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Allis-Chalmers 8000 series: Bad timing

UPDATE: This Allis-Chalmers 8050 sold for a whopping $36,000. It set a new record by $1,000, which incidentally was held by the last A-C 8050 the Leerhoff family consigned through Wrightz Auction Co. in December 2021.

In my opinion, the Allis-Chalmers 8000 series tractors were a good mid-range tractor — maybe some of their best. Certain models had their issues, that’s true, but overall, they were good machines. That said, they ALL suffered from one fatal flaw: bad timing. We’ll get into that in a minute, but let’s get the auction details out of this sweet A-C 8050 selling in a few days!

Auction date: August 1, 2022 – 9 a.m. CST (Online bidding is open now.)

Auctioneer: Wrightz Auction Co. LLC

Format: Live auction with online bidding – 9 a.m. CST start time

Location: Floyd, Iowa

Auction catalog

Link to the 1984 Allis-Chalmers 8050

The Allis Chalmers 8050 tractor sold for a record price of $36,000!
Photo credit: Tractor Zoom

It was the best of times…

Allis-Chalmers seemed to hit its stride in the late 60s with the 100 Series tractors. The 190XTs sold like hotcakes, and when the 210 and 220 were added to the lineup as the big horses in 1970, they sold well too. Still, the line was getting a little long in the tooth, and dealers wanted a shiny new toy to sell so they could compete with Harvester’s 66-series and Deere’s Sound Gards.

An orange Allis Chalmers 190 tractor.
Photo credit: Sheridan Auction & Realty

The 190XT was a terrific seller, but by the early 70s, dealers needed something new and snazzy to compete in the marketplace. Allis answered the call with the all-new 7000 series.

When the first of the all-new 7000 series tractors rolled out of West Allis for the 1973 model year, dealers jumped in with both feet and pushed pretty hard. The Acousta Cab was a major development for Allis, as I believe it was their first true factory cab, and it was a pretty big selling point for those tractors.

An orange 7080 Allis Chalmers tractor with white wheels in a machine shed.
Photo credit: Green Real Estate & Auction Co.

Here's a 7000 series I wrote about back in November 2021. This one has a neat story behind it. Hit the photo to read it. Green Real Estate & Auction hammered this tractor home for $17,000, which I believe is the highest auction price in about twenty years!

Anyway, to make a long story short, the 7000 series tractors sold throughout the 70s and into the early 80s. Back home in Michigan, I know there's at least one or two families in my neck of the woods who farmed pretty exclusively orange when I was growing up. I'll bet they still have one or two of these sitting in the shed.

But the worst of times were coming

"All right Interesting Iron guy, we know all that. What's with the doom and gloom? Let's talk about 8000s."

Hang on, we're getting there.

Here's the thing: The 8000 series and the worst of times kind of happened at the same time. If I'm being objective(ish) about this, these two stories need to be told together.

The Allis-Chalmers 8000 series

An orange 8050 Allis Chalmers tractor with white wheels.
Photo credit: Wrightz Auction Co. LLC

The 8000 series Allis was a fresh take on the 7000 series, with lots of features and enhancements, and one very major upgrade — the cab. Hit the photo to see more photos of this one as well as a link to bid on it. This is a pretty darn nice tractor!

A-C's top brass knew the market was evolving rapidly, and their competitors were continually freshening up designs and introducing new features to remain competitive. Allis hadn't always done a lot of that. Not that they weren't keeping up with Harvester and Deere, but they seemed to hang on to designs a little longer. Furthermore, farmers were starting to look for more comfort and efficiency in the field, as they were spending more time there than ever before.

When they debuted the 8000 series to their dealers in Reno in late 1981, they really put the spotlight on two major selling points to address those issues: the cab and a power front axle.

Comfort: The Cab

The Acousta Cab design was a double-edged sword, as far as I'm concerned (and this is just me talking). Yes, they were quiet. They tested quieter than a Sound Gard, in fact.

To me, they look awfully cramped. The Allis guys have all assured me I'll fit (I'm a big guy.) and it won't feel like that scene in Tommy Boy where Chris Farley puts on David Spade's suit jacket. Someday I'm going to put their reassurances to the test. When I do, I'll have somebody take a video of me getting in and out. I might look like a contortionist getting in (or not), but either way, it'll probably be entertaining TikTok content!

Fortunately, the 8000 series didn't carry that cab over. Instead, farmers got a great big new box to sit in. It had big doors — 40 inches wide at the beltline — and yes, I said doors (plural). As much as John Deere fans love to talk about their cabs being outstanding, it is more convenient to be able to get in the tractor from either side.

Inside, the cab was quite roomy and spacious. A-C's marketing people touted that it had 38% more room and better visibility, too. Less blind spots are always nice.

An Allis Chalmers magazine ad using creative angling to make the cab seem spacious.
Photo credit: Allis Chalmers

Here's a page from the Allis-Chalmers 8000 series brochure. Looks much more Interesting Iron-approved than the previous generation cabs.

Sidebar: Ever wonder how they make cabs look so huge in photos like that? It's not Photoshop wizardry. It was all in the camera setup. The photographer who took that picture used a super wide-angle lens to make the cab look so wide and expansive. If you have a newer iPhone, you can do it, too. Try using the 0.5 lens next time you take a picture. It'll do the same thing. I'm not an Android guy, but I'd imagine you could do the same thing with an Android.

Anyway, back to the Allis-Chalmers 8000 series.

The cab layout was simple and effective, and personally, I think it's aged fairly well — at least as well as most anything else of the era. One thing I was surprised to learn is that there are a few guys who have adapted a buddy seat to these tractors. I'm fairly sure the seat in the one I saw came from a later-model Deere.

Efficiency: MFWD

If I'm not mistaken, the Allis-Chalmers 8000 series tractors were the first ones available with MFWD, aside from about a hundred 220s. According to their marketing people, it made the tractor 20% more efficient in the field because it drastically cut down on slippage. It was definitely a popular option, too. I don't know what the breakdown was across the model lineup as far as MFWD vs. 2WD sold, but when I checked in our Iron Comps database, about 70% of the records we have are for MFWD tractors.

One of the nicest things about the 8000 series was that it had a tight turning radius. They were (and still are) nimble tractors.

Power, driveline, etc.

Power and driveline were the places where the 8000s borrowed from the 7000s. The 8010 used a turbocharged 301. The 8030 used a turbocharged 426, and the 8050 and 8070 added an intercooler as well. Transmission options were standard as well; 16- or 20-speed power directors or a 12-speed power shift. For the most part, they were all pretty viable options, although the higher-horsepower models could chew up the teeth in the gear set if you beat on them.

In summary, they really were good tractors — especially the 8050s, as it didn't stretch the 426 beyond its limits. So long as they haven't been beaten to death and have been relatively well-maintained, they're still pretty solid workhorses today, too! (I'm sure I'll get flamed for that 426 comment by some of the diehard Allis guys, but you guys all know good and well that they make 8.3 Cummins repower kits for a reason, and it isn't because there's a shortage of 426 blocks out there. Just saying.)

Now for the "other" part of the story

That whole "worst of times" thing up above? That was real. Quite frankly, the Allis-Chalmers 8000 series tractors literally couldn't have been launched at a worse time in American history.

Farm Crisis: The worst recession America had seen in half a century

The Farm Crisis was just picking up speed when A-C launched the tractors in Reno. By the time they actually got to dealer lots a few months later, it was as if the world had pretty much come undone. Unemployment was absurdly high, and inflation was through the roof. Interest rates got to nearly 21% during the early 80s!

For farmers, it was even worse. After a couple of very good years as far as yields go, grain exports tanked due to the Soviet embargo. While 1981 was the peak year in the 80s for grain exports, it would drop nearly 20% over the following two years and continue to slide until 1987 when Reagan lifted the restrictions. Furthermore, farmland values absolutely tanked for years (nearly 60%, depending on where you farmed in the Midwest), causing so many foreclosures that it's painful to even think about.

So yeah, from that perspective, the timing couldn't have been worse.

A-C's struggles didn't help any, either

It wasn't just the Farm Crisis that put the nails in the coffin for Allis.

Allis was a heavily diversified company, and they had been since day one. They had business units involved in everything from farm and construction equipment to mining, power generation, and heavy electrical components, the whole works. Over time, they refined their focus and sold off or partnered with other companies. I feel like they were still stretched pretty thin. Furthermore, while they were always a competitor, they never really held the top spot in any of their areas of business. Quite frankly, it's hard enough to build a mega-business to specialize in one product line, let alone a bunch of them.

Too little, too late

At the end of the day (and this is just my opinion, take it with appropriate measures of salt), nothing could have saved that company. The Allis-Chalmers 8000 series could have been the greatest tractor on the planet — indestructible, powerful, affordable, with a cab that rode like a Lexus, and the outcome still wouldn't have changed. They still would have ended up folding. The combination of the Farm Crisis plus the tenuous position that A-C held with the other business units... it was all too much. Nothing could have saved them. I say that with no judgment whatsoever.

Now, let's get back to this Allis 8050 selling on Monday, because it's a sweetie!

The A-C 8050 on the auction block

An orange 8050 Allis Chalmers tractor with white wheels.
Photo credit: Wrightz Auction Co. LLC

Eugene Leerhoff and his sons are one of only six dairies left in his county, and they're diehard Allis guys.

I talked to Scott Wright, the auctioneer who's handling Monday's sale, about this tractor a day or two ago. He told me this is probably one of the nicest Allis-Chalmers 8000 series tractors he's ever sold. Incidentally, the only one that might have been nicer was a carbon copy of this one with a third less hours and a newer interior, and it belonged to the same farmer: Eugene Leerhoff. It sold last December at Scott's end of the year consignment auction for $34,000, which is definitely in the top 5% to 10% of auction prices for these tractors.

An orange 8050 Allis Chalmers tractor with white wheels.
Photo credit: Wrights Auction Co. LLC

Here's the first 8050 Scott sold for Eugene. It was a nice tractor for sure, with about 6100 original hours on a working meter. Clean interior, straight sheet metal, and most all the options, too! Well worth the $34,000 hammer price!

He also passed along Eugene's number, so I gave him a call.

It turns out Eugene is a third generation dairy farmer who's in the process of slowing down a little. His sons Kurt and Kevin (and their families) have taken on most of the management duties of their 80-head milking operation and row crop acres, but Eugene still sets his alarm to 3 a.m. to help with morning milking. 

"Once a dairyman, always a dairyman," Eugene says with a bit of a laugh.

The tractor

The model number on the Allis-Chalmers tractor that reads: 8050FS2839
Photo credit: Wrightz Auction Co. LLC

The 8050 that sells on Monday is a mid-year 1984 model, and it's been VERY well cared-for.

Eugene told me he's the second owner of this 12-speed power shift 8050. He bought it at a farm auction in Cuba City, Wisconsin, in 1996. I believe he told me that at the time, it had 3,600 hours on it. Since then, it's done lots of things at their farm — everything from snow removal to moldboard plowing. Most recently, it's seen the most duty pulling a chopper for haylage. Honestly, the tractor has had an easy life over the past few years.

It's been very well-maintained, too. Eugene rattled off a list as long as your arm (including dates) of things that had been done to keep it in good shape. I tried to take notes but furious scribbling was of little use — I couldn't keep up. However, here are the most recent important highlights, as far as I'm concerned: It's got about 1,000 hours on a new motor (2015), new batteries just over a year ago, new filters and new seals on the injection pump this past May, and a new cable for the park pawl in June. The rubber is fairly fresh as well (The duals are pretty well worn, but they'll hold air.). He also told me he'd had it repainted a few years ago.

My take on it

Honestly, this tractor has a lot going for it. It's clean as a whistle. It's in great mechanical shape. It's got good rubber, and the interior is very clean as well. A cab kit wouldn't hurt. I'm sure the foam could use replacement, and there's a spot where the headliner is loose, but the seat isn't super chewed up like you often see when it comes to tractors of this era. The A/C has been converted to R134a already, so you won't have to mess with that either. It's also got a full rack of 14 weights.

The interior of the Allis Chalmers 8050 cab, with a little bit of damage
Photo credit: Wrightz Auction Co. LLC

Like I said, the interior on this tractor is REALLY clean. The armrests could use attention, but it's not like you need them in order to use the tractor.

At the end of the day, the stuff that needs attention on this 8050 is all pretty minor. Winter project-type/weekend-type stuff. All it really needs is a farmer to put it to work.

What's it worth?

When I talked with Scott, he's hoping for $34,000 out of it like the last 8050 he sold for Eugene. I think that's about right, too. While the tractor does have more hours on the frame, it only has 1,000 hours on a new motor.

Furthermore, while the interior isn't quite as perfect as the one from late last year, it's got a full rack of weights and duals included in the sale. The December tractor didn't have either of those things.

Honestly, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if it went a little higher than Scott's number. As many of you are well aware, wild and crazy things have been known to happen at live auctions. If two bidders start to get after it a little and there's an internet bidder involved, who knows where it will end up. It will be a fun one to watch! I might do just that if I can sneak out of the office for part of the day!

Here's the auction information one more time, with links to the listing on Tractor Zoom.

Auction Date: August 1, 2022 – 9 a.m. CST (Online bidding is open now.)

Auctioneer: Wrightz Auction Co. LLC

Format: Live auction with online bidding – 9 a.m. CST start time

Location: Floyd, Iowa

Auction Catalog

Link to the 1984 Allis-Chalmers 8050

Incidentally, Dairy Star wrote a nice article about the Leerhoff family not too long ago. Check it out here.

Ryan Roossinck
Hi! I’m Ryan, and I love tractors. It doesn’t matter if it’s a showpiece, an oddball, or seen its share of life ... if it’s unique and it’s listed by one of our auctioneer partners at Tractor Zoom, I’m going to show it off a little bit! This equipment is all up for auction RIGHT NOW so you can bid on it. I think it’s cool, and I hope you will too! This is Interesting Iron!

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