The John Deere Company has a long heritage in agricultural machinery going back to 1837, when a pioneer blacksmith designed the “self-polishing” steel plough. This plough was fundamental in opening the USA Midwest to agriculture and high level crop production. Ploughs continued to be the mainstay of production together with cultivators, corn and cotton planters and other farming implements until 1918 when the Deere company purchased the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company in Waterloo, Iowa and this put the company into the tractor business, which went on to become one of the most important parts of the John Deere business.
At the time of the acquisition the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company was making is Model N tractor and within John Deere organisation the tractor was kept in production until 1924, the Model N was rated as 12-25 hp.
John Deere Model D
During the 1920s the company introduced its 2 cylinder Model D tractor whereas the bulk of their competitors were offering 4 cylinder engines, the economics of manufacture of a 2 cylinder gave John Deere a competitive advantage. The engine was a kerosene/paraffin unit, the production run continued with upgrades until 1953 with more than 160,000 tractors produced. The distinctive exhaust sound made by these 2 cylinder tractors earned them the nickname of “Johnny Poppers”.
John Deere GP
In 1928 Deere launched a row crop tractor called GP – General Purpose, the initial design was not that successful but further models GPWT- General Purpose Wide Tread (this machine was tri-cycle configuration), GPO - General Purpose Orchard, GP-P – General Purpose Potato, were produced with upgrades. Throughout the great depression years Deere elected to support farmers with credit the result was that customer loyalty was maintained for over three generations to the present day. The outcome of this support for the farming community was that Deere achieved USD 100 million gross sales in 1937, the year of its centennial celebration.
John Deere Model A/B
The Model A was produced between 1934 and 1952, it was a tricycle row crop tractor with adjustable wheel track, the initial model was rated at 18-24 hp, over 328,000 tractors were produced in this period.
The smaller Model B was also manufactured between 1935 and 1952 rated at 11-16 hp, future derivatives of this model included the Model BO and MC.
Economic Recovery/Post War Years - New Range of Tractors
At the end of the depression years in 1938 Deere unveiled a redesigned range of tractors which were more stylised. The Model A and B were relaunched followed by similarly styled D and H models in 1939 and Model H in 1939 and Model G in 1942. Over 60,000 Model H tractors were made.
During the second World War the John Deere factories manufactured a wide range of war related products although throughout this period maintained its emphasis on product design and development enabling many new products and innovations were introduced including self-propelled combine harvesters and cotton pickers together with standard features as pneumatic tyres, self- starting and lighting during the post war period.
John Deere Model M
Deere replaced the Models H, LA and L with the Model M in 1947, two further derivatives MC (Crawler) and MT (Tri-cycle) in 1949, the Model M was manufactured between 1947 and 1952 whilst the Model MT was made between 1949 and 1952, total units manufactured of these two tractor types were in excess of 70,000.
Diesel Engine Tractors - Deere 20-80 Series Tractor
Deere fist launched diesel engine tractors in 1949 as a model R, 21,000 tractors were built between 1949 and 1954, before the company in 1952 switched the model designation of tractors to a numerical system rather than letters. The 20 Series was introduced in the mid-1950s, the 30 Series introduced in 1958 and the 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80 series followed in sequence through the 1950s and 60s.
Worldwide Manufacturing and Marketing
In the mid-1950s manufacturing and marketing operations had been expanded into both Mexico and Germany marking the beginning of Deere’s expansion into a major multinational corporation. In 1958 Deere’s Industrial Equipment Division was established providing machines for road maintenance, light earthmoving and forestry work.
The 30 series tractors were the last of the two-cylinder machines produced in 1958, the company then introduced a new line of multi-cylinder engines meeting the demand for more powerful tractors, there were four models 1010, 2010, 3010 and 4010 the smallest being powered by in line four cylinder engines and the larger models by an in line six cylinder engine.
The 6 cylinder 4010 and 4 cylinder 3010 were offered as diesels, although both petrol and LPG versions were available. These tractors had higher operating speeds and better power to weight ratios, the 4010 produced 70 hp whereas the smaller 3010 achieved more than 50 hp. Standard features such as power steering, power brakes, and power implements. The smaller models in the range 1010 and 2010 had features such as adjustable track to make them suitable for crop work.
The tractor range was greeted with acclaim resulting in a surge in John Deere’s market share such that by 1959 23% of the US tractor market and by 1964 had increased to 34%. In 1963 Deere entered the Lawn and Grounds Care business together with the company’s industrial equipment line being expanded to include motor graders, 4 wheel-drive loaders, log skidders, backhoe loaders, forklifts and excavators.
The 40 Series
The 1986 2040 tractor was powered by a 3.9 litre diesel engine producing 70hp which was one of a range of 40 series tractors including the 1640, 2040 and 2140 models. Also introduced was a 4450 Model with a 7.6 litre engine.
The 8000 Series
The 1990’s saw the introduction of a new line of tractors covering the 66 to 145 hp range, called the 6000 and 7000 Series, in addition Deere agreed a distribution agreement with Zetor a Czech tractor manufacturer to cover the lower priced line of 40 to 85hp tractors available to emerging markets such as South America and Asia. With the launch of the 8000 series tractors new standards were set for power, performance, visibility and comfort in 1994. The 8400 tractor was the world’s first 225 hp row crop tractor together with the 9400 tractor at 425 hp. By the 1990’s Deere had expanded its manufacturing locations to Argentina, Australia, France, Germany, Mexico, South Africa and Spain.