The John Deere Model E Gasoline Engine

By Staff
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John Deere Model E

In March of 1918 the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company was bought by Deere & Company. For about 8 years Deere & Company continued to manufacture Waterloo Boy Gasoline engines at Waterloo, Iowa. In 1923 Deere & Company introduced the John Deere model E gasoline engine. They continued to manufacture this engine in 3 sizes (1, 3, and 6 Horsepower) until 1946 with very few and very minor changes in the design of the engine.

The smallest and most numerous of the model E is the 1 HP. This engine has a 3″ bore and a 4″ stroke. The shipping weight is listed at 226 pounds. This engine has hit and miss ignition, an igniter, and a low tension magneto. The head was a “dry” head with the fuel mixer cast as a part of the head. The gasoline tank is mounted below the flat oil pan and between the skids. The engine features an enclosed crankcase. Oiling of the engine is accomplished with an oil cup mounted on the oil pan. The balls of the governor rotate inside this cup of oil and splash oil to all parts of the engine. An improvement in this oil splash system was made to the 1 HP engine in 1933 beginning with engine No. 326572. The round oil cup was replaced with a larger rectangular cup and an extension similar to a paint stirrer was made onto the governor plunger to splash more oil.

The lack of crankcase ventilation was and still is the cause of many complaints about this engine. If the gaskets are not sealed well or if the piston rings or cylinder are worn this engine will blow an undesirable amount of oil past the main bearings and magneto gear onto the body of the engine. Many home made remedies were devised to relieve this lack of crankcase ventilation. Most common was a hole cut in the top of the crankcase cover and a pipe brazed in the hole. In 1933 John Deere changed the crankcase cover of the 1 HP engine to include a crankcase ventilation valve with a leather and a metal washer which moved up and down with the crankcase blow by. When the engine was stopped the valve closed to prevent rain and dust from entering the crankcase. No crankcase ventilation was ever provided at the factory for the 3 and 6 HP engines.

The first model E engines had a brass identification tag attached to the rear of the sub-base. After this the identification was cast in the governor cover in raised letters. The first inscription on the governor cover reads “Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company, Waterloo, Iowa, USA” then the type, horsepower and RPM. Later the inscription was “John Deere” and then gave the HP and RPM. On the early “brass tag” models the serial number is on this tag. After the brass tag was discontinued the serial number was stamped on a brass or aluminum band which was riveted at the top of the governor cover above the identification.

Some 1 HP engines were equipped with a spark plug instead of an igniter. These engines were all sparked by a battery and buzz coil. No high tension magneto was ever manufactured for them. The model E was also manufactured in a kerosene model which was designated as model EK. These models are quite scarce in this country as almost all of them were exported.

The history of the 3 HP model E engine is much the same as the 1 HP with the following differences: The 3 HP is equipped with a “wet” head and a mixer which can be removed from the head with two bolts. The 3 HP model E has a bore of 4″ and a stroke of 5″. Shipping weight is listed at 338 pounds. Very few changes in design were made on the 3 HP size.

One version of the 3 HP size differed radically from any of the other John Deere engines. It was a spark plug model designated model EP. This engine was designed primarily to power John Deere implements, however it could be easily removed and used as an all purpose engine. The model EP has an enclosed exhaust rod, has crankcase ventilation, and an air cleaner on the mixer. The head was cast with a rectangular box cast with the head which completely enclosed the valves and exhaust lever when the cast iron cover was bolted on. This engine was sparked by a Wico high tension magneto Type A. This magneto was manufactured in England for John Deere.

Largest of these engines is the 6 HP size. It has a bore of 6′ and a stroke of 7′. Its shipping weight is 698 pounds. It features a priming cup on the side of the cylinder. Up until engine No. 265316 the 6 HP had the same size key on the camshaft as did the other sizes of the engine. Evidently this key proved to be too small as a larger key was used with engine No. 265317 and all 6 HP engines thereafter.

No changes were made in any size of this engine after 1933 until production ceased in 1946.

At almost every engine show someone advances the theory that the first 2 digits of the John Deere’s serial number represents the year the engine was built. This is only a myth. John Deere Model E engines were numbered in succession without regard to the year, engine size, or engine type. Below is a list of John Deere serial numbers and years which was copied at the John Deere Company archives:


Serial Number series

















































During the years 1923 through 1926 John Deere manufactured the model E engines and also continued making the Waterloo Boy engines. The serial numbers were assigned in numerical succession without regard to the brand “John Deere” or “Waterloo Boy”. Therefore in some cases a John Deere serial number may be followed by a Waterloo Boy with the next number or vice versa.

In closing I would like to thank Wally Steding of Fort Dodge, Iowa and Larry Fulk of Columbia City, Indiana. They both patiently answered any questions about the John Deere and both men have a great storehouse of knowledge about the John Deere E.

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