The John Deere Model Y Tractor

| 4/19/2017 11:21:00 AM

Tags: John Deere, Looking Back, Sam Moore,

Sam MooreBy 1920 most tractor builders had gotten away from the big, heavy and awkward tractors that were the norm during the first two decades of the 20th century. Still, except for the Fordson and a handful of others, most tractors sold were in the three to four plow classes. Tractors were expensive, and there were tens of thousands of farmers with 100 acres or less who felt that the purchase of these larger machines couldn’t be justified for their small acreage.

By 1930, tractor dealers east of the Mississippi River, where the bulk of these smaller farms were concentrated, were besieging their home offices with requests for a small, inexpensive tractor to replace the one team of horses on these farms. One of the earliest was the 14 HP Farmall F-12, introduced in 1933, followed by the little Plymouth (soon renamed Silver King) in 1934.

Deere and Co. brought out the 14 hp Model “B”, an extremely popular tractor that replaced many a team of horses on small farms (as did the Farmall F-12). Still, there was a clamor from the field for an even smaller and lower-priced machine, so the engineers at the Waterloo Tractor Works, and the John Deere Wagon Works in Dubuque began work.

The Dubuque group, under Max Slovsky won the race, and in 1936 more than 20 Model “Y” tractors were built and tested. Looking nothing at all like the Waterloo built tractors, the Model “Y” used mostly off-the-shelf components to hold down costs. Management had specified that the engine of the new tractor must be 2-cylinder, so a Novo C-66 engine was used. The Novo was indeed 2-cylinder, although it was (gasp) upright instead of following the Waterloo tradition of horizontal engines! The transmission and steering gear on the Y were the same as that of the Model A Ford car, while the frame consisted of two heavy steel tubes. The Model Y weighed 1340 pounds, had a cushioned seat with a canvas back on a wire frame, and the rear fenders had curved, flat tops over the tires.

John Deere Model Y replica

A replica of the Deere Model Y that was put together by the late Jack Kreeger, who showed it at Tipton, Indiana, in 1993 where I photographed it. (Photo by Sam Moore)