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Growing up with a GP John Deere tractor

My Favorite Tractor: Junior Priesgen, Rubicon, Wis., inherited his uncle’s 1931 tractor, which was manufactured on Priesgen’s birthday.

Harlen Persinger

November 18, 2021

3 Min Read
Junior Priesgen of Rubicon, Wis., with his 1931 GP John Deere tractor
FAMILY FAVORITE: Junior Priesgen took ownership of the 1931 GP John Deere tractor in 2015, after his Uncle Leroy passed away. Harlen Persinger

As a young boy, Junior Priesgen, of Rubicon, Wis., often played on a model 1931 GP John Deere that sat on a wooden floor in the granary on his Uncle Leroy’s farm. Whenever there was an opportunity to visit that place, he would spend hours tinkering with the machine.

“While grabbing a hold of the steering wheel, I felt like King Kong and envisioned operating different pieces of field equipment,” he says. “Later, I discovered that tractor, with a serial number of 226644, came off the assembly line at the manufacturing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, on March 9, 1931, which just happens to coincide with my birthday. It was initially shipped to Des Moines, and years later, Leroy purchased the tractor at an auction in 1956 for $500. After using the GP for a couple of cropping seasons, he upgraded to a Farmall M that had an electric starter, and the Deere was parked in that storage building and never moved for the next 54 years.”

Priesgen took ownership of the tractor in 2015, when his uncle passed away. All the tires were flat and dry rotted. He put new ones on the front and two used tires in the rear. His next steps included cleaning out the carburetor and magneto, replacing the spark plugs, draining the oil and antifreeze, and adding fresh fuel. After a couple of turns on the crank and fly wheel, it popped right off, which he thought was just unbelievable.

The GP John Deere was originally a model C and designed as a row crop tractor with the fixed front axle straddling three rows. There were 30,535 machines manufactured between 1928 and 1935, with a price tag of $1,200 that year. Features include an open operator station, 4x2 two-wheel-drive chassis, manual steering, an arched front axle for high clearance of crops, 16-gallon fuel tank capacity, weight of 3,600 pounds, three forward and one reverse gear, unsynchronized gear transmission, and 5.1-liter or 5.6-liter two-cylinder kerosene engine.

“All of the paint and decals, which have faded, are original,” Priesgen says. “I run the tractor 40 to 50 hours each year, drive in local parades and tractor club events, and team it with a John Deere 45 two-bottom, 14-inch plow for our annual plowing day.”

The Dodge County, Wis., farmer has six other vintage tractors, including a 1936 John Deere B unstyled, 1949 John Deere A, 1949 and 1950 Farmall H’s, and a 1962 Massey Harris 44.

“I recall the first time my uncle gave me a ride on the GP. I just fell in love with the engine’s distinct sound,” Priesgen adds. “Sharing my birthday with the same date when the machine rolled off the assembly line is so special and truly makes this my favorite tractor.”

Persinger writes from Milwaukee, Wis. To have your favorite tractor featured, email or send in a photo of yourself with your tractor, along with a 300-word write-up about the tractor, to [email protected] or Wisconsin Agriculturist, P.O. Box 236, Brandon, WI 53919.

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