Cheap horsepower, SoundGard survivors, and temper tantrums.

cheap horsepower and a survivor 4440

Take a look at both pieces of Interesting Iron here!

Let’s talk cheap horsepower and survivors. We’ll get to the temper tantrums later…

Before we get to this week’s Interesting Iron…

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Okay, now let’s talk Interesting Iron. We’ll kick it off with cheap horsepower!

Cheap Horsepower: 1996 John Deere 8870

1996 John Deere 8870 tractor
Big, cheap horsepower. Click the photo to see the dealer listing on Tractor Zoom!

It seems like there’s two schools of thought regarding the idea of big, articulated tractors for field work. Farmers either buy the new stuff, or they look for cheap horsepower. It doesn’t need to be new or luxurious, it just needs to work. Listed at just over $46K (this one isn’t on an auction), this 1996 John Deere 8870 definitely fits the bill!

Technically, this was the very last new SoundGard tractor that Deere ever introduced. The 70-series was the final evolution of the tractor, and the 8870 was the last “all new” model in the line. In the 60-series, there was a notable power gap between the 8760 and the 8960 (300 horse for the 8760, 370 for the 8960). When the 70-series tractors were released in 1993, Deere saw a market for a 350 horse tractor in between the 8770 and 8970, so they built the 8870 to split the difference.

The 70-series tractors were designed for long hours in the field. Deere somehow found a way to shoehorn more sound deadening insulation into the big, roomy cab. This resulted in the quietest SoundGard cabs ever – the 87- and 8870 tested at 73.5 dB! Furthermore, there was a ton of onboard storage  for tools, lunch, and all the stuff that normally ends up bumping around the cab. Lastly, the 70-series came with a fully adjustable air ride seat, making life more comfortable (as well as fighting fatigue).

Under the hood, the 8870 made good use of the 619ci big block, generating nearly 336 horse on the PTO, and over 280 at the drawbar. Coupled with a long 134″ wheelbase and an operating weight of over 35,000 pounds, this was a pretty stout tractor!

The 8870 you can buy today…

I talked to Wade at C&B Operations’ Lake Park, IA location for a few minutes this morning to find out a few more details on the tractor. He told me that the tractor is actually a customer consignment. The customer upgraded equipment this summer and doesn’t need this one anymore. It was originally sold at Evergreen Equipment in Thief River Falls, MN, and is now on its third owner with 8739 hours.

It was most recently used in the fall of ’20 with a disc for some fall tillage, and again with a field cultivator in the spring of ’21. According to the owner, it’s a very sound tractor. Interior is pretty clean, given the age. The deluxe air ride seat is clean; no rips, tears, or stains. The headliner is starting to get loose in a couple of places. It’s also Autotrac-ready; just needs a receiver!

Overall, these big tractors are pretty reliable. Hydraulic pumps can fail once in a while (usually between 6-7K hours), and I’ve heard that the air to air aftercooler will crack where the tank is welded to the core. In the event you’re reaching out to C&B on this one, you might ask about those two potential trouble spots. Otherwise, so long as they’re not beaten like a red-headed stepchild, they’re typically very durable!

See the Dealer Listing for this tractor.

The Survivor: 1981 John Deere 4440

These days, survivor John Deere 4440s are anything BUT cheap horsepower!
This 4440 is a survivor. One owner, and less than 5000 original hours!

Y’know, I thought for sure that I’d written about a 4440 before, but I just went back through the blog, and amazingly enough, I haven’t. Suffice it to say that the 4440 was an icon, and they’re prized as working tractors as well as collector’s items these days.

They’ve got a special spot in our hearts here at Tractor Zoom, too. We bought one from Jeff & Amy, owners of Slabtown Tractor Repair in Lancaster, WI in January 2020 and gave it away in a contest that ended in May. The tractor ended up on a small farm just northwest of Nashville where it’ll probably enjoy a pretty easy retirement running a baler! While we had it, though, we did have some fun with it. Here’s a couple of photos from one of the days when we took her out to stretch her legs a little. (You can find a full album of photos of the Giveaway 4440 on Tractor Zoom’s Facebook page!)

For a man from Tennessee, this John Deere 4440 actually was cheap horsepower...because he won it in our giveaway back in 2020!
During the pandemic, we pretty much had downtown Des Moines to ourselves, so we drove the tractor down there to stretch its legs a little and took some photos!
For a man from Tennessee, this John Deere 4440 actually was cheap horsepower...because he won it in our giveaway back in 2020!
For many farmers, the 4440 truly was an American Dream Machine. Even now, 40-some years later, it’s still an American icon!

The one you can buy on Saturday…

john deere 4440 at auction
This 4440 sells at an onsite auction in Cottage Grove, WI on September 18, 2021. Click the photo to see the details!

Our friends at George Auction Service are selling this 4440 at an onsite auction in Cottage Grove, WI this Saturday, September 18, 2021. Lamoine & Elaine Haefer have decided to retire after a successful 42 years on their 400 acre farm. The sale will begin at 10AM Central. When I talked to Dean George about this tractor this morning, he told me that they’d be running two rings at the sale to keep things moving a little faster.

Lamoine purchased his 4440 brand new back in 1981, and it was his pride and joy! It’s been very well kept, and it’s only got 4936 original hours on it! Dean also told me that the kids had come back to the farm last weekend and detailed the tractor, and he said it looks just great!

It’s getting harder and harder to find these low-houred hidden gems in the wild, but they’re out there if you know where to look! This is probably one of the lowest-houred one-owner 4440s we’ve seen go across the auction block in the past several years, so I won’t be terribly surprised if it brings pretty solid money. $35-40K isn’t out of the question for this tractor.

One thing to note – this is an onsite-only auction. If you’re interested, you’d best plan on a road trip this weekend. Take a friend or two and make a weekend of it; the weather looks great for Saturday!

See the auction listing for this 4440.

 

Farmall 1206 in a field at sunset - usually NOT cheap horsepower!
The 1206 is an American icon…but is it worth having a meltdown over?

Temper tantrums, YouTube videos, and American icons…

There was an auction at the Farm Progress Show a week or two ago, and there was a pretty 1206 that went across the block. When the hammer fell, a young man from Tennessee paid his $22,000 and loaded it up on to a long gooseneck pulled by an F-350.

An hour later, you’d have sworn that the world was about to end.

Once the news made it to social media, it caused an uproar the likes of which I’ve never seen before. People made all sorts of horrible comments about the buyer, disparaging the guy’s name, wishing him harm, and much worse. It wasn’t pretty.

This all happened because the buyer was WhistlinDiesel, a YouTuber with a reputation for destroying nice vehicles (mainly pickup trucks) on camera. People immediately assumed that this tractor would be destroyed for nothing more than views and subscriptions. Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong. Truthfully, we’ll probably never know.

Once he got wind of all this (I know that he read the comments, because screenshots showed up on his social media), he responded like lots of us might. He bristled, and basically told everybody that if the comments didn’t stop, this 1206 would definitely be destroyed.

The comments didn’t stop.

On Monday night, he posted a video to his YouTube channel. You can pretty well guess what ensued in it. You can go out to YouTube and watch it if you want. Believe me, you won’t have a problem finding it.

I don’t know about you, but my Mom & Dad taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut. Honestly, the way the tractor fan community reacted on social media was like watching a toddler have a melt down.

Folks, we can do better. We need to do better. Kicking and screaming and hoping that the tractor rolls over with him on it is utterly ridiculous. I realize that not everybody said horrible things, but there were enough that it reflects very poorly on all of us.

My take on this whole thing…

It was his money. He earned it, and he bought something he wanted. In this case, it was a 1206. He paid for it. That means it’s his. He’s free to farm with it, turn it into a pulling tractor, sit it in a shed as part of a collection…or destroy it on camera.

I don’t get a say-so in what he does with it. Why? For the same reason I don’t get to tell you what to do with YOUR tractor…it’s not my property!

Do I wish that he wasn’t destroying it? Absolutely. The 1206 is truly an American icon. Each one of them was built by hand by real humans – not robots – here in the Midwest. They were tremendous performers, too; in its day, nothing could match its performance in the field. I’m a huge 1206 fan, and knowing that there’ll be one less makes me sad.

But, at the end of the day, do I support his right to do it? Yep. I do. Because it’s his property. He’s free to do with it what he wants. Furthermore, I know that because he gets ad revenue from YouTube based on how many people watch it. He’s using that tractor (as well as the trucks and other stuff he’s wrecked) to earn a living as a content creator. He doesn’t do this stuff for free…this is literally his job. You can’t fault the guy for doing his job, even if you don’t like what it is. To a point, one could argue that he’s using the tractor for its intended purpose…to earn a living and provide for his family.  He’s just doing it in a highly unconventional way.

The Fallout

At the end of the day, I feel like the way we as a community responded to him buying the tractor may be part of the reason that he’s destroying it. We melted down, and he realized that he’d gotten under our skin. If he wasn’t convinced that destroying a tractor would drive YouTube views (and make money), our response definitely sealed the deal for him. It’s like the proverbial car accident on the highway that everybody cranes their neck at as they drive by. They can’t not look, y’know? Well, each time we can’t not look, he makes a few more pennies. The pennies add up, folks. That’s why he’s doing it.

I feel like we might’ve been able to prevent this. If we as a community of people who love old iron had remembered the whole “if you can’t say something nice” thing that our parents taught us, he might’ve figured that the payday wasn’t worth the effort. Now that the toothpaste is out of the tube, I’m pretty sure we may see more of this. He knows it gets under our skin, and that equates to YouTube views…and money in his pocket.

Final thoughts.

I’ve watched this play out on multiple different social media platforms (and from multiple perspectives). The thing that bothers me most about this is the example that we’re putting out there for the next generation of tractor fans. When an older generation (all of us) acts out like we did, the younger generation sees it, and it somehow becomes okay, so they do it too.

Folks, that is NOT okay.

It’s okay to disagree on something, and it’s okay to share our opinions, but let’s be mature enough (if for nothing more than our own self-respect) to not start threatening others online.

We’re better than that.

I hope I don’t come across as condescending or judgy; it’s absolutely not my intent. I totally get the emotion that gets wrapped up in stuff like this. When  this happens to stuff we have a strong connection to, it brings out a lot of very raw emotion. Furthermore, this is just my opinion. You may not agree with it, and that’s okay!

Find a red tractor of your own here.

The Coolest Tractor Auctions of 2020 – Pt. 2

There are a lot of cool tractor auctions that I never got to write about for Interesting Iron this year. We see lots of neat tractors and trucks listed on Tractor Zoom by our auction partners. Unfortunately, I can’t write about ’em all.

Still, they deserve a little time in the spotlight, so let’s do a year-end wrap-up of 20 of the coolest tractors, trucks, and pickups that didn’t make it to Interesting Iron in 2020! Last week, we covered everything from record-setting red tractors to Big Buds to Cummins-swapped squarebodies. This week, let’s look at the rest of the list!

Wagner TR14A

081220SullivanTR14A.2
Wagner was one of the very early pioneers in the BIG tractor movement.

The Wagner Tractor story has a bunch of different angles – way more than I can cram into a paragraph or two, but suffice it to say that they were a pioneer in the 4WD tractor movement. They built great big beasts in an era where lots of companies couldn’t even imagine a farmer big enough to need a tractor like that!

This big TR14A was one of two Wagners on a Sullivan sale in northeast Iowa this past August. Neither one of them brought a lot of money, but they still deserve a spot in the history books. Wagner tractors are an integral part of the big power farming story. I don’t think they’ll ever see the collectability that their green stepbrothers have (Wagner built big tractors for John Deere for a little while – I told you there were a lot of angles to this story!), but they’re cool in my book!

Side note: For you big tractor collector types, the silver lining to the low-price cloud is that if you want to start a niche-y collection, they don’t typically sell for huge dollars when they do come up! (Sadly, you don’t see many Wagners at tractor auctions…once in a while, maybe, but not often.)

Auctioneer: Sullivan Auctioneers
Sale Date: 8.12.20
Hammer Price: $5,500

Lowest-houred 1066 on the planet?

0814CHJ1066
If there’s a verified lower-houred 1066 on the planet, we haven’t heard of it yet…

Usually if there’s a super-low-houred classic that’s coming up for auction, word gets around. Not this time. This 2-owner black stripe 1066 only had 794 original (and verified) hours on it! I’ve never seen a lower-houred 1066 in my entire life! Needless to say, this beautiful survivor brought big money. It smashed the previous record by $19K, hammering home for $46K after it was all said and done!

People have wondered if maybe the market is starting to slip on 1066s a little bit. I think this one, even though it’s a bit of an outlier example, still reinforces the case that there’s still demand for classics like this – both for collectors as well as for farm use!

Oddly enough, though…this wasn’t the highest-priced 1066 we’d see in 2020. More on that in a minute.

Auctioneer: Creamer, Heimes & Janssen Auctioneers
Sale Date: 8.14.20
Hammer Price: $46,000

The Florida 1206

082620DeancoIH1206.2
1206s like this one are the tractors that teenage farmboys dream of. Heck, who am I kidding? I still dream of ’em too and I haven’t been a teenager in a LONG time!

This is probably one of my favorite tractors that rolled across the block this year (maybe a tie between this one and Jerry’s 1256 Wheatland). I’m sure there are purists that are cringing over this pick because they think a “true” Wheatland couldn’t be ordered with fat tires like this, and they think it looks way too hot-rodded. To each their own. I’ve seen some of the ordering paperwork and I’m pretty certain you could order these with factory 24.5s like this one.

Anyway, this one presented very nicely in my opinion. In addition, this is the very last IH 1206 built in 1966! The bidders didn’t go as nuts over this one as I thought they might, but Deanco still got a pretty reasonable price out of it.

I think what I really like about this one is that it shows that you can still find a decent deal on a collector tractor at an auction. They don’t ALWAYS go for a small fortune. I don’t know who ended up with this one, but I hope it was a young collector, and it’s a cornerstone of their collection!

Auctioneer: Deanco Auction
Sale Date: 8.26.20
Hammer Price: $15,500

The Traction King

082620Deanco1200TK
The Case 1200 Traction King is a pretty unique animal with a face that only a mother could love…

When Case got into the 4WD tractor market in 1963 with the 1200 Traction King, they did it in the typical Case way. They’d always produced a quality product with reasonable features at an affordable price. They drew a box around what they wanted, and they built a tractor that fit within those parameters. In this case, that meant using pieces and parts that were already sitting on the shelf to keep costs down. Had they wanted to, they could’ve built something super-robust that made a ton of power, but that would’ve been overkill. They had the components to build a 200-horse tractor that probably would’ve tipped the scales at 20,000 lbs., but that would’ve been more than what was necessary for the time.

The 1200 Traction King was, at the time, a great tractor with one rather glaring flaw…the turbocharger. A normal 451 cubic inch Lanova that Case put in this tractor normally made 105 horsepower, but that would’ve been just a little underpowered for this big tractor. The tractor needed more power, and the only way to get it was to turbocharge it. Unfortunately, though, the turbo’d 451 was a fragile motor with a tendency to run REALLY hot.

The 1200 didn’t sell tremendously well, and Case only turned out about 1500 of them. This one was nicely restored, and like the 1206 from the same auction, the bidders didn’t go crazy with it. Somebody got a pretty good deal on this piece of history and took it home for $10K!

Auctioneer: Deanco Auction
Sale Date: 8.26.20
Hammer Price: $10,000

Number One

0922Joels1066number1
There’s only one “first one”…and this is it.

Just like they say that they’re only original once…there’s only one “first one.” This is the very first 1066. Serial number 7101. Amazingly enough, this tractor lived in Iowa all of its life. It was originally sold on December 8, 1971 by Falb Implement in Elgin, IA and only changed hands twice since then. Sometime in 1976, it was sold by Rhomberg Implement in Elkader, IA to Ray Cassutt who farmed with it until November 6, 1987, when Jerry Everitt bought it at Ray’s retirement auction.

1066 #1 is an incredibly original tractor. What you see in the photo is essentially what it looked like in December 1971 when it originally sold in Elgin! I believe the only things that aren’t factory original are the tires. Otherwise, that’s the original paint and Hiniker cab! Here’s the real crazy part…even after three owners, it’s only got 2993 original hours on it!

There was a LOT of discussion about who would end up with it and how much they’d end up paying for it. Heck, we had even had a pool going with in our office on what it would bring! (And had we not been playing Price Is Right rules, I’d have won the darn thing…)

When the hammer finally fell, the winning bidder paid $86,100. Honestly, it was less than a lot of people thought it was going to sell for (I heard guesses of anything from $50K to a quarter million). There were a fair number of people who were pretty annoyed that Case IH wasn’t the buyer. That’s okay, though. I’m sure Case IH knows where it went… (I can also tell you that they’ll probably have to pay through the nose if they want to get their hands on it.)

Auctioneer: Joel’s Tractors/Aumann Auction
Sale Date: 9.22.20
Hammer Price: $86,100

Ain’t no feelin’ like Petermobilin’!

379.Hamilton5.edit
Long-nosed 379s are some of the most beautiful trucks on the road, in my opinion. This one ticks off almost all the right boxes for me.

If ever there was an iconic semi, the long-nosed 379 is it. They’re the most popular owner-operator semi in history, and it’s not at all uncommon to see them customized like this one. I’m telling you…if I were ever to own a semi, this is what it would look like. (I might stretch the frame a little wee bit further and it would likely have a fire-breathing 6NZ Cat under the hood.)

I had a few buddies who had their eye on this truck when it went up for auction, but none of them ended up picking it up. Truthfully, I only saw one thing that likely kept the price from six figures. Most buyers looking for a semi like this are expecting to see some sort of Caterpillar under the hood (a 6NZ or a C15 most likely), and this one had a 60-series Detroit in it. Still, it hammered home for a very nice price and the seller was happy with the outcome.

Auctioneer: Hamilton Auction
Sale Date: 10.1.20
Hammer Price: $84,500

Haaaaay Oliver!

Oliver 2050 MFWD 2
This is a pretty rare old Oliver. One of only 93 built!

In the world of Olivers, finding a 2050 is a pretty remarkable thing. They only built a total of 383 of them – including Cockshutt variants. But to find a front wheel assisted model? That’s exceedingly rare. There were only 93 FWA variants produced in total!

As you can see, this one wasn’t in perfect shape, but it was all there for the most part. I don’t know where it ended up, but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t a collector that picked it up.

Rare classics are out there, kids. You just need to keep an eye open for them! They do show up at regular old tractor auctions once in a while!

Auctioneer: Wieman Land & Auction
Sale Date: 10.7.20
Hammer Price: $13,500

Pro Tip: Smart auction buyers (and collectors) don’t waste hundreds of hours scrolling through endless auction listings for the equipment they’re looking for. They use Tractor Zoom’s custom search alerts and let our system do the looking! Set up a free TZ user account here, and then set up an alert to get a text or email whenever we get a match for whatever you’re looking for! With over 450 auctioneer partners, we’ll end up finding it faster! (And if you need to find out what equipment is worth, you need to take a look at Iron Comps!)

The Mediapolis Fire Truck

1026SullivanF350 Firedepartment
Hard to beat a classic…even harder to beat it when it’s a beefed-up fire truck!

There’s been a resurgence in popularity of 70s and 80s pickups over the past few years. They’re tough trucks that are easy to work on or restore, and they’re darn good lookin’ things! For a lot of today’s gearheads, trucks like this remind them of learning to wrench with Dad or Grandpa in the garage. In that sense, they become more than just a hunk of iron. They’re sentimental.

At any rate, this 1979 F-350 served in the Mediapolis Fire Dept. from when it was new until the fall of 2013 when it was retired. Since then, it’s been stripped of the gear in the back (a water pump, tank, and hose reel), and generally freshened up a bit. Nothing crazy. It doesn’t need it! At the end of the day, it has 30K original miles and a 400 in it – the biggest motor you could have gotten it with! (And before you start the “You’re wrong, Interesting Iron Guy” emails…you couldn’t get a 460 in a 4×4 in 1979. I checked.)

Bidders LOVED this truck, and it was one of the hottest sellers on this sale. When the hammer fell, it brought nearly $24K!

Auctioneer: Sullivan Auctioneers
Sale Date: 10.26.20
Hammer Price: $23,750

A tough one to part with…

1212Henderson87Silverado
Letting go of this one was probably one of the toughest things the seller ever had to do…

A long time ago, I remember writing something about how, at the end of the day, these aren’t just machines. Whether it’s a truck, a tractor, a combine, or something else that can be driven, pivotal moments of life have been spent there. How many grandfathers planted corn after dinner with one of their grandsons riding on the armrest of a 1086? How many times has a father consoled a heartbroken teenaged daughter sitting in the buddy seat of a 9770 STS during harvest? Furthermore, how many teenage boys have saved every penny so they could put a lift kit on an old Chevy like this one? My point is that these things aren’t just tools that we’re talking about.

Life happens in these vehicles.

Nothing that crossed the auction block in 2020 drove that point home harder for me than this truck.

See, this truck belonged to a kid named Seth from Louisiana. It was his pride and joy. He drove it everywhere and I’m sure he had a lot of fun in that truck. I’m sure he drove that truck to his high school graduation ceremony, and maybe out to a party afterwards. Might’ve taken it out on a first date or two as well.

Then, on his first day of college, doctors discovered that he had bone cancer. Three years and a long, hard fight later, Seth passed away in 2013 at age 21.

Seth’s grandfather held on to the truck for the past seven years. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been for him to sit in that old Chevy and think about his grandson. My heart goes out to him, and his family. Nobody ever thinks that they’ll have to bury their grandchild. Still, it happens.

A month or two ago, Seth’s grandfather decided that it was time that the truck went to start a new life with a new owner, so he consigned it with our friends at Henderson Auctions in Livingston, LA. When the auction ended, the proceeds (including buyer’s premium) went to the family’s church to help build a memorial pavilion in Seth’s memory. It sold for $12,000.

Friends, we’re not promised tomorrow. Don’t wait to make memories with your family and friends.

Auctioneer: Henderson Auctions
Sale Date: 12.12.20
Hammer Price: $12,000

The Allis Chalmers that couldn’t swim…

1212SuperBeast
Every tractor has a story. This one is pretty darn funny.

So earlier this summer, there was another AC 8550 that sold at an Indiana retirement auction and smashed the existing record. I think 8550s are really cool and I wrote about that one for Interesting Iron. Super Beasts don’t show up at tractor auctions very often; to see two of them sell in a calendar year is somewhat uncommon. In the end of that article in above, though, I told the story of another Super Beast that lived at Loretta Lynn’s ranch in the late 70s into the 80s.

THIS IS THAT VERY TRACTOR THAT I TOLD THE STORY ABOUT!!!

See, back in the day, AC had a strong marketing partnership with Loretta Lynn. They had a working hobby-type ranch in Tennessee, and farmed with orange tractors. Early one Sunday morning, one of the local dealers got a frantic call from Loretta’s husband Mooney. Apparently he’d learned that Super Beasts can’t swim. I believe the story goes that there’d been a little Saturday night drinking involved, and he’d driven it into a pond and cooked the motor in the process.

After a bit of “discussion” between the involved parties, Allis replaced the motor in that tractor, and up until just a few weeks ago, it was still working on a farm in Ohio!

Now, this tractor didn’t set a crazy record when our friends at Harmeyer Auction sold it, but $24,000 is still pretty strong money. That Allis landed in a collection up in North Dakota a week or two. Not only did they get the tractor, but they got a heck of a story to go with it!

Auctioneer: Harmeyer Auction & Appraisal
Sale Date: 12.12.20
Hammer Price: $24,000

So there you have it, my friends. The 20 most interesting things that I didn’t have the chance to write about for Interesting Iron in 2020. Hope you enjoyed the stories! I’m going to be hard at work finding new stories to tell in 2021, and I hope to run into you at tractor auctions down the road!

The Farmall 560: Bad News Travels Fast…

Farmall 560
This one-owner Farmall 560 lives on a Wyoming hay farm until November 10, 2020…maybe it needs to come live at YOUR place? Our friends at Musser Bros. Auction & Real Estate are handling this auction. They sure know how to take great pictures, don’t they? Click here to get the auction details and see a bunch more photos!

They say that bad news travels at the speed of light, and in 1959, International Harvester found that out the hard way with the Farmall 560. It resulted in one of the first “major” tractor recalls in history!

Now…that said, this particular tractor doesn’t have anything wrong with it. I literally just hung up the phone with the seller out in Wyoming. It’s a one-owner tractor that’s never had any major issues. Obviously it’s slept outside a few nights, but mechanically it’s pretty sound. The hour meter was replaced a couple of times, so the hours aren’t accurate, but it starts right up and drives just fine!

Sadly, that wasn’t the way it worked out for some of these tractors, though. If you ask an older farmer about the Farmall 560, some of ’em will tell you that they were the worst thing that Harvester ever built (even if they never owned one). Retired dealers might say the same thing, depending on who you ask (skip to about 12:30 to hear Paul Wallem’s take on the 560 and why it failed)!

For a few years during the late forties and early fifties, Harvester was broadening its horizons. Management felt like the ag equipment market was hitting a saturation point, so they set their sights on other markets. Development dollars went towards residential products like fridges and freezers, trucks, and lots of other things. The tractor division of IH wasn’t making great strides in development, they were sort of set on cruise control. They made some incremental improvements here and there, but other than that and some minor cosmetic refreshes, the tractors remained essentially unchanged from the stuff from the late 40s.

In the mid-50s, though, they got back on track as farmers began expanding their operations and asking for more capability. The 60-series was a new, modern looking machine with six-cylinder power. They were cutting-edge tractors poised to take the market by storm.

Except for one thing.

They broke a cardinal rule of product development.

Never release a product until you’ve beaten it to death…twice.

Harvester made a late-stage decision to put a bigger motor in the Farmall 560 so it could compete with the Deere’s 730, and they didn’t test the drivetrain hard enough. The rear end was a legacy piece from the 400/450, and the extra power from the new motor accelerated bearing wear in the bull gear assembly. Basically the ball bearings deteriorated enough that they fell out of the cage anda jammed in between the bull gear and the cast rear end housing. At that point, the housing would go kablooey!

Bearing Failure
Here’s what that bearing failure looks like.

At the end of the day, though, I want to be clear. The failure was NOT a widespread thing. In all actuality, the failures were pretty regional; they usually happened in areas where farmers were pulling 5-bottom plows in sticky, gumbo-y soil. BUT…the failures were catastrophic, and 2/3 of American households had telephones at this point.

Like I said…bad news travels fast. Word traveled from the field to the feed store, and then to the phone. It didn’t take long before it became pretty highly publicized and Harvester had to do something about it. In mid-1959, they issued a full recall of all 460s, 560s, and 660s whether they’d blown out the rear end or not. Dealerships would then replace the rear end parts, and IHC would eat the bill for it all.

It was a costly lesson for Harvester, too. It’s rumored that they spent $19 million bucks to fix those tractors, which was an enormous amount of money at the time (in 2020 dollars, that’s over $167 million). In a tremendous stroke of luck, though, IH had their best sales year ever in 1959!

At the end of the day, the Farmall 560 was – and still is – a great tractor. Dealerships fixed the tractors with issues, and Harvester implemented those fixes on the assembly line as well. If you’ve got a 560 today and it runs and drives, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I doubt there’s more than a hundred tractors out there that haven’t had the fix already applied!

Fun fact: Want to know how to spot a tractor that was part of the recall and fixed at the dealership? Look at the serial number. There’s a triangle after the serial number that the dealership added to each one that they fixed.

Farmall 560 serial tag
Here’s a Farmall 560 serial tag. That triangle signifies that a dealership replaced the rear end under the recall.

One more thing; if you need a gift idea for the IH fans in your life, I’ll bet they don’t have Paul Wallem’s book! Paul was an IHC executive in the fifties and then owned several successful Illinois IH dealerships into the late 80s. He recently published The Breakup: What Really Happened. It’s a terrific insider’s look at the multiple problems that came together at the wrong time to take down a farm equipment giant. It’s a great read!

The Breakup: What Really Happened
Click the photo to pick up a copy of the book for yourself or another IH fan in your life. You’ll be glad you did! (This is my copy. You can’t have it.? )

Looking for a 560 at auction? Start here.

Allis Chalmers 185: The Tacoma of farm tractors?

Allis Chalmers 185

Somewhere, one of you is reading this and thinking, “Oh boy…here we go again. Another weird analogy between a farm tractor and a random Toyota vehicle… ?”

Stick with me for a minute. This one makes pretty good sense.

Does anybody else feel like there must’ve been an Allis 185 in nearly every barn in the midwest?

Nope? Just me, huh?

Well, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong, the Allis Chalmers 185 was one of the cornerstones of AC’s 100-series tractors. Allis Chalmers sold almost 15,000 of these things over 11 years of production (1970-1981). Sure, John Deere sold a 4430 every 36 minutes for 5 years straight, but that was a 139-horse tractor in the age of modern power farming. The 185 had a small-cube naturally-aspirated motor that only made 83 horse!

So why was it so popular? From where I’m sitting, the 185 was just about perfect for chores. I looked in our Iron Comps database (it’s basically the blue book of farm equipment) and nearly 20% of the 185s in there were sold with a loader or a bale spear attached to them!

What it boils down to, I think, is their size. The beauty in a tractor of this size is that it can do a lot of things that a big tractor CAN’T…because it’s too big! The 185 is about 15% (ish) smaller than a 4430 or a 1066 (the “big” tractors of the era). Still, the 301-cube inline six makes enough power that it can do big tractor things if it has to. There are still thousands of 185s on farms across America earning their keep by mowing ditches, running augers, and loading hay bales.

Do you know why the Toyota Tacoma is so popular? Aside from being really well-built, it’s because they’re big enough to do full-size truck things, but it’s small enough to still fit in a standard two-stall garage in the suburbs. That’s exactly why the Allis Chalmers 185 was so popular!

Allis Chalmers 185
Click the photo for lots more photos and details about this 4153-hour, one-owner tractor! It goes home to a new owner on Sunday, October 4, 2020!

This one happens to be a lot nicer than your average 185, too. It’s a one-owner tractor from up in Minnesota, and it’s only got 4153 original hours on it. It lived a pretty easy life, too; the former owner used it mainly for dragging a 175-bushel gravity wagon and pulling an 18′ disc in the spring. So, if you’re looking for a really nice do-it-all kind of tractor that’ll hustle through small fields or spin an auger for hours on end, this little Allis might be perfect for you! My good friend Matt Maring are handling this sale, and it ends on Sunday!

Oh…one more thing. It was the 3rd one off the line in 1979!

Here’s a little of the Allis Chalmers 185 advertising that was available at local AC implement dealers.

Allis Chalmers 185 brochure
The 175 and 185 tractors were sometimes sold with a dealer-installed (?) Crop Hustler decal that coincided with some of the advertising. The working theory was that if you offloaded your 170 or 180, the 175 & 185 offered a pretty good boost in power for not a lot of extra money. More power = more capability to hustle through the crops…hence the Crop Hustler designation.
185 brochure
Everybody farms in khakis, a buttondown, and a fedora, right?
Allis Chalmers 185 Crop Hustler
Gotta love the frost green 1971 Camaro in the background, right? (What? You don’t drive your F-body out in the pasture for funsies?)

If you’re looking for Allis Chalmers iron, start here!

Need to find out what your Allis (or any other farm equipment) is worth? Click here and get Iron Comps Insights!