Monday, May 25, 2009

Old Two Lungers

RT put up a post today with a video of an old two cylinder Volvo tractor idling - and some musicians use it as backbeat to play against. Pretty neat, actually.

Well, that got me to reminiscing about Dad's old John Deere 1958 720LP and how it sounded.

No, this isn't it. This tractor has been restored. You can see the hand clutch and the hand throttle. The drum on the right side just ahead of the rear tire is the clutch assembly. There is a "brake" in front of the drum that was used to stop the drum to help get the tractor into gear. When the tractor was running, that drum was spinning. Nope, no safety shield covering that up. Dad was generally pissed after getting the tractor back after loaning it out because people invariably used the clutch brake to stop the tractor rather than the separate wheel brakes. Abusing the clutch brake wore it out, which meant Dad replaced that pad a lot. The wheel brakes actually stopped some small drums mounted slightly below the floorboard. They spun when the tractor was moving - and nope, no safety shield there, either.

The controls were minimalist. Besides the clutch, throttle and twin brakes, there was a gearshift in the floorboard - the shifter rowed through slots cut in a box. There was a tachometer with approximate velocities indicated for each gear, an ammeter, and a liquid percentage gauge for the propane. The starter was a spring loaded plunger mounted on the left floorboard. The PTO kicked in and out with a foot control, and there were fairly conventional hydraulic controls for the three point hitch and the two optional plug-ins on the right side of the seat. It did have power steering, a fact noted in an insert on the steering wheel.

John Deere certainly had a history of being conservative - they stuck with the two cylinder power for decades. Thus, once you've heard one, you've just about heard them all. There is a reason they are called "Johnny Poppers."


This is an old Model D diesel, but under a load. It really reminded me of the old 720.

720 diesel john deere


This is a diesel 720 - it sounds a lot smoother than the old propane two lunger I grew up with. You do get a view of the clutch drum spinning, and the brake drum behind it. I wish whoever filmed that had focused in on the controls a little more - they got kinda jumpy there, too.

Running one of these old gems is a break from the air conditioned comforts of a modern tractor, but only up to a point. Once in a while was fine, but I was generally ready to get back to a cab after a really hot, windy day with a lot of dirt and trash blowing around. Otherwise, it was pretty neat to be out in the elements farming yer butt off - very similar to riding a bike or driving a convertible. A nice calm spring day, the comforting putt putt of the faithful old beast, the thrill of the mastering the crude controls - what more would a gearhead with dirt in his veins want? Throw the iPod away, turn the radio off, you are just gonna be alone with your thoughts and dreams, you and the ancient machine.


ptg said...

I used to have a Farmall B, back when I had a really big garden. It had 4 cylinders and ran on gasoline. With my two bottom trip plow and tiny harrow, I did well with the gardening.

It had a crude hydraulic front scoop which I used to manage my compost pile, move heavy stuff and scoop snow. When starting the engine (crank only), the scoop was always in the way. It would be right up against the back of my legs; if it backfired while cranking it, I inevitably fell over backwards into the scoop.

jed said...

Ya know, Jeffro, you have a talent for catalyzing YouTube searches which wind up with the strangest results. I'm not sure why 2 chicks getting drunk in the bathtub is "related" (according to YouTube) to johnny poppers, but there you have it.

Also, try a youtube search for 'rap diesel start'. Some people sure know how to have fun.

RT said...

Glad I could stir up some happy memories for you. :)

Jeffro said...

jed - I'm not sure I really want to know how two drunk chicks in a bathtub relate to "johnny poppers." Maybe twenty years ago I'd have been intently interested, but these days I think I prefer my innocence!

RT and ptg - thanks for stopping by!

Unknown said...

I would love to have one of those old John Deere Poppers. You see that guy take that tree branch in the face?

Frank W. James said...

Dad bought a 720 new in 1957 and I still have it. I don't run it enough to keep the points in shape so it stalled on me Monday when I moved it outside to get to another piece of equipment. Had to get a local mechanic to come over and get it re-started.

Great tractor for their time, but they are a bitch kitty to use to back a loaded gravity wagon back into a shed. And I learned as a kid you don't want your knee in the way of the hand clutch when moldboard plowing and you hit a rock. It will get your attention.

All The Best,
Frank W. James