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JOHN DEERE’S Early Muscle…..Too Early???? b y S h er r y S c h a e f e r

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y the end of the 1950’s, the trend was turning to larger tractors. Most horses left on the farm were there for riding purposes. The day of buying a tractor to replace the horse was almost past. A tractor was required to do a certain amount of work if it was going to be considered a productive machine. With larger acreage farms coming on the scene, larger tractors were needed to keep the crop acres per tractor ratio at a constant. In 1958, the average was one tractor for every 74 acres. The average size of a tractor on US farms was around 40-45 horsepower. With each tractor introduced came more horsepower. The older models were fitted with high compression engine kits, which kept companies like M&W Gear thriving. The demand for more horsepower came from the farmer wanting to cover more acres in less time, allowing more freedom for other duties on the farm and leisure time. The goal was to get a maximum amount of work done with a minimum number of tractors and operators. The answer was a larger tractor cable of doing more work. The amount of horsepower required for the farming operation was not spread out evenly over the course of a year. The primary horsepower hours were more demanding during the spring when plowing was done. Approximately 10,000 horsepower hours were needed to operate a 240-acre farm. Almost half of those hours were required in May and June. Plowing required twice as much horsepower per acre than any other field operation.

Most tractors were reserved for specific operations. The farmer usually had one tractor designated the “planting tractor” or the “raking tractor” or even the “loader tractor”. The big dog on the farm was usually designated the “plowing tractor”. Larger acreage farmers were starting to hook tractors tandem or were moving to 4-wheel drive units that were just starting to appear. Farm future analysts were predicting that the tractor of the future would have 4-wheel drive and be equipped with two engines. One engine could be used for light loads and the second engine used for heavy chores. The closest model to fit their prediction would have to be the 1468, which only used half of the engine cylinders when not needed. John Deere, on the other hand, knew that the 2-cylinder was on the way out and a complete redesign was needed. In addition, they saw the need for a high-horsepower model so work began in the early 1950’s on a model that would fill that need. In Marshaltown, Iowa the fall of 1959, Deere shocked onlookers as it demonstrated for the first time the JD 8010, which was to become available to the public in April of 1960. The transition from the 830 to the giant 8010 was powerful and left everyone in awe as they saw the 10-ton beast for the first time. When the 8010 was brought out at the introduction of the New Generation tractors MARCH /APRIL 2009 ISSUE 002


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DIESEL John Deere 8010/8020 Owned by the Donner Family – Three Oaks, MI Serial Number 1006 Engine: GM 6-71E Weight: Approx. 20,000 lbs. Model Years: 1960-1964

Photo by Super-T MARCH /APRIL 2009 ISSUE 002


in Dallas, TX (Deere Day), it had a 1010 sitting on a platform that was attached to the 3-point. The giant carried around the 1010 like it was a little toy, and it was compared to the 8010. The 120” wheelbase tractor was designed to turn in the same radius of the 830. It was equipped with a 106-gallon fuel tank which was just the size needed for a 12-hour day in the field. Deere turned to GM as the provider for the 200-hp, 425 CID, 6-71E engine that put out an estimated 150-drawbar horsepower. The drive-train consisted of 36,500 pound front and rear planetary Clark axles. Air brakes were used and the tractor was equipped with a horn that would automatically blow when air pressure was low. Although I’m unsure if this was to let the operator know he was low on air or to warn anyone in its path that ten tons of iron was now free-wheeling and they needed to clear a path. The operator’s station was situated for optimal visibility. Air brakes, power clutch and power steering were standard equipment for operator comfort

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and ease of handling. The 8010 used a solid-mounted cushion seat. Due to the amount of work this machine was expect to do at night, lighting was important. The electrical system consisted of a 24-volt configuration operating 12volt lights. There were two headlights in the grill and two on the fenders facing forward. There were also four lights on the rear fenders with two of those used as red taillights. A 12-volt accessory plug was also mounted on the rear to hook up lights on the implements. Due to the size and weights of implements that this tractor would be coupled to, it was important to design a hitch that would allow for one-man hookups. An integral hitch, using two 5”x16” cylinders, was built with the ability to lift long implement 6-8 ft. off the ground in less than three seconds. An 8-bottom plow was designed specifically for this model but only eleven of them were ever produced. The 8010 was set up to pull this plow up to 7 MPH. With a big tractor on the market, Deere also offered tools that could be teamed up

to it. The 31’ LW harrow was designed for high-horsepower wheel or crawler tractors. The F850H series of disk plows was offered in a 20’ width with 28 discs. In order to couple other implements together, Deere offered the MH Squadron Hitch. When the 8010 went on the market in 1960, base price was nearly $30,000. With optional equipment, it was easily a $33,000 machine. The Wagner tractor was the only comparable tractor on the market at the time. To cost of the Wagner was just over $100 per horsepower or $1 per pound of weight. When Deere introduced the 8010 to the retail market, it was a very expensive machine and a hard sell to the farmer. Weight was also a problem with the 8010. Ten tons of steel were packed in an 8’x17’ space. With ¾ of a ton of liquid in each tire, the weight was enormous and reeked havoc on old roads and bridges. Fully loaded with ballast, the 8010 weight nearly 25,000 pounds. One hundred of these machines were produced in the first few years. Only one of them was sold in 1960. They

were a tough sell due to their size and cost. In the first few years, the tractor was plagued with transmission problems. By 1963, Deere had put a recall out for all of the models that had been sold. Every 8010 that has been sold was brought back into the plant. Deere sent semi’s out to the farms and hauled the 8010s all into Moline for an update. The engines were pulled out and sent to Hickman GM in Des Moines, IA for a thorough checkup. While the early engines were rated at 200 HP, they were now rated at 238. The rest of the tractor received several updates. The clutches were reworked and the old seat was replaced by a New Generation seat. On the 8010 models, the transmission shifter was on the left side of the operator in a console. When the recall took place, a different transmission was installed and it included a 2-speed shifter on the floor. The original steps were built of solid deck plate but they were very slick in wet conditions. New steps were designed and installed using perforated deck plate.

This wooden mockup was a prototype done by the company to show what the proposed model would look like.

This operators platform on the 8010 shows the old-style seat and the shifter on the left console.



When all of these updates were made, the tractor was designated an 8020 to coincide with the 20 series that was being introduced for the 1963 model year. Not all of the 8010s had been sold so they were still new tractors but needed to keep up with the current series. Plus, by now Deere had quite a bit of money tied up in these machines and didn’t want to slash the price on old models. The 8010 was already starting to earn a bad reputation so the decision to change the numeric

designation to an 8020 didn’t take much thought. Only one-hundred 8010/8020 tractors were ever built in the Waterloo, IA plant. Every 8020 out there was born an 8010. Out of the onehundred tractors built, there are eighty-seven of them accounted for today and eighty-one of those are in running condition. There is ONE 8010 located in Wisconsin that escaped the recall. Forty-nine of the tractors were equipped with a 3-point and fifty-one were not. At least

This rare industrial model showed up in Penfield, IL in 2006. The round hole under the steps had been a mystery for years but it was learned this was for mounting a push blade on the tractor.

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a couple of them left the plant as industrial models. In 2006 a reunion was help at the Historic Farm Days event in Penfield, IL. There had not been that many 8020s together in one spot in over 40 years. Together 8010/8020 owners have formed a support group to help each other out with information and to document the locations of the existing models. Owners of these limited production models are all quite proud of their tractors and rightfully so. Opinions

vary as to the success of this tractor but regardless, this was John Deere’s GIANT. Later this summer the group plans a 50th anniversary celebration on the introduction of the 8010, to he held in Rantoul, IL at the Half Century of Progress show. If you need more information on this group or would like to include your 8020 in the celebration, please contact Darrel Fischer 815473-4367 or Roger Hayenga 815-562-7188.

John Deere 8020  

Sample article from Heritage Iron Magazine issue 002.