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Finding The David Bradley, Part I

Author Photo
By Staff

1 / 3
'Bullet Nose' hood.
2 / 3
Briggs Model 'N' engine and transmission.
3 / 3
Very rusty, but all there.

763 Moosehead Trail, Jackson, Maine 04921

Welcome to part one of my David Bradley story here in GEM.
I’m Bryan Menard, antique engine collector here in central
Maine. I’m just 17, so you can see I haven’t been into this
hobby very long. This story begins one day when I was at my job at
the local hardware store in town. The phone rang, and on the other
end was Mr. Jim Davis, a retired sea captain who lived on the ocean
about ten miles away. He had read a write-up about me in the local
paper concerning my antique machinery hobby. Anyway, he went on to
say that he had an old David Bradley garden tractor that he had no
use for, and to come get it! You bet I was excited, so I made
arrangements to go look at it and see if it was any good.

When we arrived (‘we’ being Mom and Dad, two younger
brothers and I), Mr. Davis escorted us to a pile of old stuff that
looked like it was ready to be hauled off. So, where’s the DB?
Under the junk, of course! After hauling off the rubber rafts,
tarps, inner tubes, wood blocks and mailboxes, we were looking at a
1946 David Bradley walk-behind tractor. Overall, the thing was kind
of rough. The engine had NO compression, the tires were flat, and
to get any rustier, you’d have to submerge the machine in the
Atlantic for a few years. The good thing was that all the parts
were there and intact. It was used, but never abused, just showed
signs of many years of sitting around.

Whenever I see an old, beat-up machine I can’t help but want
to save it from never breathing life again.

I took it home two days later. I collect Briggs engines
primarily, and the DB uses a model ‘N,’ so I took that off
right away. After a few evenings of work (about eight hours), I had
the ‘N’ back to what I thought was good shape again. No
cosmetics here yet, just a good disassembly and cleaning up. The
valves and seats needed the most work. I put the motor back in the
machine and bolted it on. The gasoline tank isn’t mounted on
the engine, so I neglected to look at it very closely. After
unstrapping it, I found a big rust hole in the bottom where dirt
had collected. Fortunately, I had another spare Briggs tank that
was identical. After hooking it all up, I set the fuel adjustments
and pulled it over with the starter rope. It started right away and
ran exceptionally well. One push on the clutch and we’re off!
We all took turns driving it around to make sure the engine and
transmission were okay. Everything was fine.

About all that’s left now is to give it a nice pretty paint
job and fix all the little things. Considering the rust, it’ll
be quite a task, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m also
looking for any information on David Bradleys like mine. I really
don’t know anything about them except they were made by Sears
and that mine had a few flecks of red paint left on it.

If you have anything so far as manuals, proper paint colors, how
many there are, etc., please contact me. Mine is a model #Sears
917-5751, series #129. Thanks for any information you have.

Part II of this story will show the rest of the restoration and
the finished product. Hope to be back on these pages soon.

Gas Engine Magazine

Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines