John Deere 6030 screams muscle tractor
Ah, the John Deere 6030. My very favorite Deere of all time. If anything wearing green and yellow paint ever screamed “Muscle Tractor” louder than the 6030, I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been waiting for a really nice example to write about, and this one happens to be fairly close to me, too!
The History of the John Deere 6030
Introduced in late 1971, the John Deere 6030 was essentially the final evolution of the 5010/5020 series tractors. They were both good enough tractors, but they seemed clumsy and heavy, like they couldn’t really get out of their own way. When the 6030 came out, that clumsy image of Deere’s "big" tractors went away pretty quickly.
What was the secret sauce? The motor. The 531 big block, in its most powerful naturally aspirated form, only turned out about 140 horses. While that was probably acceptable for the early ’60s, it didn’t fly in the horsepower wars of the early 1970s. To address the demand, a turbocharged 531 was introduced in the 6030 and boy, that made a big difference! Where the naturally aspirated motor made 140 hp., the turbocharged model was rated at about 175 hp.!
In 1972, Deere did offer a naturally aspirated version of the 6030 that made the same 140 hp. that the 5020 made. Almost nobody bought them. A total of 45 naturally aspirated 6030s were ordered before they came to their senses and pulled the option off of the order forms in 1973. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of them sell at an auction. They’re rare animals for sure.
Don’t worry about the mule ... just load the wagon!
The John Deere 6030 sold very well over its five-year production run. Word traveled pretty fast that the big brute was not only pretty light on its feet, but it was WAAAAAY underrated from the factory. The Nebraska test showed about 176 on the PTO. But if I had to guess, the test mule was probably set up for fuel economy – not horsepower. Legend has it that most of the 6030s that rolled off the assembly line in Waterloo made well north of 200 hp., which would definitely make them a little on the thirsty side. Heck, I’ve heard stories about dealer demo tractors that turned close to 250 hp. on the dyno!
John Deere took no prisoners when it came to the 6030. At the end of the day, it was the biggest, baddest two-wheel-drive tractor to ever roll off of the assembly line in Waterloo, and there wasn’t much it couldn’t do. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) when you sell a farmer a tractor that you claim will do anything they want it to do, inevitably farmers are going to say, “Well...let’s see what this ol’ girl can do!" The weak link, if there was one, was the axles. When word got out that these were overbuilt monsters out in the field, farmers started piling the weights and pulling heavier and heavier implements. Under super-heavy loads, the axle would flex enough to snap. John Deere solved this toward the end of the model run by upsizing the axle a little bit to 4 inches in diameter.
There was another issue, too; this time, with the motor. Once in a while, the 531 wouldn’t like a heavy load. When the big block was under too much load, it did what heavily loaded motors tend to do ... it spun its bearings. Because of that, it’s not uncommon to find a 6030 with a replacement motor in it. The motor of choice was typically the 619-cubic-inch unit, introduced with the 8630 in 1975. It was essentially a direct bolt-in motor, and upped the power of the tractors it was installed in up to 275 hp.! Talk about a muscle tractor!
Details on THIS 6030
Late last week, I had the opportunity to grab lunch with Jake Rice of Rice Auction Company in Clearfield, Iowa, a good friend of mine and the auctioneer who’s handling this sale. This is a GORGEOUS 6030, folks. It’s a late 1974 model with about 7,700 original hours. The motor is original to the tractor as well. It’s sporting nearly new rubber all the way around (20.8-38s on the back, and 11-16s in the front) as well as fresh paint. The seller purchased this tractor out of Brad Walk’s collection about seven years ago.
That last part is important...
Who’s Brad Walk and why is that important?
Well, there are 6030 guys ... and then there’s Brad. Brad Walk is a collector and restorer ( My6030 ) who lives about an hour south of Champaign, Illinois. Brad has earned the reputation as the go-to guy for any and all things related to the John Deere 6030. If you need parts, he’s your guy. If you need one restored, he’s your guy. Or, if you want one with a built 619-cubic-inch engine with a bumpin’ custom stereo wearing floaters, Brad’s your guy. He’ll basically build anything you like!
His collection is very cool, too; among many other tractors, he’s got the first 6030 (serial number 33000) ever built, and the last NA 6030 to be sold in the States! Number 33000 took nearly two years to restore!
What’s it worth?
The John Deere 6030 is one of those tractors that seems to go up and down in cycles. Five years ago, you probably could have bought one in pretty good shape for $16,000 to $17,000. But over the years the average prices of these tractors have gone up by about $5,000. But those are for your average tractor. This one isn’t average by a long shot.
When the hammer drops next Thursday (December 16, 2020), I’m pretty sure the bid is going to be somewhere in the $30,000-to-$32,000 range. It’s a beautiful tractor, sits just right, and for a John Deere collector (or a muscle tractor collector), this one will tick off pretty much every box on the checklist!
The Ultimate Versions of the Ultimate Muscle Tractor: Custom One-Offs
One of the reasons that I have a thing for 6030s is because they’re unique. With only 4,042 of them produced, they’re not all that common. I don’t remember ever seeing a 6030 on a farm as a kid growing up in West Michigan, so I sort of looked at them as unicorns.
Well, there’s a handful of guys in the Midwest who have taken that unicorn concept to another level, essentially building their own versions of the ultimate muscle tractor. Here are a few that stand out in my mind.
John Deere never built a front-wheel-drive version of the 6030; adding another big heavy front axle and the components to make it work just didn’t make any sense. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
There’s a handful of 6030s sporting Soundgard cabs running around the country. This one is probably one of the nicest I’ve seen.
This is probably the ultimate 6030 fantasy tractor. There’s a ton of videos on the internet of this one dragging everything from a chisel plow to a pulling sled!
The Tractor Pulling Connection
Another reason I really love the 6030 is because so many pulling tractors wear 6030 sheet metal. It seems like nearly every pulling class across the country has a handful of ’em. And since I shoot so much pulling every year, I tend to see a lot of them. Here are a few 6030s that I’ve shot over the past 10 years.
If you pay attention to the 4.1 Limited Pro Stock class, you probably know this tractor. Justin Wagler’s Real Deere is in a class all by itself. I’ve never seen a tractor run harder, and I’ve rarely ever met a nicer guy. Justin is currently beginning work on a Pro Stock to campaign on the Champion’s Tour in 2021.
Sydnee Summers is the young lady in the pink helmet, and she stole the Colorblind tractor right out from under her dad’s nose while he wasn’t looking! The Summers family lives just outside of Kansas City, and 2020 was the year that Sydnee really upped her driving game. She routinely beats up on the boys, and does it with a smile! My guess is that Dad’s going to have to start shopping for another tractor here pretty soon so he can have fun behind the wheel again!
The man in the seat of this one is the bravest man I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet. He’s in the fight of his life right now with brain cancer, and the outlook is very grim. Still, you’ll rarely find Curtis Lewis without a great big smile on his face, even when he’s having a hard day.
This is one of those big bad huge-cube profarms from Wisconsin. Cody and Tyler Meister own this one together, and I’m proud to call those fellas my good friends.
I’ll bet I’ve taken a thousand photos of different 6030s, but this one will probably always be my favorite. The tractor belongs to Shawn Work, a friend of mine from Ohio. Since I took this photo in 2016, he’s done a LOT of work to this tractor, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it again in a few weeks!
This is literally the first tractor that made me cheer when it pulled on to the track. I was 8 at the time, and I was pretty sure Don and Kevin Masterson were the biggest rock stars in the universe. (I still think that, and I still feel like that 8-year-old kid walking into their trailer today.)
So that’s the wrap-up on the John Deere 6030, and why I think it’s the coolest tractor to wear green and yellow paint! Go bid on this one on Jake Rice’s sale so I’m not tempted to start spending money I don’t need to be spending!
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 them! I think they’re cool, and I hope you will, too. This is Interesting Iron!