John Deere Model E Restoration

When our family purchased our home four years ago, the prior owner left behind an old John Deere Model E hit-n-miss engine.  I have an appreciation for old things so you can image how grateful I was when he said that he wanted me to have it.

It sat untouched in the garage until last October when I decided to start tearing it apart to see just how extensive the project would be.  I decided that it would be nice to restore the engine and use it to make homemade ice cream.

Original Cart Design

This is a picture of a restored engine and cart done by someone else but gives you an idea of how John Deere originally sold these engines.  They were mounted on a pair of wooden skids which had cast iron wheels and a simple handle.  Farmers would typically use these engines to power irrigation pumps, saws, or anything else that could be driven by a belt.  I have seen many people use these engines to make ice cream but I have never seen one that sat on a pair of skids like the original so that became the goal.

For this cart, I would use pressure treated 4×4 stock and plane it down to the original skid height and width dimensions.  These however would be ~40 inches longer to accommodate the freezer and drive assemblies.  After the initial mock-up, I realized that six inch cast wheels mounted to the single 4×4 skid would leave the ice cream rig a little too low to the ground so I decided to install eight inch wheels and add another 4×4 below the skid for height.

Here is a short video montage highlighting various stages of the project.

Those pretty fingernails holding the piston rings were not mine I assure you.  They belong to my wonderful wife who graciously offered her support over the last seven months.  I think she may have been even more excited than I to see it run for the first time!

I could not have completed this without the help of my friend Richard Hornbaker.  His membership at TechShop gave us access to state-of-the-art equipment we used to turn axles, mill wheels, and press wheel bearings.  I see an example of Christ in the way Richard serves others and am grateful for his friendship.


  1. avatar
    Maggie Burnett
    May 26, 2015

    I’m so super excited about this!! See ya’ll in a few short months! =)

  2. avatar
    Kory Nakatsu
    May 26, 2015

    Hi Maggie, We tested them out a couple weeks ago and they work great. I think we’ll be able to meet the 100 gallon challenge for sure. We are excited to see you all again soon.

  3. avatar
    andy fontenot
    Dec 14, 2015

    image 2914 (painted yellow) engages the pulley . is this piece available to buy?? have a 11/2 hp unit that i plan to restore and build a ice cream cart. Your help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Andy Fontenot, Phoenix, Arizona

  4. avatar
    Kory Nakatsu
    Dec 14, 2015

    Hi Andy. I think you’re referring to image 2419 here:

    If so, you can purchase that pully/clutch assembly here:

    Call Tom Graves and tell him exactly what you need, he has it all.


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