Seasons of Change

A Boy and his 1946 David Bradley Walk-Behind Tractor


| January 2006



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The often-coveted David Bradley walk-behind tractor is a great addition to any collection. This early 5751 is distinct from later models because of its rear-mounted tools.

I had just finished my antique Craftsman lawn tractor, which took first place in the Turner parade and second place at the county fair, when I decided I wanted to restore a David Bradley walk-behind tractor. I had bought a box of old Gas Engine Magazines and a David Bradley tractor inside took my eyes, and didn't let go. I had to have one.

Summer 2004

I decided to put an advertisement in the local paper, and within two days a man called and said he had one that had been sitting in his shed. My Grandpa, who is the best storyteller in the world, has always told me stories about tractors and farming. He went the 50 miles with me to pick up the 1946 David Bradley, Model 917-5751, Series 126.

When I got home, I noticed all that was wrong with it. The hood was rusted so bad it was pitted and one of the grille bars was missing. I spent about 50 hours working on the engine, but I wasn't too disappointed when I couldn't get it running, because it wasn't original.

Fall 2004

The first thing I did was pull the hood off and take it to school to restore. I started by sanding and using paint thinner to cut the old paint. It made a mess, but took off most of the paint. I painted it with rust converter and over the next three weeks applied body filler to all the dents and pits, and sanded until it was really smooth. I painted the letters gold then took grease and covered them so when I painted it red, the letters would stay gold. That's a trick I learned from my dad.

Winter 2004/2005

I pulled the wheels off because one of them was rusted pretty bad. Except for the gas tank, the tractor was completely disassembled and it was time to sand, repair and paint. Without a shop to work in, winter weather in Oregon can be uncooperative. Luckily the weather was nice and my David Bradley was sitting on a fender set up off of an old riding lawnmower. Am I a hillbilly or what? Later I got some jack stands from my dad, which worked much better.

I took the gas tank and bracket into the shop so I could repair them. I sprayed them with paint thinner and to my amazement the paint came off like hot butter. The tank was beautiful, except for a minor rust spot and the sediment bowl setup. Luckily, I had an extra sediment bowl off an old Lauson engine.