1935 John Deere Model BN|
The History of My Tractor - SN B4244
by Alexander G. Knox
My grandfather, Orval A. Knox of Chandler, Arizona, affectionately known as “Pa”, purchased this tractor new from the John Deere/Caterpillar dealer (now Arizona Machinery) in 1935. It was his first new tractor and his first with rubber tires. He used it on his farm growing cotton, alfalfa, corn, wheat, milo, barley, and oats. My father, Norman L. Knox, recalls Pa putting a mower on the tractor during the day and then hanging a kerosene lamp on the front to rake hay at night. This tractor was officially retired from fieldwork in the early 1960’s…after the many years Pa and Dad put on it. Even though they no longer used the tractor in the fields, it was maintained in running condition and was occasionally pulled out of the barn to do odd jobs pulling trailers around the farm.
My grandparents, Pa and Grandma Otie (Leota Neely Knox), lived on the family farm located at the northwest corner of Arizona Avenue and Knox Road in Chandler. As a kid, I spent a lot of time with them. I liked to explore all the old equipment that sat in the shop yard and barn. I discovered this tractor as well as its’ sister tractor, a 1936 John Deere Model A, in the barn. They both were covered with dust and pigeon poop to where you could not tell what color they were. When I was seven years old, I asked Pa if the old tractors ran. He said, “yes,” and on my next visit he would have one cleaned up and running. He and his foreman, Jesse Rowe, steam-cleaned the Model BN since it was the easiest to get to in the barn and smaller in size for a seven-year-old kid to drive. The following week Pa gave me the “How To” in Model BN operations – good gas, which must be ON, choke ON, pull the flywheel like no tomorrow. Of course I couldn’t get it started. He just laughed at me. I had the last laugh though when neither Pa nor Jesse could start the tractor either. They finally gave up and we hooked up a chain to pull start it with a truck.
Over the course of the next year, Pa got really tired of having to drag this old tractor out of the barn for me and help me start it. He finally hit on the perfect motivation for me. The deal was that when I could start this tractor by myself, he would give it to me. You have never seen a kid work so hard at trying to start an ornery old John Deere. I would wear blisters on my hands through the gloves Pa gave me. If I could not start it, I would have to round-up my Dad, Jesse, or one of the hired men to help pull start it -- Pa was done starting it for me.
In the late summer of 1973, this eight-year-old finally hand started the BN. I went running for Pa’s house, shouting at the top of my lungs - I was so excited. True to his word, Pa gave me the Bill of Sale for Christmas that year. I bought it for ten dollars, and he gave me the money to give back to him. I have owned it ever since.
I loved driving this tractor around our farm and sometimes home for lunch in town – two miles away. You must remember that this was 1972, and Chandler was a different place. Can you imagine a seven-year-old driving a tractor around Chandler now? Don’t be surprised if you see one. I keep this tractor in town now, and my kids and I take it out to lunch on many occasions. Look for us downtown at Brunchies or Serrano’s or further north at Dairy Queen getting an ice cream. Nicole (7) and Thompson (5) are still in the learning phase, but I will definitely let them take it out when they are ready.
For many years, I talked with my Dad about restoring the tractor since it was still in the “original” condition. I had the use of our farm shop; but in the summer of 2000, I realized I had neither the time nor motivation for a complete restoration myself. My Dad suggested we ask our friend, Warren Helms of Chandler, if he would lend his talent and expertise in restoring this tractor. He graciously agreed and immediately went to work. He had it done in no time but could not paint due to the fact that it was 116F degrees. New paint doesn’t quite work at that temperature. I had to wait. Then wait some more. I think Warren got really tired of Dad and me calling and stopping by to see how it was coming. Fortunately, it finally cooled off to less than 100F degrees and Warren could start painting. I am truly grateful to my Dad for all his help in making this restoration possible. The “new” BN had its maiden restored showing that fall at the Chandler Cotton Festival parade pulling a float filled with many Knox Family members. We had a banner made for it saying, “Farming in Chandler Since 1896.” It was a very proud moment not only for me but the entire family.
Side Notes and Fun Rumors:
Looking at the John Deere Model B archives provided by Larry Rovey of Glendale, I discovered that this tractor was built on April 2nd, 1935 and shipped April 3rd, 1935 as a factory original Model BN, not a conversion. Some say it is one of only 1000 factory original BNs made. The archives show that five BNs were delivered from Kansas City, Missouri to Phoenix, Arizona all on the same day. Rumor has it that these were the only BNs delivered to Arizona in 1935, all on the same railcar.
“The Model B offered all the features of the Model A, but built on a smaller scale: a rugged, horizontal 2-cylinder motor…; a 4-speed transmission with hand-operated clutch; adjustable rear wheel tread; a belt pulley; a power take-off; and an optional hydraulic lift mechanism that raised and lowered the tractor’s implements.”
Model Bs started production in October 1934. The Model Bs from 1935 to 1938 were the “Unstyled” years. Approximately 41,133 Unstyled Model B Short-Frames were built from October 1934 to June 1937. John Deere then switched to a Long-Frame Unstyled B until June 1938.
“A Model B’s serial number is stamped on a brass plate through the 1935 model year, and on an aluminum plate thereafter (except for some steel plates used during World War II).”
Make: John Deere
Serial Number: B4244*
Base Price: $800 (1935)
Engine Displacement: 149 cubic inches
Engine Bore and Stroke: 4.25 inches x 5.25 inches
Fuel Type: All-Fuel
Horse Power: 11.8 Drawbar / 16.0 PTO & Belt
RPM: 1150 Max
Wheel Size: 9x36in Rear / 5x16in Front
Average Empty Weight: 2,760 lbs.
Current Operating Weight: 3,420 lbs.* Includes driver, fuel, umbrella.
Length: 120.5 inches
Height to Radiator: 56 inches
Transmission: Forward 4-speed Manual with hand clutch, 1-speed reverse.
Copyright 2002, All Rights Reserved. For permission to reprint any portion of this text, contact the author.
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