John and Kathy Boehm
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John Deere BI
Serial #327547
1937 Model Year

This tractor went through a fire, so restoration will be more difficult than most. However, only 183 BI's were produced, so it is worth restoring. Most all the sheet metal and any item with brass, aluminum,lead, or pot metal, as well as most springs and many bearings, was destroyed and will need to be replaced. Here are the first photos after I pulled it into the shop on 1 July 2007:

These photos show disassembly in progress 5 July 2007. Taking a burned tractor apart takes two to three times as long as a regular one. Matt and I find that it helps to heat all bolts red hot with a torch, then allow them to cool completely before removing them. Still, many of the bolts end up twisting off. These need to be drilled out and retapped. We never use so called "easy out" spiral screw extractors. I am convinced that they are the invention of the devil himself and often will break off in the hole, creating almost insurmountable problems.

7 July 2007. I was able to remove the left hand brake drum, which has to weigh a couple of hundred pounds. After I removed it, while still on the forklift, I was surprised to watch the tractor tip over onto its side! No harm was done and it actually made it easiler to remove the underneath components.

10 July 2007. Matt finished most of the rest of the disassembly. Some of the components ( fan shaft, governor, service brake, ets. will require further disassembly). Next, we will start cleaning up the case, frame, rear axle housing, and front axle, prior to beginning the reassembly process. The big parts will be cleaned by alternate attacks with oven cleaner (hint: buy it at the Dollar store, it is a lot less expensive there), needle scaler, wire wheel, and lacquer thinner. Also, I need to clean up the floor, notice how filthy it is compared to the pictures at the top of this page!

15 July 2007. This weekend, I cleaned up the transmission parts and reinstalled them. Surprisingly the bearings were quite good. Some of the gears were chipped. I found suitable replacements from various parts machine that I had. Luckily, the transmission was the regular transmission shared by BO and BR tractors and not the high speed transmission that some BI's had. Because this tractor went through a fire, it needed to be totally disassembled and every part checked. Every gasket and most every spring will be replaced. Most of the sheet metal will be replaced, but some of the lower brake shields should be okay.

22 July 2007. Over the last few days, I've installed the crankshaft, main bearings, camshaft, oil pump, and oil filter parts, replacing damaged or worn parts as needed with either new parts or good used ones from my stash (to borrow a quilter's term) Close inspection reveals that the cylinder block (shown below), the head, and the radiator bottom tank are all split from previous freeze damage. The head will not be repairable since the inner walls at the push rod tubes are also split. Another head, block, and tank have been found and will be used.

27 July 2007: Differential, brake covers, service brake support, and first reduction gear cover have been installed. Note that this BI has the special first reduction gear cover that has the top opening for the side power take off assembly.

29 July 2007: Rear axle housing and front frame have been attached. It's starting to look more like a tractor.I've al;so been working on some of the assemblies that were previously removed. Shown below is the side power take off, which I am still trying to disassemble. Since this went through the fire, I need to check the bearings and probably replace them. I am working carefully on this assembly, trying not to break anything, since J. R. Hobbs estimated that perhaps only 10 BI's were ever equipped with the side power take off. This tractor had the remains of a Detroit Harvester rotary broom and it was run off the side pto. Unfortunately only the pto and a few pieces of the frame were left on the tractor--not enough to try and complete the broom. The third photo below shows some of the other disassembled parts waiting for their turn to be cleaned up in the glass beader.

2 August 2007: Since last report, we've rebuilt and reinstalled and the front end and steering components. Here Matt is finishing up installation of the drag link. Also installed the rear axles with new seals and felt washers. Brake backing plates are installed and lower photo shows the relined brakes and other brake components ready for installation.

17 August 2007- Installing the rear wheel center/brake drums- each of these weighs several hundred pounds, so we installed them by raising them with an engine hoist and sliding them on to the rear axle bolts. Note htat the brakes are done, the radiator installed, and most of the engine is back together. I am waiting for my machinist to make up new piston pins, as the old ones are too worn to use.

24 August 2007 - Still waiting for piston pins and push rod sleeves, so we decided to go ahead and do the first paint coat. The paint is from John Deere, "Old Consturction Yellow". It is hard to cover - almost two gallons were used today. The yellow appears a brighter yellow under direct light, more orange with less light, but it is all the same color. We will now begin the final assembly, followed by another coat of paint.

29 August 2007- We have started the final assembly process, having gotten the piston pins, push rod sleeves and the square bolts for the radiator. Today we finished getting the engine together and the fenders bolted on, as well as other items. The fenders did not magically go on today. Matt had previously fitted them during the primer stage, but I neglected to get photos at that time. Fitting the new fenders is a laborious and time consuming job! They have to be clamped on square and level, then all the bolt and rivet holes drilled, and finally, the exta ends need to be cut off to match the platform irons.

We are almost ready for a test run of the engine, then on to a final paint job and final details, like decals, rear wheels, and touch up. It's starting to look like a tractor now!




3 September 2007, Got the rear wheels on so I could move it around. I like to belt it up to another tractor to lube it up and break it in a while before I try firing it up. The oil pressure was low, so I adjusted the oil pump relief valve. I let it run for about 45 minutes, then installed the carburetor, put a temporary gas tank on, and let it fire up. It ran okay, but I discovered a few problems- the carbuiretor is leaking, some water is leaking from the radiator bottom tank, and there is also an exhaust leak between the manifold and the head. Removal of the radiator revealed the leak at the new pipe installed on the bottom tank. Removal of the manifold revealed a manifold surface that is not flat. I took the manifold in to my machinist so that he can resurface it.

There was also a huge exhaust leak on both sides of the block by the frame. After removing the block, I discovered that the replacement block I used was an earlier one that has two mounting holes that were not used on the later blocks. Filling in these holes with bolts, then filing them off flush solved this problem.


Late September 2007 - The tractor runs fine and drove it around, too, but I discovered that collant is getting into the oil. So the engine was torn down again in search of the cause, which could only be a cracked block, a cracked head, a leaky head gasket, or leaky push rod sleeves. I had the head magnafluxed and all looked okay, but after the tractor was back together, coolant still leaked into the oil. Another teardown and this time I had my machinist rebuild a different head that I had.


14 December 2007 - Finally got the second head on after a valve job, new valves, new seats, and new pushrod sleeves. It does not seem to be leaking and we test ran it again, before some disassembly for the final paint job, which Matt applied today. Well keep out fingers crossed, and see how things run after the final assembly next week.


22 December 2007 - Everything is now reassembled and I took it out to test everything out. There are a few adjustments that still need to be made.


1 January 2008 - Final adjustments have been made, Today I applied the decals, then washed and waxed the tractor before taking these photos. Done! (P.S. Watch for the next project that Matt and I will undertake - a John Deere A High Crop)