The 1939 John Deere Model H

| August/September 1993

4 East Gate Road, Sufferm, New York 10901

I located my 1939 John Deere model H, serial No. 1869, in Somerville, New Jersey, while looking for an engine block for a 1941 John Deere H that I was planning to restore. The owner of the tractor, Mr. John Yablonski, a very affable dairy farmer who dabbles in tired iron, recommended I buy the complete '39 for a little more money than I would have to pay for the needed engine casting. The tractor looked fairly good for its age, and I bought with full knowledge that it had a bad knock in the engine.

At the time I knew very little about John Deere tractors and felt that the knock would be something rather easy to fix. After I transported the tractor home and unsuccessfully fielded questions from my two daughters as to why I needed another tractor, my neighbor Tommy Fisher generously offered to store the tractor in his greenhouse for the winter, and assured me we could get it going. If Tommy weren't such a good mechanic and so charitable with his time, I may have given up on the project long ago.

In a few short minutes of engine diagnosis, Tommy found the knock in the engine. It was the result of the left main bearing's having been run without oil. The engine had been run long enough in that condition to hammer the Babbitt metal out through the crankshaft journals. Upon dismantling the engine, we discovered that the crank was badly scored and the piston rod ruined. I then went to the '41, which quickly became the parts tractor, and removed the perfect crank and babbitted the rods. While we had the '39 engine apart, we replaced the rings and ground the valves.

After reassembling the engine and rebuilding the carburetor, Tommy directed me to start it up with an expression of confidence that one seldom witnesses in life. Well, I pulled and pulled and pulled on the flywheel until my arms, back and hands could take no more.

Finally, with greatly reduced confidence, we resorted to towing the old John Deere with Tom's Farmall Cub. (He always takes great pleasure in towing me with his fine running IHC tractors.) After what seemed to be an eternity, we heard a few pops and putts and fought in earnest to keep the engine running. To be honest, I was very disappointed how badly the tractor ran and sounded, particularly after all the work that was put into it.