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Restored David Bradley Garden Tractordavid bradley the american garage restoration do it yourself urban gardening
A couple of years ago, I decided to get back into gardening. As a young boy in the mid-west, I grew up with a John Deere 110, and lived on a 3 acre yard- 1/4 of which was garden. My parents were both teachers, and I had 5 brothers and sisters. So, how do you feed a crowd like that on a teacher salary? Well, you grow it yourself in the garden. After growing up and moving to the city, the thought of gardening was the remotest of thoughts. We grew our garden with no artificial anything- nowadays people call it 'organic' but we just called it food. Well, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out these days that our food now is over hybridized, genetically modified, loaded with chemicals and preservatives- and everyone is getting sick. Who ever heard of someone being gluten allergic?
So, I decided it was time to return to gardening. Plus, I felt that as Americans, we are far too reliant on those 18 wheelers that roll into our grocery stores every couple of days. So- I had to find me some equipment to till the soil with. Sadly, my yard is waaay too small for any sort of riding tractor (thus, no John Deere 110), but I wanted something more than a rototiller. I went looking and found these great old garden tractors, with implements to do all sorts of things. I thought this would be perfect! Well, I live in Texas, and walking tractors just didn't seem to catch on here, and I couldn't find any locally. I really liked the David Bradley- it was so cool looking, had a good reputation, and they were made with 60+ attachments. I thought this would be perfect!
After much looking, I found a pair for sale in the same town that my uncle lived in up in Massachusetts- they are still very popular in the midwest and the east coast. I thought this would be a good excuse to visit my relatives, made a deal for 2 broken down tractors for $100. Plus about $500 to go get them! Well, I was excited to get them and to make a good project out of it- and I decided to use it to start a DIY show- The American Garage. Well, I got the tractors, and started in on the project. As with all of my projects, I did it with pocket change and budget leftovers. I never go into debt for a hobby. I tore down the 1949 model, and proceeded to sandblast, prime, paint, repair- until I had a complete tractor. I did upgrade the Briggs & Stratton motor (1hp) to a newer 3hp motor.
It was difficult finding parts until I found Bob's Small Engine Repair- he was a great help with all the right parts. But, I wanted to keep the original carb and intake- it looked so cool, plus the gas tank on the new motor would not fit under the hood. And, I wanted to use the old gas tank too. So begins the fun of modifying- and the trial and error that is involved. It ran terrible. I made an adapter for the intake manifold, as the screws were 90 degrees from where they needed to be for the new engine. I had to scrap the adapter, as the engine would run great so long as it had no burden on it whatsoever.
It could not even pull itself- the lengthening of the intake with the adapter took all the engine's torque. Bob found me an acceptable intake manifold, and I also had to modify the carb, drilling out the holes on the jet to provide enough fuel for the bigger engine. Finally, I had a good tractor that would pull itself and cut through the dirt. Success! I made video episodes of the whole project, received lots of advice from members here, and had a bit of fun along the way.
Now, I have this great garden tractor, and I planted my first garden in 30 years with it this past spring. I used all heirloom seed so I can keep replenishing it, and had some measure of success. Now it is time to plow it in and start getting ready for a fall garden- yes- in southeast Texas, we can grow 3 times a year if we plan it right. And now I have the coolest tractor in the neighborhood to help me with it. A 1949 David Bradley! Thanks to all that helped make it possible, and fee free to look at the video series I made of the complete restoration project. Check it out at www.theamericangarage.net
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