The restoration of a John Deere Model D tractor

The restoration of a Model D tractor takes a family passion for John Deere tractors full circle

The Gallinagh family first started their history with John Deere 88 years ago, purchasing a new 1929 John Deere Model D tractor for their Western Australia property.

Vince Gallinagh and his Model D pre-restoration

After more than 30 years of service it was sent out to pasture (literally) and in the process, was ravaged by the elements for another 50 years. Then in 2009, Vince Gallinagh‘s enthusiasm for restoring antique machinery, coupled with his childhood memories, sparked a restoration journey to return the family’s original tractor to its former glory.

With 2018 commemorating 100 Years of John Deere building tractors, the restoration completion is timely and perhaps serves as inspiration for many Kiwi farmers with derelict tractors on their property.


The tractor lay dormant for 35 years before restoration work started

The 1929 Model D was purchased for approximately £400 by Vince’s father Joe Gallinagh and shipped from the US to Fremantle in 1930 during the great depression. After arriving at the port, the tractor was placed on a train and hauled up to the Gallinagh family farm in Dowerin, in the central wheat-belt region of Western Australia.

Packed with cutting edge features for its time, one of the most notable assets of the machine was its interchangeable wheels: ‘steels’ with cleats for ploughing and ‘rubbers’ for seeding and harvesting. Even in these first models, ease-of-use was paramount, Vince noted that "changing the wheels was a matter of undoing a three inch nut, slide off, and slide on – pretty easy."

The Model D spent much of its life dragging a log for land clearing. "It was such a reliable tractor and actually quite powerful at 30hp. Others were not as powerful. They were easy to start. No shotgun shells or crank; just put the choke on, swing the fly-wheel and bang – away she went," said Vince.

After approximately 30 years of action, including relocation to a new family property, the family stopped commercial use of the Model D around 1960. But even then it didn’t rest. The tractor was repurposed and spent the next six or so years running a belt-driven water pump taking water from a dam to a tank for garden watering on the property, as well as cutting chaff hay for stock.

The Restoration

Vince on the finished product

The next phase of the tractor’s life was not its finest. Unneeded and all but forgotten, the Model D lay parked in a creek bed for approximately 35 years. Then, in 1996, concerned that a piece of history was going to rack and ruin before their eyes, Vince’s wife Sue suggested that it might be wise to put the tractor in a shed.

Once towed to its new home, Vince started to dabble with it as time permitted, pulling the head off the engine and getting it running again. However, it stayed in its rusty condition in the back of the shed for a while yet. Vince would cast an eye over it every now and again while he turned the engine over to check it was still in working order.

Even in its rusty state, it still managed to help the family, being used to transport Father Christmas to give out presents on a couple of occasions when a big family Christmas was held. When the Gallinagh’s say "big", they mean big; 96 family descendants converging for a celebration of mammoth proportions, with the tractor being a major talking point of course.

In 2009, Vince and Sue thought they could finally semi-retire. It was then that Vince got to work on finishing the restoration. The engine was painstakingly restored. The radiator had a tiny seep around the gasket on the head tank, but the brass core was still as good as new and has been kept as the original. Parts like mud guards and foot plates were sourced from John Deere in America.

Vince got his hands on the final parts required in March 2011, just in time to show off his handiwork at the local Rotary Club Vintage Show the following month. The cleats came off, and the rubbers went on and it was ready to parade around the local town oval.

The now-restored Model D is still kept in Vince’s shed but is available for public viewing at least once a year at the Corrigin Agricultural Show.

Vince has also restored a collection of other historic machines including a rare Chamberlain 6G tractor and two Chamberlain 9G tractors.

"I love old gear and I love restoring it… I’ve got a bit of history there," said Vince.

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