Riding a Piece of History
In June 2007, I wrote a Bay Gardener column about restoring a 1949 John Deere B tractor. A Bay Weekly reader called to offer me an old tractor, which had belonged to his father-in-law.
When I visited, I found a neglected Allis-Chalmers B parked at the edge of a woods. It had not been operated for at least 10 years. It would no doubt be a real challenge to restore to operating condition.
Since the word can’t is not in my vocabulary, I accepted the tractor and, with the help of neighbors, loaded it on a trailer and hauled it to Upakrik Farm. My daughters doubted my ability to make the old rust-bucket operate.
Because it was impossible to crank the engine, I filled the cylinders with Blaster and let it stand idle for several months. In the meantime, I removed as many parts as possible using a torch to heat the nuts and bolts and treating them with penetrating oil.
Under the guidance of my good friend Bud Moreland of Lothian, I removed the engine-block head and oil pan and, using special tools, removed the pistons and cylinder walls. It was apparent that water had entered these areas and rusted the pistons, rings and cylinder walls together. I cleaned the engine block and installed new cylinder walls, pistons and rings, as well as bearings.
Even with these changes, the engine could not be cranked. Removing the main bearings, I found that the crankshaft needed to be milled, which was beyond my ability and tools. Thus the engine was removed from the chassis and delivered to R.C. Automotive in Capitol Heights.
In the meantime, I removed rust from all metal parts, welded and filled holes in the rusted fenders and purchased rims for the rear wheels, tires, a battery box and tractor seat.
Once the engine was returned, I mounted it to the chassis and painted the tractor Belgium orange. I then replaced all the parts that were removed and painted, installed a new ignition system as well as wires to the head- and taillights.
I did not have a wiring diagram to follow, my memory was not reliable and my knowledge of engine mechanics is limited. But with the help of Bud Moreland, I figured out why the engine would not start after all the wires had been connected.
Now I have a John Deere B and an Allis-Chalmers B in operating condition. Next, I am looking for a Farmall B. This will make for a colorful collection of green, orange and red for the Shady Side Fourth of July parade.
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