Thanks for all the help guys, I really appreciate the experienced guidance.
I'm glad to hear it about the eccentric inner race of that bearing. I kind of assumed it had to be that way, because the tractor was running so well and I just couldn't figure how wear could ever have done that to a bearing. And it sure is welcome news, because the bearing is in great condition and running real smooth and quiet. A rare thing when disassembling old machines!
Thanks for the tips on other things to look for while I have it apart, I certainly will evaluate the rest of the assembly.
Actually, I'll evaluate pretty much all of every assembly, because today I was poking around and the more I took off, the more I saw I should take more off. At this point, I'm basically all the way there, so I'm taking it apart until all that's left is a transmission, frame, and an engine. Everything else is coming off and getting serviced/sanded/painted/replace/whatever else it needs. New hardware where needed, etc. In my heart, I think I knew this was coming. My favorite thing to do is completely restore old machines. I should've known once I started disassembling that I wouldn't stop. Plus the rats nest that was the wiring in the battery compartment sent shivers down my spine - I'll just feel better when they're all neat and organized! Plus I'll be able to take the cover off and get a good look inside the tranny to see if there's anything that needs doing in there.
I realized that I never really sent before pictures. Seems this thread is turning into a rebuild thread, so I'll add a few of what I got now. I mostly took videos so maybe when I finish I'll put a little youtube video together to show the before/during/after more completely.
Bought her for $1000 knowing virtually nothing about tractors beyond that I wanted some Old Iron (My woodshop is almost all vintage delta stuff, because I'm a nerd, but that's another story). Specifically, I wanted a gear-driven tractor, but a new cub cadet XT-3 was out of my price range. Saw this ad pop up, did a little research, seemed like bolens was a perfect match for my maintainable, powerful, versatile requirements, and so I pulled the trigger. Came with extra tires, snow blower, 40-something mower deck, snow blade, rear tiller, and chains.
Engine is an 18 horse briggs L head. You'll notice in the before picture that this bolens is a tiny bit longer than most - the guy who did the repower shifted the hood forward about 1.5" to fit the engine, which meant he had to move the central "column" of sheet metal back about the same amount so that the hood would still close neatly. He also moved the gas tank to under the seat, and modified the seat so that the seat itself flips up, not the whole white sheet metal that the seat is on. There are a few more holes in the sheet metal than stock, but whoever did the work was mostly neat and thoughtful, so I'll live with it. Or I'll weld in replacement pieces and grind it back to flush. As I may have mentioned, I often just cannot help myself. Seems like the people on this forum are the most likely to understnad! Other than those mods, it's pretty much stock as best I can tell.
The issues I found so far have mostly been talked about in this thread: brake pad needs replacing, clutch assembly friction material needs some love, wiring needs to be a bit neater, differential lock knob was basically locked on by a random hairpin, and just about everything in the tractor needed to go through the adjustment process. The guy clearly knew engines, though, because that is working like a dream.
With one exception - it was CHEWING starter pinion gears. Literally two or three starts on a brand new pinion gear, and you'd have to replace the gear because the teeth were gone. Like completely gone, no engagement with the flywheel ring gear at all. So after two gears in as many days, I replaced the entire aluminum ring gear on the briggs motor because it was fairly chewed up too (red flag number one). And I replaced the pinion gear assembly on the starter motor with a new one. In doing that, I found a bonus washer in that assembly, and it seemed to make the pinion gear sticky at the top of the spiral - it didn't want to come back down. It also made getting the c-clip off an absolute nightmare because you couldn't compress the assembly enough to get around it (red flag number 2). Anyways, I don't know if it was one or both of those fixes, but once I put it all back together and started it a few times, you couldn't even tell the pinion gear wasn't brand new. Problem solved!
From what I gather, the last owner put a metal pinion gear on at one point. I'm guessing the washer was an attempt at better engagement. Well the metal gears only have 14 teeth, so I think it screwed up the ring gear real good, because you're only supposed to use the plastic gears (16 teeth) with the aluminum briggs ring gears. Anyways, it's all speculation. And fixed now, so it's in the past!
After mowing the lawn with it once (mostly was great!), I noticed the clutch and differential problems, and so began the big dissassembly, which is now turning into a just-shy-of-the-tranny-and-engine disassembly. But it's good, I'm getting to know the tractor inside and out, and like every restoration, it's fun and worth it in the end. Plus I saw Chev's resto pictures and thought "yup, I must." I did notice when mowing that the belts were rather noisy. They were one of the few parts I couldn't lubricate because the bolts were frozen. Hoping new belts and lubrication will silence them.
I'll include the one before picture I have, the chewed up ring gear and pinion gear, the absolutely shredded brake pad, and one or two of the tractor as it stands now. Hopefully by the weekend I'll have everything I'm going to take off in the shop, and the restoration can begin in earnest!