Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of three columns highlighting the restoration of a 1959 David Bradley Suburban riding tractor.
After determining that the tractor wasn't a lemon, we began to disassemble it in preparation for paint and body work. We decided to sandblast all of the tractor parts to thoroughly remove any rust before applying the paint.
Our sandblasting cabinet was located inside dad's garage, so operations had to be extremely cautious and preplanned as to not tip him off about our project. Ethan's time in the garage sandblasting parts was limited, because he was usually only at home in the evenings when our dad was also at home.
I did most of the sandblasting during the day when everyone was away at work or school, so that my time in the garage went undetected.
Sandblasting was not fun, but was a necessary evil. Our sandblaster was in such rough shape after the first few parts, that I had to practically refurbish the cabinet with new glass and a new spray gun in order to keep going. This all took time, which was not on our side. Eventually all of the parts were sandblasted and ready for paint.
Ethan had dabbled in painting before, but the only experience I had was painting model cars with a spray can. I found directions online to construct a paint booth using PVC pipe as the support structure and plastic sheeting as the floors, walls and ceiling. The booth also had provisions for an air filter and a fan so that the booth could be pressurized during painting.
The booth was constructed in my garage, and we began moving the tractor parts to my house one load at a time.
The David Bradley Suburban was originally painted nugget gold with electric blue wheels and implements. After many hours of research online, I was able to locate the correct paint codes for these colors.
While information for John Deere or Farmall tractor restoration is widely available, the resources for a David Bradley enthusiast are extremely limited. We chose to apply a self etching primer to all of the tractor parts to help prevent any future rust issues. We then also bought single stage acrylic enamel paints for the gold and blue colors needed.
Ethan began the painting process in the spray booth using his own spray gun and a borrowed portable air compressor. We quickly realized that he would not be able to come over to my house to apply each coat of paint, so he gave me a crash course in painting with the spray gun. I officially took over the paint and body aspect of the project and made my fair share of mistakes during this process.
I learned through trial and error and eventually finished painting everything, with some occasional guidance from my brother.
While this was all occurring, we felt that it would be even better if we could find some implements to go with this tractor. After not finding any correct original implements for sale online for quite some time, another complete tractor with a bulldozer blade appeared for sale on eBay. Ironically this tractor was located in Westmont.
My brother and I anxiously awaited the close of the auction on Thanksgiving night and placed the winning bid, for nearly half the amount we paid for the first tractor. This tractor was also complete, but much rustier than the first tractor. The bulldozer blade was also in rougher shape than we anticipated, so we continued looking for some more attachments.
Shortly thereafter a bulldozer blade in good condition came up for sale. This blade was located in Rockville, Md., so we made a road trip to pick up the part early one Saturday morning. The decent bulldozer blade was also disassembled and completely sandblasted like the tractor.
An original user manual was obtained and a parts list was downloaded from the internet. Through these resources, we came up with a complete list of the nuts, bolts and fastener hardware that were required for the tractor. We purchased all new fasteners so that we could save time by not having to sandblast all of the original pieces.
One of our other dilemmas realized early on was the unavailability of decals for the tractor. I had investigated some leads I found online, but each time was told that the decals were not correct appearing or that not all of the decals were available. My last resort was to recreate the decals on my own.
Using pictures of the remnants of the original decals, I redrew the decals on my computer. Decals for the hood, air cleaner and fuel tank were all painstakingly recreated to as close to original as possible. I then connected with a vinyl printer in New Jersey who agreed to produce my decals in exchange for the rights to reproduce and resell the sets on eBay.