John Deere’s 8000 series: The last green tractor anybody will collect?
Deere's 8000 series tractors were game-changers for a handful of reasons. Personally, I think they were some of the very best that ever came from Waterloo, Iowa. We'll get into the story in a minute, but let's get the details on an absolute unicorn of an 8100 selling at a Sullivan auction on July 26.
Auction Date: July 26, 2022 – 10 a.m. CDT (Online bidding is open now.)
Auctioneer: Sullivan Auctioneers
Format: Online – Lots begin closing at 10 a.m. CDT
Location: Old Shawneetown, Illinois
I would be shocked if this isn't one of the top ten low-hour 8000-series tractors on the planet. Hit the photo to see the details and lots more photos!
Nothing stops a Deere like a Magnum
(I've always wanted to use that in one of these columns!)
For close to 20 years, John Deere had done really well with the Sound Gard tractors; they sold well when farming was good, and sustained the company during the rough times of the 80s. They held the top spot in the equipment market through quite a bit of the 80s because of those tractors, which had been incrementally improved multiple times. However, in Racine, Wisconsin, Case IH was getting the newly formed company together, and they had one goal – beat Deere.
They had the tractor to do it with, too. When the boxcar Magnums rolled out, the game changed quite a bit. The new 7100-series tractors were powerful, well-built tractors that not only looked good but were comfortable and roomy. It sold well, and while Deere still held the horsepower advantage, it was only a matter of time before the red guys got comfortable with the 8.3 Cummins and started turning up the wick, which they did in 1990 with the 7150.
Boxcar Magnums were stout competitors to Deere's 55 and 60 series tractors. This 9,300-hour 7140 sold for $38,000 at a Wilkinson auction in early April this year. Hit the photo to shop Magnums!
Deere's response would be a completely new, clean-sheet design. Sort of.
The 8000 series clean-sheet design
It actually wasn't all that clean to start with.
Here's your useless trivia for the day. That envelope was donated to the Smithsonian archives, according to MachineFinder! Hit the photo to learn more about it!
Some of the best ideas in history were sketched out on bar napkins and scraps of paper — and in Deere's case, it was an airline ticket envelope. According to a timeline/blog post from MachineFinder's Terrill Woods, one of Deere's design engineers, began playing with an idea for an MFWD row-crop tractor with a super-tight turning radius. The sketches on that envelope were the basis for the 8000-series tractors released in August of 1994 for the 1995 model year. The focus was on operator comfort and handling.
- READ MORE: The John Deere 4960: I can see clearly now
How to make a tractor turn on a dime
I've written about John Deere's Caster/Action on a couple of occasions. It was a system that tilted the front wheels a few degrees to help tighten up the turning radius a little bit. It appeared on the 50-series tractors first. By the early 90s, it was a mature feature that worked well. However, the problem Deere's engineers were running into at this point was you could only tilt and turn the wheels so far before you started rubbing up against the frame.
This time around, though, there was a plan. By moving the motor and the transmission forward and higher in the tractor, they could make enough room that the wheels could tuck under the frame when turning around. At the end of the day, the motor ended up moving 10 inches up and 44 inches forward from where it was in the Sound Gard tractors. That was a massive move! It gave them a tighter turning radius than any other big-frame row-crop on the market — even New Holland's Genesis tractors with SuperSteer couldn't touch them!
If this 4450 was an MFWD, it'd be pretty easy to see how the wheels would hit the frame, and the bottom of the motor. (Hit the photo to shop Sound Gard tractors.)
I didn't have an 8000-series die cast for this one, but the same principle applies. The motor moving up and forward makes a lot more room.
Moving all that around in the tractor gave Deere enough room to skinny up the back half of the hood following a principle called "wasp waist" to give the operator better crop visibility than ever before.
Comparing the 4450's slab-sides to the 8RX410's skinny waist, it's not hard to see how much better the visibility was in the 8000-series tractors (where the concept was introduced).
But that's not where they stopped pushing things forward. The cab moved forward too, which helped the stability and the ride quality for the operator.
Here's our trusty 4450 and 6210R. The cab is a lot further forward on the new tractor!
At the end of the day, 8000-series design created a very well-balanced tractor that rode pretty well. For its size, it was probably the most maneuverable tractor on the market.
Command all the things
The CommandView Cab was a pretty major shift in design. It offered more room and better visibility than anything Deere had ever built.
The CommandView Cab was another major shift in design. I don't think Deere had ever built a bigger cab for their tractors. The brochures said 65% more cab space than ever before, and that made life a lot more comfortable for the operator. Furthermore, the front windshield offered a completely unobstructed view of the field ahead the Sound Gard cabs never could. That front windshield is over 20 square feet of glass!
The other major in-cab innovation wasn't necessarily new, but it was a new implementation.
CommandARM was a system introduced in the 9500 combine back in 1989 that moved all the major machine controls to the right armrest. It had gone over fairly well, so Deere's engineers adapted it for the 8000-series. Most of the guys I know who farm with these tractors really like it.
The CommandARM coupled with moving the dashboard (so to speak) over to the right made the exit/entry to the cab a lot easier. (Compared to the rocket ship monitors and touch screens today, this looks awfully basic, doesn't it?)
Power and putting it to the ground
For the early 8000 series, there were two engines available. The 8100, 8200, and 8300 used a turbocharged and intercooled 466 just like the late Sound Gard tractors did. The 8100s were rated at 177 HP, the 8200s at 200 HP, and the 8300s at 222 HP. The 8400, however, used a new 497 cubic inch turbocharged and intercooled engine (It's commonly known as the 8.1L PowerTech.) rated at 250 HP, and in 1997, the rest of the 8000-series machines began using it as well.
Both motors were stout, with a pretty good reputation for longevity. I personally know at least a half dozen guys running those PowerTech engines with well over 15,000 hours on them. Harnessing the power was an all-new 16-speed power shift transmission, which has proven to be pretty bulletproof over the past 27 years.
How'd they sell?
Like hotcakes. Deere had a winner on their hands from the word go. I don't know actual sales numbers, but they couldn't make them fast enough!
The 8100 you can buy on July 26
If you want to buy a brand spanking new 8000 series, this is about as close as you'll get in 2022. Hit the photo to get the scoop.
I won't swear to this, but I'm about certain this is the lowest-houred John Deere 8100 left on the planet. If there's one that has fewer hours, I'll bet Deere owns it. With 113 verified hours on the meter, if you want a "new" 8000-series, this is the tractor you're buying.
Quite frankly, it's a unicorn. The man who bought it new in 1994 as a 1995 model literally only put 113 hours on it. I'll bet the crew at Sullivan Auctioneers has put more time on the tractor just getting it ready for the sale than Edmund Bickett did in the few years prior to his passing in 2017.
Why didn't it ever get used?
I wondered the same thing. So I called Cody Holst, the man who's handling the auction for Sullivan, and asked him what the story was. He told me Bickett had a lot of irons in the fire, and he had done well with a bunch of businesses he owned. From the sounds of it, there weren't enough hours in the day to use the machines he had, so some of them just never ended up getting used. For instance, there's a 2010 Chevy Z71 that's only got 1,945 miles on it on this sale. There's also a very nice John Deere 6410 set up as a loader tractor that's only got 205 hours on it, and a 1998 Case 590 Super L backhoe with only 417 hours on it! They're all in beautiful shape, and just never ended up seeing much use.
As far as the 8100 goes, "It had been sitting for a while when we catalogued it, so we weren't completely sure what we were getting into," Holst says. "We had the local Deere dealer give it a once-over to make sure it was going to be safe to operate, and after a fluid flush, they gave it the green light. We started it a few times to move it around for photos and what-not, and it's never thrown a code or given us any hesitation. It fires right up every time!"
So, there you have it. Sometimes life happens, and stuff doesn't get used like you'd expect it to.
While the Deere dealer was looking this 8100 over, they also installed a new cab kit. Touch/click the photo to see more.
Is it collectible?
Depending on who you ask, the 8000 series (and 8000-Ten) tractors were the absolute pinnacle of John Deere's manufacturing. They integrated new technology, but it's not so computer-controlled that it takes a service call to fix them. You can still fix a lot of the stuff that goes wrong on these tractors with hand tools. However, this might be the last generation of John Deere tractors farmers will still bond with. Here's why.
The farmers in my grandpa’s generation were really the last ones to have strong brand loyalty. If they were raised on green, they bought green until the day they called it quits. If my family had been corn and soybean growers, there's a good chance an 8000-series would have been the last new tractor grandpa ever purchased from a Deere dealer. For that reason alone, a few of us grandsons would have a special place in our hearts for that tractor.
Here's the thing, though. After my grandpa’s generation, brand loyalty really started to go away. A lot of farmers in my dad’s generation had a preference, but, at the end of the day, they needed a tool to accomplish a task. If a tool of another color was the right fit for the farm, then that's what came home.
So yes, at the end of the day, I do think some of the 8000-series Deeres will end up in collections, but I think these will be some of the last ones farmers collect.
What's it worth?
I think this tractor will probably end up selling for pretty close to $100K. 8000 series Deeres tend to hold their value really well. (For reference, the bid sits at $66,500 as I write this column.)
It's a beautiful tractor for sure, and as close to original as you could possibly get. It's a tractor you can work on yourself. Most Deere guys I know are pretty well-versed with the 466 because it's been around since the 40-series that came out the year I was born. It's been given a clean bill of health by the local dealership. It's got a fresh cab kit (27 years destroys foam, no matter where you park it), and it's only got 113 hours on it. I'm fairly sure this will end up as a working tractor, too, so all of those things are important.
There are a few things that hold it back from being one of those crazy sales everybody talks about for the next 25 years, too.
- It's a 2WD. The 8000-series was built specifically with MFWD in mind, and the majority of them were built that way. So, while this is a low-hour unicorn, it's got a more limited use-case on the farm. It would make a terrific baling rig, but it probably won't work for tillage or planting unless you're pulling an 8-row.
- It's an early tractor. Not in the sense that early serial numbers suffered from some kind of issue per se, but this one does have the smaller engine. The tractors from 1997 to 1999 had the 8.1L PowerTech, and those are typically better sellers.
- The 12-13 shift. Power shift transmission in these tractors is great, but the 1995 to 1996 models were notorious for having a rough 12-13 shift. Dealerships can calibrate these transmissions, but as far as I'm aware, there's no permanent fix other than to teach the operator to either clutch that shift or idle down. I believe later models had bigger o-rings that helped that shift a lot.
- The rear tires. DynaTorques are best in fairly dry, sandy soil, as far as I know. The general opinion is that they're not the best tire for heavy clay, which we have a lot of here in the Midwest.
Wrapping it all up
Do I think it'll be a record setting sale? Absolutely. Do I think it'll end up in a collection? Probably not yet. The 8000-series tractors are rapidly approaching 30 years old, but for a lot of you (myself included), they don't seem that old. For that reason, I think it'll end up working on a farm, which, to me, is where it should be!
If you end up buying it, I'd love to hear from you. Tell me what you're going to do with it.
Here's the auction details one more time:
Auction date: July 26, 2022 – 10 a.m. CDT (Online bidding is open right now.)
Auctioneer: Sullivan Auctioneers
Format: Online – Lots begin closing at 10 a.m. CDT
Location: Old Shawneetown, Illinois
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!