VanDervoort engines. A typical tag might read “Manufactured By Root & VanDervoort For John Deere Plow Company.”
  • The small sheet metal cart, after its introduction (likely late 1923 or early 1924), is the correct cart for the 3E as well as the 1.5E. The handle and rear struts were 5/16-inch diameter.
  • The 6E skids measure 48 inches long by 5 inches high by 3 -1/2 inches wide. The rear bolt hole to rear end of skid is 6-1/4 inches.
  • The 3E skids measure 39 inches long by 3 -3/8 inches high by 2- 5/8 inches wide. The rear bolt hole to rear end of skid is 6 -1/4 inches.
  • The 1.5E skids measure 33 inches long by 3-3/8 inches high by 2 5/8 inches wide. The rear bolt hole to rear end of skid is 5 -1/2 inches.
  • Engines mount to skids with 3/8-inch carriage bolts from bottom up, with a square nut.

Rie Fulk started engine collecting in 1978 with his father, Larry Fulk. They began specializing in John Deere engines around 1980. Rie has made several trips to the John Deere archives to research the Type E engine and its variations. His father passed away in 1994. Rie has since written and published the book John Deere Type E and Its Variations, available for purchase through him directly. He can be contacted at

Dr. David Cave is a retired electrical engineer with a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering. He spent his whole career as a computer chip designer at Motorola Semiconductor. He had a gas engine in grade school that never got running. About 20 years ago, after retiring, the bug bit him again. David now focuses on collecting John Deere engines. His collection includes one of every model and every horsepower (of every model) John Deere made plus pulleys and other peripheral things. But, with his electronics background, he spends more time collecting and fixing magnetos. He can be contacted at

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  • Updated on May 10, 2021
  • Originally Published on Apr 22, 2021
Tagged with: john deere, john deere gas engine
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