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Talking tractors with a legend

Jeff Caldwell 10/07/2010 @ 12:59pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

For 21 years I've been compiling history, building a database of auction sale prices on all types of equipment sold at auctions throughout North America.

I found a different kind of history last week in Waterloo, IA.

95-year old Harold Brock, chief design engineer, amazingly, on both the Ford 9N and JD 4020 tractors. Digest that statement for just a moment. Two of the most iconic tractors in the history of agriculture. Ford came out with the 9N in 1939 and revolutionized the tractor market with the introduction of the three-point hitch.

The "introduction" of the three-point hitch. That turned out pretty well, didn't it?

Oh, and the Deere 4020, released in 1964? Fairly successful tractor there I'd say.

Mr. Brock, who will be 96 in November, was nice enough to invite me down to Waterloo for a visit last week. I brought along my handheld camera to record our machinery conversation. The afternoon seemingly flew by as we talked. I learned so much, but not just about the famous tractors Mr. Brock helped design and produce.

Did you know that money meant nothing to Henry Ford? Or that Thomas Edison liked to work at 2 AM? Or that what George Washington Carver was doing with the peanut was about 70 years ahead of its time?

Mr. Brock knew and worked with each of those guys. Henry Ford. Thomas Edison. George Washington Carver.


In 1959 Mr. Brock left Ford and went to work for Deere. Interesting time as Deere was looking to move beyond the two cylinder tractors to a new, more modern design. In this segment of the video interview, Mr. Brocks tells us what it was like at Deere during that time period, working on the introduction of the "new" 10 Series tractors (3010, 4010, 8010):

It's the little anecdotal tidbits, like how JFK's personal orthopedic doctor was brought in to help design the new tractor seat on the Deere 10 Series tractor models that I find so fascinating. Important little bits of historical information that reside only with the folks who were directly involved in the process.

But I don't think I'll ever run across a more powerful, and heartwarming, anecdotal tale than the story of how Ford 8N tractors came to be their well known red and silver color scheme. I'll let Harold take it from here:

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