Home Grown: Building a Scale Replica John Deere D

Intricate scale models, including a replica John Deere D and a Rumely Oil Pull, sprout from scavenged parts and collector ingenuity.

Allen McCloskey with his 1/2-scale John Deere Model D and "3-8s" plow

Allen McCloskey with his 1/2-scale John Deere Model D and "3-8s" plow.

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When Allen McCloskey decided he wanted a scale replica John Deere tractor, he got it the old-fashioned way: He built it himself. "I sent for a pamphlet advertised in an engine magazine," Allen says. "It was from an old fellow out in Nebraska or Iowa who had built a mini John Deere Model D. That's what got me started."

Allen's 1/2-scale replica of a 1936 John Deere Model D was completed in 1995 after five years of parts-gathering and about four years of work. Special touches give his project an authentic touch.

"My radiator is from an unstyled John Deere B. It has the cast iron tank on top with the cast letters spelling out John Deere," he says. "I think that really makes it stand out." He did a bit of fine-tuning to make the radiator look right. "It had the fill cap over to the side on account of the steering shaft coming down across it," he explains. "I didn't have the original cap, which is kind of hard to find, so I patched the side hole and made a smaller cap to go in the middle of the radiator, like the full sized Model D used to have."

The original bottom tank, which was quite deep, was made of cast iron, and was cracked. Allen made a new tank out of 3-inch channel iron. He welded a lip around it, boxed it in and bolted it to the bottom of the radiator frame. "It sealed up and never leaked a drop," he says.

The engine, a John Deere 14 hp Type LUC, came from a 12A combine. "I used that engine because it was a 2-cylinder and looked like an old John Deere engine," he says. The engine was mounted vertically in the combine but for his replica Allen wanted to put it in a horizontal position, the same as in the John Deere D. "I ground, sawed and broke the bell-housing/clutch housing off the engine to make room to mount a bigger flywheel on the side," he says. Since the engine was in a horizontal position, the oiling system needed a new sump for the oil to accumulate and the carburetor had to be changed to a horizontal draft.

The transmission is from an International Harvester 303 combine. The man who gave it to him said it jumped out of second gear as he was going across the field. "When I got home and took off the top, I could see all the teeth were worn off at a bevel on second gear," Allen says. "However, since I'm running it backwards, it's the same as brand new teeth." The clutch is a V-belt drive and the clutch parts work by tightening the belt using a clutch lever. The gear drive goes into the transmission through the side. The transmission is in the front half of the box and the differential is in the back half. "I changed the shifting mechanism so it would shift at the back like the old Model D actually did," he says.

Allen salvaged rear wheel rims and tires from a John Deere corn planter. The hubs and spokes are from a tomato setter. By welding the two together he made spoke wheels. For the front wheels he made a jig and welded them out of 12-inch rims found in a junkyard. "I used 1/2-inch rod for spokes and pipe fittings for hubs," he says. "Basically I made them from one end to the other." The front axle is welded from 1/2-inch bar stock. The flywheel is from the same unstyled John Deere B that provided the radiator. "My brother had these parts and they all worked out pretty good for size and looks," he says. "It may not be perfect, but it suits me."

Allen designed the whole front end with the steering linkage. "The pamphlet I ordered called for rack-and-pinion steering, which I really didn't like," he says, "so I made everything myself." The steering box was taken from a corn de-tassler that had been cut up for scrap metal, and the gearbox was still underfoot. The little gearbox used for the fan drive is actually an angle drive for an electric drill Allen bought from Sears. "I was afraid it might not hold up so I ordered two of them," he says with a laugh. "However, the first one is still going strong."

The original LUC engine set-up had an updraft carburetor. With the engine in a horizontal position, the carburetor had to be changed. "I found a carburetor in a junkyard just lying on the ground," Allen says. "I thought it might be worth a try so I took it home and cleaned it up. I mounted it on the engine and it ran good. The carburetor was probably from a 2-cylinder Kohler engine." He used the air cleaner that was with the engine, cutting about 4 or 5 inches out of it to make it look more like the original Model D air cleaner. The belt pulley, found in a junkyard, probably came off of an old combine.

Other parts were also scavenged. "The oil breather top is the hubcap off my trailer," Allen says. "I brazed a coupling in it." The oil pressure gauge is original to the engine. Since the engine is now on its side, the oil pan had to be modified. A reinforcing plate was welded in the bottom of the original oil pan (now the back of the engine), then drilled and tapped into the front of the transmission.

A sump was made on what is now the bottom of the oil pan. Holes were drilled inside the block for the oil to run back down into the sump. Through one of those holes Allen ran a piece of tubing to about 1/4-inch of the bottom of the sump so it would suck the oil back into the oil pump. "It doesn't hold much oil now," he says, "about 1-1/2 quarts, so I have to watch it fairly close. The engine doesn't run hot or anything. If it was under heavy load, it might make a difference."

A '3-8s' John Deere plow

With the tractor replica completed, Allen set his sights on implements. A scale 3-bottom plow was his next project. "I call it '3-8s'," he explains. "The original tractors were supposed to pull 3-16s, so since this is 1/2-scale or thereabouts." Wheels were made using the same jig used for the front tractor wheels. Moldboards were cut from an 18-inch boiler-type tank so they would have the right curve. "I think they turned out good," Allen says.

The clutch that raises and lowers the plow is from a Black Hawk corn planter. Because it worked backwards, Allen had to do some revamping. "I took it apart and reversed the dog on the inside and the gears on the outside," he says. The beams are from old double-shovel plows. "I fabricated the whole frame for the plow," he explains. "The frame parts were probably about the hardest thing on the plow to fabricate since there was no form." They had to match as closely as possible, so he heated them with a torch, bent them a little bit, then re-heated and bent some more. The levers were made of flat iron, and the quadrants are just pieces of roller chain gears from a grain elevator. Best of all, it operates as intended. "I've tried plowing and it works pretty well."

A 1920 Rumely 16-30 Type 'H' … in 1/3 scale

Allen hasn't limited himself to one line. He's also built a 1/3-scale Rumely 16-30 Type H. "I worked on it in my spare time for two or three years," he says. "I had seen several little ones where a guy would take a lawn mower chassis and put a square box on the front and call it a Rumely, but I don't think they were as good as mine."

The engine is a 3 hp International Harvester from his collection. He took one of the two flywheels off because OilPulls had only one flywheel. The belt pulley (from a John Deere tractor) was found in the junkyard. The transmission is out of a 1950 Plymouth car. The wheels are from a manure spreader, and the drive gears are out of the rear of a Farmall F-12. The frame is made of 3-inch channel iron.

For the steering, a steering sector gearbox was taken out of a car and clamped under the frame with vice grips. "I thought this would be exactly what I wanted," Allen says. "I put in the steering shaft and turned it, and found out it worked backwards and turned the wrong direction. So I took the gears out of the gearbox and made a bracket to hold everything. It looks and works a lot better; everything is out in the open just like the big OilPull." The steering wheel was made from a piece of 3/8-inch pipe. The hub is out of an old steering wheel; spokes were welded in to complete the assembly. The fuel tank is an air tank from a semi tractor; Allen cut it down and shortened it, and put it down between the frames under the engine.

The clutch is made of odds and ends. Allen made the little arms and some of the mechanism. "In some cases I had parts made because I'm no good with machine work," he says. The transmission is attached crossways under the frame and below the engine. A roller chain gear was attached to the transmission input shaft and the engine crankshaft to provide a chain drive. A shield covers the chain and is visible on the right side of the tractor. The old Plymouth transmission had an emergency brake on the output shaft. Activated by a foot pedal, the brake is now used to stop the tractor. A lever is used to shift the gears. The quadrant is similar to that on the big Rumely except Allen's has three speeds and the big tractor is a 2-speed.

The differential from the Plymouth was used as the rear end. The pinion gear and shaft were removed. The rivets were cut on the ring gear and the gear was removed and replaced with a roller chain sprocket machined to fit in the ring gear slot. An idler pulley was needed behind the differential to allow the drive chain coming from the transmission to just pass under the differential chain gear, not around it. That reversed the direction of travel so the differential turns the right way. The F-12 drive gears were attached to the axles to provide the driving power.

Allen also made the radiator for the little Rumely. "At first I just took a piece of 1/2-inch metal tubing and made a coil in the box on the front of the tractor to circulate the cooling oil," he says. "But that didn't work out too well, so I made a square tank out of sheet metal that goes inside the square box. I cut a dozen or so holes and brazed in pieces of 3/4-inch copper tubing through the tank to let the air go through."

The exhaust goes in the top of the box, creating an updraft, and brings air through the radiator. The tubing did not have enough capacity to cool the engine. The square box holds a lot more coolant and works pretty well. "We tried oil," he says, "but that doesn't seem to cool as well as water." A small chain-driven pump was added to provide circulation of the coolant through the engine and radiator.

The scale-model Rumely Oil Pull is patterned after McCloskey's restored 1920 Rumely 16-30 Type H Oil Pull. "It was in pretty bad shape when I got it," Allen says. "I restored it, had it in a few shows then let it sit for 35 years. About four years ago, my son, Dean, said we should get it running again." True to form, Allen went to work. "It didn't take too much," he says. "I just made a new fuel tank to replace the original that had rusted out." FC 

For more information: Allen McCloskey, Galveston, IN; (574) 699-6291. Both mini tractors and the plow can be seen at the 2008 Tip Wa Antique Tractor and Engine Club Show July 4-6 near Walton, Ind. 

Don Voelker is a freelance photographer and writer in Fort Wayne, Ind., specializing in tractors, farm equipment, historic sites, museums, barns and covered bridges. View his work at www.voelkerphotography.com