John Deere New Generation Tractors

Facts you might not know about John Deere New Generation tractors

| June 1999

When the John Deere Company "New Generation" tractors were introduced on Aug. 30, 1960, in Dallas, Texas, it was a groundbreaking event. Why? Because the New Generation tractors didn't exhibit the usual "evolutionary" modifications of new models. Instead, these were truly "revolutionary" tractors. 

The story behind that revolution is detailed in John Deere New Generation Tractors. Co-author Rod Beemer and I found tracing the history of these great tractors both interesting and exciting.

In essence, what these tractors did for the tractor manufacturing industry was similar to raising the high jump bar to 10 feet. Here are some things we learned:

  • The decision to replace the venerable two-cylinder tractors was made in 1953. Secrecy equaled only by development of the atomic bomb in WWII prevailed for seven years.

Now, seven years may seem like a long time, but to develop an entirely new line of tractors, it was one heckuva feat.

A remote, empty Waterloo, Iowa, supermarket housed the initial development work. It was known to engineers selected for the project as the "meat market." Entrance was on a need-to-know basis, and even some high-level executives were turned away at the door.

  • A critically important element: determining and fixing of the center line dimensions of the block. A miscue and it would have been a $70 million mistake in today's dollars, not to mention loss of months of valuable time.

How good a job did the New Generation engineers do? Deere & Company is still using those same fixed-center dimensions in today's tractor engines.