Classic tractors are getting serious money at auction

A 1961 John Deere 8020 articulated four-wheel-drive tractor recently sold for $178,500 at Mecum’s Davenport, Iowa, auction of agricultural equipment. This was not your grandfather’s farm selling everything to stave off a bankruptcy. Tractor collecting has been a serious hobby for years and with some tractors now going for relatively serious money, it has started to attract attention from the wider automotive enthusiast world.

Last year’s prestigious Detroit area Eyes On Design car show, organized by professional automotive stylists, even had a special display devoted to tractors and their styling. Why would a show dedicated to sleek sports cars and elegant classics feature tractors? Tractors are, by their nature, utilitarian, but in the late 1950s and early ’60s, probably inspired by what was going on at the domestic automakers then, tractor companies started to pay attention to styling. To go along with more modern styling the era also saw the birth of the “muscle-tractor,” with engines producing 100 horsepower and more. The John Deere 8020 was one of the first. In recent years, those muscle-tractors have been fetching strong money.

Standing eight feet tall and eight feet wide, the 10-ton 8020 is one of only 100 that were produced between 1961–64. It is powered by a 7.0-liter Detroit Diesel 6-71 two-stroke, inline six-cylinder diesel engine that puts out more than 200 hp, a very impressive figure for a tractor motor. Versions of the 6-71 generate as much as 853 lb-ft of torque, of greater practical concern to most farmers than horsepower. It has a 10-speed transmission with eight forward and two reverse gears. The 8020 model began as the 8010, but issues with the original nine-speed transmission led John Deere to redesign that tractor with the new gearbox and several other changes. Existing 8010s were converted as well.

1961 John Deere 8020 gauges
1961 John Deere 8020 Mecum
1961 John Deere 8020 engine
1961 John Deere 8020 Mecum

1961 John Deere 8020 3/4 front barn
1961 John Deere 8020 Mecum

Bearing serial #1054, this example has been completely restored from a total teardown, including all new hoses, hydraulic lines, wiring, gauges, switches, and correct tires. A concours- worthy paint job in traditional John Deere green and yellow finishes it off.

The Deere 8020 wasn’t the only six-figure vintage tractor at the sale. An Aultman and Taylor model 30-60 sold for $141,750, and a 1918 Waterloo Boy R, restored by Waterloo expert Kenny Kass, sold for $105,000.

That Waterloo is a very historic tractor. As you might guess from its green and yellow livery, it’s a John Deere product, the first tractor model the company sold after buying the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company.

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