A Kansas 'HR' John Deere


| October/November 1991



Smallest horizontal two cylinder tractor

5166 S. Vine, Wichita, Kansas 67217

As long as I have been building small tractors I have wanted a small two cylinder tractor. Some thought was given to build a two cylinder engine from a two cylinder air compressor. I decided this would be more work than I was willing to take on. A John Deere BR has always been one of my favorite tractors, but it is too big. It didn't take much research to realize a John Deere H is the smallest horizontal two cylinder tractor built, so I decided to modify the H to look like a scale BR. After studying the project for a while, I realized the clutch pulley on the HR doesn't line up with the crankshaft. I felt this would look wrong for a scale BR. After giving up on the project for a while, I got to thinking about a small two cylinder tractor again. It dawned on me it wasn't necessary to build a scale BR, I could just build an HR. Of course John Deere didn't make an HR, or an unstyled H. My preference is for the unstyled tractors so I decided to build an unstyled HR. As this was to be a major project, I decided to try to make the tractor look as 'factory' as possible.

I traded my friend David Linneburr out of a very tired H with hand start. The front end, radiator, and all the sheet metal was left with David. After hauling what looked like tractor remains home, the engine got a minor overhaul and the usual cleanup. Now the real work started. Each rear axle housing was narrowed five inches and brazed back together. Then the axles were cut off at the splines. The out board bearing mount on the axles was moved in five inches to match the housings. This was done by welding a bead on the shaft for the new bearing mount and then machining off the old mount and turning the weld for a new mount. I borrowed a lathe from Virgil Ewy, another friend of mine, to do the turning. It would be difficult to do projects without input and help from friends like David and Virgil. Next the splines were machined out of inside the hubs. After the hubs were put back on the axles, three holes were drilled between the hubs and axles three inches deep and three eighths inch diameter pins inserted. This completed the major work on the rear end.

Now it was time to tackle the front end. David and I discussed whether to cut six inches out of the fan shaft, but we decided the tractor would look better shorter, so six inches came out. About twelve inches were taken out of the front frame. The front axle is built from sheet metal and strap iron with three-quarter-ton Chevy front steering knuckles. The spindles and hubs are International combine which fit John Deere wheels. The steering arms and the tie rod are also Chevy, much modified. I don't know what the steering box is from, but the extension is Gleaner combine. I tried to run the steering shaft through the engine but there wasn't room so it had to stay outside. A support for the axle was made and bolted to the frame then a wishbone was built to support the axle.

This project was broken into phases and tackled one at a time. Now it was time to tackle a more difficult phase, the radiator shell. A small car radiator was found in the same junk I find a lot of parts in. A shell was built around the radiator using four inch channel and sheet metal. I had looked in my junk for a knob for the radiator cap but I couldn't find one. One day while walking by a desk at work I spotted a knob laying on top. I asked the person at the desk if I could have the knob and they said yes. You never know where parts can be found! The knob was from a chair back and was perfect for a radiator cap. A piece of sheet metal was pounded in a curved shape for the cap with strap iron welded around the edge. Letters for the John Deere on the front of the radiator shell were sawed from one-eighth inch plastic and epoxies on.

Thin sheet metal was used for the hood contoured to fit the radiator shell. I could not find a gas tank the right shape or size, so one was formed of sheet metal. An Allis air cleaner was found for the air cleaner, which was mounted on the right side because there was no room on the left side.