Labor of Love

May 25, 2017

What’s tougher—maintenance or restoration?

It probably depends on the particular maintenance issue at hand, but restoration might be the ultimate challenge for a wrench turner.

Above: A John Deere JD570 motor grader from 1967.

If you were at this year’s Conexpo, you may have seen John Deere’s fully restored JD570 motor grader at the entrance to the company’s booth. The JD570, built by Deere in Moline, Ill., from 1967 to 1970, is significant because it was the industry’s first grader with front-wheel and articulated-frame steering. It also was notable for being one of the first (if not the first) units with an integrated ROPS. Deere had one of the first 570s, serial number 00125, restored to commemorate the machine’s 50th anniversary.

The company’s “The Dirt” dealer magazine explored the project with the two Deere retirees who executed the meticulous restoration over 10 months and 2,200 hours, John Deere Dubuque Works veterans Don Bagby and Jerry Bode. Here’s their story.

How did you two get involved with the JD570 restoration project?

Jerry: One day, I ran into a friend and former co-worker of mine who still works at John Deere Dubuque Works. He knows I’ve restored some big machines over the years. So he asked if I’d be interested in working with Deere to restore a 570 Motor Grader. And I said yes—but only if I could work with Don (laughing).

How did it end up being this particular machine?

Don: Deere sent out a notice to all its dealers that the company was looking for a 570 to restore. They located one in western Nebraska, and boy, was it in rough condition. When we first looked at it, we didn’t know how or where we’d start. But we knew we wanted to work on it.

How did Deere aid you in the restoration process?

Don: From the very beginning we worked with Greg Swift at Dubuque Works. He was the liaison between the Deere factory and us. If we needed something or ran into an issue, the first thing we did was contact Greg. We were always calling to have him check the PDC (Parts Distribution Center) for the availability and cost of parts.

Jerry: We also had a good relationship with Martin Equipment, a local Deere dealer in Dubuque, Iowa. They were always willing to help. When we were looking for a part that was no longer available from the PDC, Martin Equipment would check to see if it might be in another dealer’s inventory.

Was it hard to find original parts?

Don: A lot of the parts we wanted weren’t available. And some of the parts that were available were too expensive. In those cases, we improvised. For example, we completely rebuilt the steering column using fiberglass. We couldn’t get a new engine hood, so we repaired that on our own. And we completely rebuilt all the wiring harnesses...28 wires, one wire at a time, with correct color codes, connectors, and not one blown fuse!

Were the original JD570 schematics helpful?

Jerry: No—we didn’t have them (laughing). We took this 570 all the way down to the bare frame and rebuilt it with little more than an old service manual to guide us. We had PDFs of the original parts book and operator manual, too. From those we were able to replicate and piece things together as they were originally. Plus, we documented every disassembly step with pictures so we could see how everything went back together—we had over 700 pictures in all.

Was there a part of the process that proved more challenging than anticipated?

Jerry: Everything we worked on was taken down to bare metal for priming and repainting. We were dealing with 10-plus gallons of code-correct John Deere construction yellow (TY25678) paint. To ensure even coloration, we mixed each individual gallon, combined them in a large container, mixed it all again, and transferred it back into the original gallon paint cans. It was a lot of work, but it’s small price to pay for a good paint job (smiling).

Don: On the other hand, what we thought was going to be a big problem turned out to be a fairly easy issue. The 570 featured the four-legged stag Deere logo decal on the fuel tank. But that decal isn’t available through Deere anymore. We weren’t going to settle for an inauthentic detail—especially one that important. So we contacted the original decal supplier and arranged for a high-quality reproduction.

Is there anything about the finished product that makes you particularly proud?

Don: No detail was too small. Everything on this machine works as it should—and we’re really proud of that. For example, the original cab defroster fan included a light that indicated fan speed. It didn’t do anything when we got it. But now it works like new (smiling).

Source: John Deere