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The greatest tractors of all-time

03/29/2011 @ 12:09pm

A crucial point must be understood before explaining how I came to select some of the “Greatest Tractors of All Time.”

Note I said SOME.

This “Greatest” list certainly does not end with the 32 tractors featured here. Not by a long shot. At last count, I have winnowed my master list down to no less than 64 greatest tractors. Maybe more will join that fold in time as you take me to task for not including a particular tractor model that you feel qualified to be added to this honor roll.

And you are heartily welcome to nominate your  favored tractor model. Contact me by e-mail or by writing to Dave Mowitz, Ageless Iron Almanac, 1716 Locust Street, LS 253, Des Moines, IA 50309-3023.

But back to my defense. So, how did I settle on these particular tractors?

That task, I can assure you, was a long, challenging and yet extremely enjoyable effort.

Enjoyable? Absolutely! I absolutely adore tractor history! The tractor has a very rich, very entertaining history. Plus, I’m of the conviction that the development of the tractor and related agricultural machinery is among the “greatest,” if not the most monumental, of all technological advances that have occurred to mankind.

That conclusion was derived during my 21-year search for the greatest tractors while serving as Editor of the Ageless Iron Almanac and as machinery editor at Successful Farming magazine. The first job has provided insight into early tractor advances while the second career exposed me to improvements in modern engineering. These before and after perspectives have imparted a historic perspective that has proven invaluable when making final selections.

But I dither in answering that burning question, “How did you do it?”

Four guiding principles were employed in that process. To be considered a tractor had to have:

  • Had a major impact upon agriculture.
  • Successfully introduced a significant technological advancement to tractor design.
  • Become popular by way of sales or use.
  • Had a major influence on the success of the company which manufactured the machine.

Some models may have qualified by meeting only one of these principles. Other tractors, rare as they may be, scored on all four accounts.

To affirm that I was being diligent in my efforts, I engaged in lengthy debates with noted historians as well as knowledgeable collectors. Then, too, I reviewed a library of books to affirm my selections.

In both regards, I must give recognition to several historians who have been my guiding lights. The late agricultural engineer R.B. Gray, and his monumental book, The Agricultural Tractor: 1855-1950, had a huge influence on the selection process. Such was also the case with preeminent tractor historian and author of dozens of books on the topic, Charles Wendel. I would be remiss not to recognize historian Larry Gay, agricultural engineer Graeme Quick, author and photographer extraordinaire Randy Leffingwell, and the king of lesser-known tractor biographers, Bill Vossler.

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