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IHC's row-crop revolution

02/04/2014 @ 10:52pm

Once maligned, misunderstood, and often made light of, history is coming to judge International Harvester’s unique 2+2 tractors in more favorable terms, as collectors increasingly vie for them at auction.

More a victim of corporate mismanagement and tough economic times, the 2+2 was, in fact, a huge success story for the beleaguered International Harvester Company. For in its first year of production, nearly 3,000 of the models 3388 and 3588 sold.

Capture 1/4 of the market

This represented over one quarter of four- wheel-drive (4WD) sales in 1979 – an accomplishment unheard of before or after this time for an entirely unique design introduction.

“Here is the versatility and maneuverability of a two-wheel drive…plus the traction, stability, and flotation of two more drive wheels,” IHC promotions boasted at the time the 2+2s were introduced.

Unlike conventional 4WD tractors, the 2+2s had their cabs located behind the articulation joint. This rear portion of the tractor was actually the rear half of the existing 86 series two-wheel-drive IHCs. Furthermore, the power plants on the 2+2s were mounted ahead of the front axle, similar to the 66 and 86 series Internationals. Locating the engine there increased the weight on the front drive axle to improve traction.

Efficient to build

The 2+2s’ unique design aside, these tractors were also conventional, as they readily utilized major components in use by other IHC tractors. Employing existing rear drives and front power trains allowed the 2+2s to be designed with very few drive train modifications.

IHC’s use of existing technology didn’t end there. The tractors employed existing IHC-built engines. The model 3388 ran with the model DT-436 turbo- charged engine rated for 130 PTO hp. The model 3588 was propelled by the model DT- 466 turbocharged unit rated at 150 PTO hp.

This approach of employing existing components in their manufacture continued as new 2+2 models were introduced by IHC at almost a frantic pace.

Rapid succession of 2+2s

The 3388 and 3588 were introduced in 1978 and were produced from 1979 to 1981. In 1980, a third 2+2 model, the 170-hp. 3788, was introduced. Just two years later, a new series of tractors was trotted out in the mod- els 6388 and 6588. They remained in production from 1982 to 1984. In 1983, the model 6788 replaced the 3788.

Finally, 1984 saw the introduction of the Super 70 series 2+2 in the form of the 7288 and 7488. A model 7788 was in development to replace the 6788, but it never saw production. Replacements for the 7288 and 7488 were on the drawing board in the never-built models 7688 and 7888.

Popular design

This rapid replacement of models was not, as some tractor historians have contended, a way for IHC to compensate for design flaws in the 2+2s. Rather, the tactic was a means to capitalize on the tractor’s popularity. This crossover tractor offered row-crop farmers the best of both worlds: a 4WD that could readily negotiate rows due to a 15.9-foot turning radius.

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