Restoring a 1938 John Deere Model A Tractor

John Deere Model A tractor saved from scrap pile


| November/December 1990



John Deere Model A tractor before restoration.

Before restoration.

After more than eight years we finally got our John Deere Model A tractor running. It is serial number 461,754 and was built on July 28, 1937, and shipped to Covington, Indiana. I didn't rush into this one as we already had an open front Model A tractor.

I bought this one from Kedrick Newton, of New Ross, Indiana, the same day that I bought my good 1937 Model A. I bought it for parts. It was in very bad condition, but I hate to see an old tractor go to the scrap pile.

The engine was stuck, I mean stuck! No matter what I did, nothing worked. I removed the block, pistons, and rods in one unit. I cut some old cedar posts into about 16 inch lengths and cribbed them up in log cabin style, and set the block on these with the rods down. I filled the combustion chamber with a mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline and let it soak for nearly a year. I used WD-40. That is supposed to loosen anything, but that didn't work. I then cut a round block 5-1/2 inches in diameter to fit the bore in the block. I hollowed the center so it would not drive against the head of the pistons, and drove them out with a 12 lb. sledge hammer.

The pistons were in surprisingly good condition, but the block was very much pitted. I debated whether to rebore it and get over-sized pistons or get a new block. I bought a new block from Albert Warner of Rantaul, Illinois. I also bought a used gas tank from him. The rings and many other parts came from our local John Deere dealer.

Then came the job of removing the many parts which needed replacing, and hours and hours of scraping, wire-brushing, washing and painting. We are always told not to use gasoline due to the great danger of fire. I don't smoke, and was careful not to drop any tools on the cement floor that would make a spark. The tractor looked like it had set out in a hog lot and was well coated with the mud and you-know-what from possibly years of splashing and baking.

The tractor had been upgraded to an electric start, complete with battery ignition and battery seat box. So a trip to Lynchburg, Ohio, produced a flywheel, crankcase and transmission covers, a set of wheels, and lots of smaller parts from Jerry Baughman. The seat assembly came from Bernard Hatchett of Nashville, Indiana and the drawbar came from Dave Reed of Otto Gas Engines of Elkton, Maryland. The seat itself came from our son who operates a scrap business at Cochranville, Pennsylvania and came off a scrapped Wheel-Horse riding mower.