| March/April 1999

  • John Deere

  • John Deere

305 Farmwood Drive, Fountain Inn, SC 29644

In 1994, I was living just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. My good friend Dennis Whitchurch was storing a John Deere 140 garden tractor that his dad had picked up for $200. Dennis had a collection of Cub Cadets and was anxious to get this 'John Deere' out of his way and off his property. At the time I had a John Deere 214 garden tractor that I had rebuilt to a good useable condition. During that project I learned that the John Deere dealer was able to get almost any part needed, but the parts were not cheap.

Figuring $200 worth of parts could easily be salvage, I offered to take it off his hands for what he paid for it, plus a cold soda. (I'm not sure he ever got that cold soda.)

I took it home and tried to get it running one Saturday. The tractor had no gas tank, and no wiring harness. After rigging up a fuel and an ignition system and cleaning the carburetor, I gave it a try. The motor would barely crank over and when it finally fired it would backfire through the carb. I checked the point gap and tried again with the same result. I finally came to the conclusion that it was probably the crankshaft to camshaft timing and would require disassembly of the engine to check. I pushed it under cover where it sat. (Wasps need a place to live too!!)

We moved to South Carolina in June of '96, and I took the John Deere back to Dennis for storage until I could come get' it. He piled enough material (junk by most other people's definition) around it to keep it hidden from any visitor's sight. I was down for a visit in April '97 and brought the John Deere home to South Carolina. I think I saw him say 'good riddance' upon glancing up in my rear view mirror.

Well about September, my hat holder started thinking about needing a project for winter, and decided to at least get the John Deere running. If it ran, the decision could be made to either restore it, or keep the engine and part out the rest. I ordered the parts and service manual from a local John Deere dealer and started to tear down the tractor and engine. My keen perception noticed that the parts that had not been repainted green were an off-white color. I sanded through the parts that were painted green and found they were also white. What kind of machine is this?? I looked at the manufacturer tag again just to be sure it said John Deere-it did. A John Deere that was not painted green and yellow was like a McDonald's without arches.

I went to the Internet and found several good antique tractor web pages. I posted my question on the bulletin board. Several replies were received -- one gentlemen even sent me an e-mail picture of a orange and white John Deere. Time went quickly while on the Internet learning about this unusual and short-lived model of John Deere garden tractor ( thank goodness for unlimited access fees). While I'm not an expert, the following is what was learned: This model tractor is called a 'Custom Color' in the John Deere literature; it is also known as a 'Patio Tractor' by those who own them. Custom colors were made in 1968, 69, and '70, and were used on the John Deere 110, 112 and 140 models. The tractor was painted dogwood white with the exception of the hood and seat. The hood and seat were available in Sunset Orange, Patio Red, Spruce Blue and April Yellow. The 140 has a Kohler 14 horse with hydrostatic drive and has hydraulic lift. It has hydraulic fittings on the front, and optional ones located at the rear for attachments.

Now knowing how unique this tractor was made complete restoration of my tractor a must. Over the next nine months, I worked on disassembling, cleaning, rebuilding and repainting. I used over 200 lbs. of sandblasting sand, just to give you an idea of how bad the frame and underbody were rusted. Everything went pretty smoothly. I got to know the young lady at the John Deere parts desk by her first name. I sent the steering console to Dennis to have a badly rusted part cut and a new part welded in. (He also restores Jaguars, so I figured he could be trusted to do a good job on my part.) He probably figured that this John Deere was like a bad penny, he just couldn't get rid of it. After the hood was repainted four times (due primarily to my slow learning curve with fiberglass repair and painting), it was at last finished. Oh, and the slow cranking problem was due to a broken spring on the camshaft that controls the automatic compression release mechanism.

Nearing the end, I started to wonder about a seat. The seat was not available from the John Deere dealer in the original colors. Back to the Internet. I found out rather quickly that the seats are very hard to obtain. A good original seat would run about $400. My heart sank; I couldn't imagine telling my wife that I wanted to spend $400 on a seat for a garden tractor that would never mow another blade of grass. There must be another way. One gentleman suggested finding a seat of the correct style and painting it with vinyl paint of the correct color. So that is what I did. A purist may find the solution unacceptable, but at least my wife still talks to me.

Many helpful people were met via the Internet. Kim Zorzi from Indiana furnished me with his original John Deere brochure to copy, and sold me a gas tank. Randy Becker from Minnesota sold me 20-30 miscellaneous parts from a JD140 he was parting out. Some of the parts he sold me were no longer available, and he sold everything very reasonably. Shelly Rowell from Nebraska supplied me with the correct color codes. Shelly is apparently the expert on these tractors and was very helpful. I could not have completed this project without these people; thanks to all of them.

The first showing of my 'John Deere of a different color' was at the 'Farm Days' in Dacusville, South Carolina over Labor Day weekend. My good friend and previous neighbor from Louisiana, Hap Jumonville, brought his Cub Cadet (in work), and a beautifully restored Briggs WM up for the show. We even had a Briggs rigged up to a two quart ice cream maker, and so had some cool dessert in the afternoon.

I look forward to the next show and the strange looks I get from the people who have never seen a 'John Deere of a different color.'


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