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John Deere 4010

Early in the 1950s, the top brass at Deere & Company knew they faced a huge challenge.

Their stalwart two-cylinder line of tractors was losing market share. Deere sat firmly in second place in tractor sales – behind IHC but ahead of a pack of contenders. But those competitors were gaining ground by tending to farmers’ demands for more horsepower than a two-cylinder engine could muster. Plus, farmers were showing a preference for fuller bodied features such as transmissions with multiple ranges of gears, higher-flow hydraulics, and advanced creature comforts of an adjustable seat and easy-to-read console.

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Charles Deere Wiman (Deere’s CEO at the time) decided the two-cylinder line needed to be completely scraped for a new era of horsepower that would take the company into the 1960s.

Looking back at that time, Wiman’s decision to launch a massive tractor development program looked like an obvious one. But to his credit, it was a bold leap. Deere was a very profitable company at that time and could have very easily sat on its laurels without taking on a risky venture. Wiman knew better, and in 1953 authorized a research and development effort second to none in the company’s then 116-year history.

The effort that went to the what Wiman called the New Generation of horsepower was massive. All told, seven years of contentious debate and intensive development were devoted to the cause before the tractors were ready to launch. Finally, on August 30, 1960, nearly 6,000 Deere dealers got the first glimpse at the future of Deere power. This was big news to them. The two-cylinder was gone. In its place was a state-of-the-art machine:sleek in styling packing an eight-speed power shift transmission and four- or six-cylinder engines. The event certainly must have seemed revolutionary at the time.

An effort to catch up to the pack

The truth of the matter was that the 4010 and little brother 3010 were hardly revolutionary. Instead, they represented Deere’s catch-up with the rest of the industry in tractor technology. Deere made a big to-do about the tractors’ transmission, an eight-speed partial-range syncromesh affair. It represented an advance for Deere by offering partial power shifting ability. But variations of such transmissions had been on the market for a decade.

The New Generation did set a standard when it came to ergonomic design. The firm of Henry Dreyfuss & Associates fashioned a superb seat that rode up and down at a 27° angle, a number derived at by Dr. Janet Travell, who gained fame as President John Kennedy’s back surgeon. The Dreyfuss group also created a user-friendly control console that became a design the rest of the industry would emulate for years to come.

So too, the New Generation was the first tractor to utilize hydraulic power brakes.

This is not to diminish the impact the New Generation had on agriculture. For starters, it placed Deere firmly back in the hunt for tractor sales. More importantly, the machines laid a firm foundation on which Deere tractors would be based for the rest of that century and beyond. For that reason alone, the 4010 and 3010 earn a spot on the greatest list of tractors.

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