Farm Collector


The foundation for restoring John Deere tractors

For those collectors who have a bent for John Deere tractor restoration and enjoyed the previously published How to Restore Classic Farm Tractors by Tharran E. Gaines, they’re going to love his latest book, How to Restore Classic John Deere Tractors. Instead of providing generic instructions and photographs of ‘off-brand tractors’ like his other work (okay, just about every ‘green’ restorer considers any other tractor types off-brands), the book zeros in on those famed John Deere tractors.

Don’t expect all older John Deere models to be covered, though. ‘Classic’ in the book’s title only means that tractors older than 1960 are covered. That means two cylinder models are shown to the exclusion of New Generation or later models.

Does this blurb on the cover page ring true? ‘The ultimate do-it-yourself guide to rebuilding and restoring Deere two-cylinder tractors.’ ‘Ultimate’ is a pretty powerful, all-inclusive word to be sure, but this book likely comes closer to that than anything else in a bookstore or catalog. It covers a wide range of topics in its 217 pages and quite thoroughly explores the territory covered.

Flipping through the pages when I first picked up the book, I’ll admit I wondered about the value of its first three chapters. What does ‘Two-Cylinder History,’ ‘Shopping for a Tractor’ and ‘Setting Up Shop,’ add to a tractor book? Then I realized that its purpose was to establish both a firm foundation for the restorer, plus provide him with a well-rounded approach that goes beyond the nuts and bolts. Yes, readers will be interested in reading about ‘The Beginning of a Legacy’ before they start skinning their knuckles. For instance, they’ll know facts like exactly when John Deere replaced model numbers with letters.

For the first-time restorer, the second and third chapters will prove invaluable. For example, how should a buyer respond when a seller’s tractor won’t start, although he claims it was running great the day before? Or how should one set up a shop area to be more effective and efficient? Specific suggestions concerning what specialized tools and equipment is needed are also itemized. Money saving tips are included as well, such as how a 2- or 21/2-foot piece of railroad track can replace an invaluable, but expensive, anvil.

 The chapter begins, however, with two short sections of excellent advice: Take your time and establish goals. In other words, look at a restoration project more as a marathon than a 100-meter dash that raises one’s blood pressure. Remember, restoration is supposed to be fun.

The rest of the book offers quite detailed information gleaned from numerous experienced tractor restorers. Here’s a breakdown of the various chapters to give an idea of the available information: Troubleshooting; Engine Repair and Rebuilding; Clutch, Transmission and PTO; Final Drive and Brakes; Front Axle and Steering; Tires, Rims and Wheels; Hydraulic System; Electrical System; Fuel System; Cooling System; Sheet Metal; Paint, Decals, Name Plates and Serial Number Plates. Clearly, this book attempts to cover every phase of John Deere restoration.

Interestingly enough, the final chapter strays from hands-on work and addresses the emotional side of John Deere restorations. ‘The Fruits of Your Labor’ discusses the value of antique tractor shows, farm equipment demonstrations, tractor games and tractor pulls. In other words, once it’s restored, don’t lock that beautiful, classic John Deere in the shed. Take the tractor out in the sun, give others a chance to appreciate it and maybe start it up for fun once in a while.

Almost everyone who restores tractors occasionally gets stumped when locating good parts. So, the book just might be worth its price alone in the appendix’s two-page listings of sources for parts, rebuilding and repairs.

Visually, the book is laid out well, although it’s thankfully more for function than drama. The photographs generally pinpoint the material discussed in the text and most are good, although a few are a little dark. Expanded black-and-white drawings are given whenever words can’t get the job done.

If one’s goal is restoring a classic John Deere tractor, either now or at some time in the future, the money equivalent of a dozen or so corn bushels for this book can almost certainly save time and frustration. FC

– How to Restore Classic John Deere Tractors, written by Tharran E. Gaines, published by Voyageur Press; ISBN: 0-89658-601-4, 224 pages; $29.95.

Chester Peterson Jr. is a full-time writer and photographer. He’s had 10 non-fiction books published, including seven tractor books. His articles have appeared in 161 different publications in six countries.

  • Published on Sep 1, 2003
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