As the clock was ticking steadily toward our deadline, there was still a lot of work that needed to be done. Having to repaint certain parts due to runs or other imperfections meant that reassembly was delayed even further.
Just a few days before Christmas, my brother came over one evening to help begin putting things back together. Things didn't go as planned and in a few hours all we had accomplished was reinstalling the steering column onto the tractor. We were beginning to get very worried as we did not anticipate things taking so long during reassembly.
The next day I picked up reassembling where we had left off on the tractor. Surprisingly things started to click and I made significant progress on the tractor. Again my brother came over after work and we reinstalled the engine to the otherwise complete tractor.
With everything pretty much back in order, we had one final test. We rolled the tractor out of the cramped garage to check and make sure that the engine still ran. The engine fired right up and another test drive was in order.
While the tractor ran strong and the steering and suspension components felt much tighter than before, we ran into problems with the V-belts. I had done research online and found what I thought were supposed to be the correct belt sizes, but the belts I purchased just wouldn't fit.
With a couple of days left, we didn't think that finding properly sized V-belts would be much of a problem. Unfortunately, this all occurred in the middle of winter during a snowstorm. With an increased demand in V-belts for snow blowers, the correct sized belts were nearly impossible to find.
After searching nearly every place we could think of within a three county radius, we finally located some correct sized, black-colored V-belts in Westmoreland County. With the new belts on, the tractor assembly was finished.
With just two days until Christmas I finished painting the plow components. Since we obtained the good snowplow later on in the project, we knew it would be the last thing to be completed and could be left off of the tractor if we ran out of time.
Final assembly of the snow plow was finished on Christmas Eve and it was attached to the tractor with almost no time to spare.
Since my brother and I were working in secrecy, we felt somewhat guilty that we couldn't share this experience with our father as it was happening. We decided that it would be neat to make a short DVD about the project to present along with the tractor, so our dad could see what all we had done.
We had thought enough ahead early on in the project to take several pictures of the tractor and document its condition at each stage of the restoration. We also shot video of critical points such as the first engine startup, test drives, painting and reassembly.
Amidst all of the work being put into the tractor in my spare time, I managed to write a script for our documentary. We elicited the help of our grandfather Roger Forry to do the narration of the film, while my brother and I each went on camera for testimonial style interviews about the project. The film was finally edited late Christmas Eve after work on the tractor was completed.
The finished result was a step by step documentary on our project, done in a style similar to the TV show "American Restoration." The DVD ended up being 42 minutes long and was presented to my father along with all of the records and documentation from the restoration at Christmas.
My brother set out building a makeshift box out of two-by-fours. With the tractor secured to a trailer, he placed the box over the tractor and covered it with wrapping paper to create the largest wrapped present either of us have ever seen.
When it came time for my dad to open his gifts, my brother strategically pulled the trailer up in front of the house, with the large box in clear sight through the front picture window.
Needless to say, our dad was very impressed and surprised. After he test drove the tractor around in the street for a few minutes, we all went back inside the house and watched the accompanying DVD together.
Looking back on the project I can see many more benefits than just the giving of a unique Christmas gift. The project was a great learning experience for me. First, I learned a lot about the mechanics of these garden tractors and got to refresh my small gas engine repair skills.
Secondly, I did a lot of research into the David Bradley company and found a great deal of interesting information about its history. Along with this research, I also got to hear stories and see pictures from my family that I otherwise might have never found.
Thirdly and perhaps most significant to me, was the bond that was re-established between my brother and I. Since I had moved out of the house a couple of years prior to this project, my brother and I had grown somewhat distant and would only speak occasionally. Throughout this project, my brother and I came together to work on achieving a common goal.
During the project we spoke on the phone daily, some days several times, updating each other on the project status, new information we found online, or parts that we had acquired. The re-established brotherly bond we created from the tractor project remains today and is perhaps the most invaluable reward obtained by us.
I would strongly encourage others to take on a restoration project. Whether it is a pedal car, garden tractor, classic car or anything else, as the satisfaction obtained from seeing a project through from start to finish is extremely rewarding. Taking the time to thoroughly learn about something you might not be familiar with and sharing the experience with other friends or family members will serve to enhance the satisfaction even more.
Just remember that any project is not without its challenges and that sometimes patience is the most important skill to possess.