1941 John Deere B Row Crop
by Anthony West (UK)
The 1960's promise of white hot technology, to relieve us of the drudgery of
everyday work and to replace it with increased leisure time has not
materialised just yet....if anything most people are caught up in an ever
increasing rat race, wishing that there was at least 36hours in a day!!!.
The need for people to escape for periods of relaxation in an increasingly
complex and pressured environment takes us into the realm of hobbies. For some
it's scaling high mountains for others it's putting paint to canvas, and all
of the participants take their respective pastimes seriously taking what ever
is required to relax and enjoy.
One particular circle of people enjoy the restoration of derelict engines for
show and for some to obtain what is in effect an obsolete tractor and breath
new life into it by bringing it to " as new" condition.
Bill Foden falls into this latter catagory. He is a mild mannered inoffensive
character and is employed as a skilled engineer. I felt that a brief account
of his chosen form of relaxation would be of benefit to other tractor
enthusiasts around the world, especially more so to our brothers in the U.S.A
where the type of machine Bill has chosen are far more abundant.
During last autumn (fall) and winter, Bill aquired an unusual 1941 John Deere,
model B row crop (all around) from a farm sale in Muckley corner. There was
little known history to the machine other than it had been supplied as new in
1942 on lease-lend to Hollyhedge Farm, Brownhills, where it worked its life
until around 1970. It disappeared for around 15 years, but reappeared back in
the area at Mucking Hall farm in the late 80's.
The machine was to be layed up for a considerable time after only a short
working life at Mucking Hall, and would only come to light again after the
owner passed on and an impliment sale took place in 1997.
The reason for the lay up it was found, was due to the machine developing a
massive internal water leak. As soon as water was poured into the radiator, It
dissapeared into the crank case causing the pistons to hydrolicaly lock!!
Still, the engine and tractor were complete. No essentials were absent and all
the guages, electrics and tinwork were in good order.
Now out in the big world, people will pass you by on the pavement should
you need help and pretend you're not there! However in the circle of
restoration, assistance and enthusiasm is given freely. Nothing it would
appear is too much trouble and if an individual is unable to help, well no
doubt he knows some one who can.
So Bill, tractor in tow and with boxes of parts managed to get the old B back
to the workshop where the arduous task of rebuilding would begin.
The engine was disassembled for inspection with the main priority being to
trace what was causing such a huge water loss into the crankcase. As a matter
of course Bill had the head skimmed and the bores honed out and crack tested
by his many associates in the engineering world.
After some considerable detection work it was found that one of the pushrod
tubes was made of copper and in sound condition whereas the other, made of
steel, was rusted through and perforated. This believe it or not, was the
cause of the leak.
Bill had the tube replaced with a matching copper one, after which the engine
reassembly started in earnest, and although time consuming was fairly straight
Most of the internal components were rust covered due to the amount of time
the machine had stood. On inspection Bill was pleased to find that this was
only surface rust and no threat, a new set of piston rings were fitted giving
excellent compresion. The big ends were in good condition and refitted with
shims found in one of the boxes of spares.
The WICO magneto was sound but was sent for overhaul just in case. Owners of
old machinery know, with impulse mags a good blue spark is essential for easy
starting, as a weak yellow one can be extinguished under compression. Anyway
when your swinging over a two and three quarter litre engine by hand you need
all the help you can get!!! Turning his attention to the pivots,
brakes,clutch etc, Bill found that although some were siezed, they all freed off
and operated okay after cleaning and greasing.
The massive cast iron radiator was water-tight, but the high and low level
thermo-syphon tubes needed welding, a new taper ball race was fitted to the
steering mechanism, and as for the body work....well many hours were spent
removing the traces of old paint. The castings were then hand painted whilst
the metalwork recieved four coats by spray gun.
When I called, Bill hadn't started the old girl for quite some time. He showed
me to the shed where a large tarpauline covered the beast. In order to start
her we first checked everything over, we filled up the radiator with four and
a half gallons of water!! this huge amount being required to cool the engine
by thermo-syphon as Deere owners know... No water pump is fitted to the large
2.5" diameter flow and return pipes. Spark plugs cleaned and gapped all the
usual jobs done we arrived at the point where we were to begin the starting
On this early model there is neither starting handle or electric motor!!, so
the method for starting the 2750cc 4.5" bore two-cylinder engine is to flip
over the external fly wheel!! Now, as the over head valve engine has a 5.5"
stroke, this is far easier said than done!!
At least the engine is fitted with de-compressor valves on each cylinder, But
due to the strange layout, the valve on the nearside points directly at the
poor chap starting it... in this case me!! So as I swung the fly wheel I was
sprayed in neat petrol...much to Bill's amusement!!
So with petrol on, choke turned, hand clutch engaged but out of gear, I gave
several hearty swings on the fly wheel, with a cough and a splutter the
massive cast iron pistons did their job and " Johnny popper" burst into life.
The compression release cocks were closed tight and she ticked over quite
nicely making that lovely twin exhaust note. Bill jumped on board and
disengaged the hand clutch, selected a gear and fed in the clutch and the pale
green and yellow John Deere gently wheeled out of it's musty hiding place into
the watery sunlight....and i have to say she looked resplendant after 463
hours of sweat, tears and lots of Tender Loving Care!!....another nice and
happy mending from here in the U.K
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