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Four-wheel drive pioneers



    Olmstead and Nelson introduced the first 4WD tractor in 1912. But the 1950s saw the beginning of the modern 4WD with the Wagner Brothers' WA-14. From then on, a chain reaction of 4WDs came to the market, each outdoing the last in power.

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  • BIG BUD 747

    BIG BUD 747

    In 1977, Northern Manufacturing Co. built the Big Bud 747. It measures 27 ft. long, 20 ft. wide, and 14 ft. tall. The tires were custom-made, measuring 8 ft. in diameter. When the 1,000-gal. fuel tank is full, the tractor weighs over 100,000 lbs. Harmon claimed it was the largest tractor in the world, but Russian manufacturer, Belarus, topped it with an 810 hp tractor 5 years prior.

  • CAST 435L

    CAST 435L

    CAST tractors were years ahead of their time. They had then unheard of features like 4-wheel steering, braking and suspension. CAST Trattori (Bologna, Italy) equipped their 1950s 435L with a hydraulically controlled differential lock and 2-way PTO. It was designed to operate low to the ground for orchard and vineyard work, ideal for the steep hills of northern Italy.



    Considered one of the first market success 4WDs, developer John H. Fitch made history by designing the tractor to have 4 powered wheels and drive shafts (not chains or belts). It had a reputation for enormous drawbar power. During the National Tractor Demonstration in 1918, a Four-Drive pulled a 4-bottom plow nonstop for 88 hrs., tilling 100 acres! There may be only a dozen in existence today.



    The Power Horse became the alternative to crawler tractors in 1952. The California-based firm equipped it with a planetary gear system to engage 1 or both sides of the tractor, producing a 5-ft. turning radius. Harris stated that any movement could be reversed at 50% of the tractors rated speed. A GMC Diesel was offered later in Power House versions.

  • HEER


    This 1912 model featured rarities of its time. It was equipped with a Heer-built horizontally opposed 2-cylinder engine, churning 25 hp. It boasted a turning radius of just 8 ft., and had a 3-speed transmission. In 1914, Heer expanded the hp with models 16-24, 20-28 and 24-32, which all employed 2-cylinder engines with opposed cylinder operation.



    The most powerful tractor of its time, the 300 hp International 4300 was introduced in 1961. Offered with a companion 10-bottom mounted plow, the 4300 was "stall-built" by the Frank G Hough Company (an IH subsidiary). The tractor was powered by an IHC-built 817 cubic-inch, 6-cyllinder turbocharged diesel--the first IHC tractor to use a turbocharger.



    The 1200 Traction King marked Case's entry into 4WD tractors. Produced from 1964-1969, it was unique in the marketplace as the only tractor sold with 4-wheel (opposed to articulated) steering. It weighed over 17,000 lbs. and sold for about $20,000. The 1200 turned out 120 PTO hp from a Case-built, 6-cyllinder diesel with 451 cubic inch displacement. It was equipped with a Category III 3-point hitch, dual remote hydraulics and deluxe seat.

  • JOHN DEERE 8010

    JOHN DEERE 8010

    The 8010 was John Deere's first 4WD tractor (released in 1960). Deere rated it for 215 engine and 150 drawbar hp, making it able to pull an 8-bottom plow or 31-ft. harrow. Features included air breaks, an oil-cooled clutch and 24-volt electrical system. Due to transmission problems, the 8010s were recalled and converted into model 8020s. One 8010 escaped the recall and is currently in the Keller collection in Minnesota.



    The General Purpose (GP) had a front axle with a universal joint steering design, allowing the tractor to turn in a tight 6-ft. diameter. The rear axle pivoted side-to-side, keeping the drive wheels in contact with the soil regardless of field contours. The first 4WD tractors were sold on steel, but the firm started making the GP with pneumatic tires, greatly improving traction.

  • STEIGER #1

    STEIGER #1

    What differentiated the Steiger 4WDs from competitors was that each model was built on a different frame size. By 1970, Steiger Tractor had nearly 70 dealers selling its line in North America. That success wasn't lost on competitors, either. During the 1970s, Steiger was making tractors for Allis-Chalmers, Ford, Canadian Co-op Implement and International Harvester.



    The Versatile D-100 Diesel (1966) was Versatile Manufacturing's first tractor. It proved a success, selling over 100 the first year for around $10,000. The D-100 turned out 125 engine and 100 drawbar hp. A gasoline version, the G-100, was sold with a 318 cubic-inch Chrysler engine. Both were equipped with a 3-speed transmission and 4-range transfer case, giving them a total 12 forward and 4 reverse gears.

  • WAGNER WA-14

    WAGNER WA-14

    The first modern 4WD tractor. The Wagner Brothers announced the WA-14 model TR-9 in 1953. Powered by a 4-cyllinder Cummins 495 cubic-inch diesel rated at 1,800 rmp, the TR-9 turned out 69 drawbar hp at the Nebraska Tractor Test. Features included a 10-speed transmission and articulated steering. By 1956, Wagner had 2 more models, the TR-6 (57 hp) and TR-14 (73 hp).

The pioneers of the four-wheel drive tractor

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