The 806: Harvester comes out swinging...

Want to own the toughest tractor ever built, according to International Harvester? Here is one for sale in Montana.

Let’s set the stage a little bit here before we start talking about the 806.

It’s the early ’60s, and IHC has just gotten punched in the jaw with the dumpster fire that was the Farmall 560, the failing rear ends, and the biggest recall they’d ever issued. Some estimates push upwards of $19 million bucks ($167 million today) to deal with the fallout of that recall.

Harvester is bleeding and their backs are up against the wall . . . but they ain’t dead yet. In fact, they’re pretty salty. They know the 560 deal was their own dumb fault, they know what it cost them, and they’re tired of continually hearing about it.

Armed with a new CEO, a chip on their shoulder, and a point to prove, it was time to start punching back.

(You can queue up the theme from Rocky right now if you want…I’ll wait until the good part to start up again…)

International’s CEO orders “Build ’em tough!”

Harry Bercher was the new CEO, and he was determined to get IHC back on top.

The 706 and 806 were the first all-new designs from Harvester in close to 30 years. Bercher told the engineers to make darn sure that they were built tough, and the engineers listened. They beat the everlovin’ snot out of those tractors, to the tune of about 75,000 hours of testing before the product launch.

1967 IHC Farmall 806 a

They marketed the 806 as “the toughest tractor ever built,” and it was a heck of a mean right hook, too. One of the biggest reasons for the success of that tractor was the all-new D361 motor. It’s the single toughest motor that Harvester ever turned out. You couldn’t hardly kill ’em even if you tried. It was a beefy dry sleeve block that dissipated heat really well, which meant you could run ’em harder for longer periods of time without warping the block and blowing the head gasket. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to find 20,000-hour 806s that have never had the pan dropped or the head taken off!

(You 414/436 guys can argue with me all you want, but y’all know you overhaul those 66-series motors a lot more frequently than 20,000 hours even if you won’t admit it!)  

The comeback of the decade

All in all, Harvester rolled nearly 43,000 806s out the door between 1963 and 1967. Not only that, they set annual sales records in every one of those years, too.

From where I’m sitting, the 806 was the comeback story of the decade. We just talked about this in the office just a few minutes ago, and I made the comment that the 806 was the tractor that saved the company, and I believe that. Had the 806 been a flop, I think IHC would’ve likely imploded before the end of the decade.

In any case, it wasn’t a flop. Even though John Deere’s 4020 outsold the 806 by a pretty wide margin, the 806 made more power from less fuel in the Nebraska tests. It was brute of a tractor, and there’s a reason that even the Deere guys respect them.

IHC 806 Tractor Zoom
TractorZoom.com

This particular 806 is a 1965 IH model and until Tuesday, November 24, it lives at a ranch in Montana. It’s not perfect; it needs a new starter and batteries, and you’ll definitely want to put some new rubber on it.

Ultimately, though . . . .for an owner who’s willing to give it some TLC, this could make a great tractor. The nice thing about these tractors is that parts are readily available. Even if the motor is locked up and beyond repair (I don’t think this one is, for what it’s worth), there are plenty of motor options available out there that fit in there pretty easily.  The DT361, the D407, and the DT407 are all fairly common motor swaps. Additionally, there’s loads of information on the internet about how to do it right.

Finally, the 806 is a tractor with values that go all over the place. I checked our Iron Comps data, and we’ve seen them sell for a thousand bucks, and we’ve seen them sell for upwards of $20,000.

This one is a true IH Wheatland model with no PTO or T/A. That does add to the rarity and collectability. Still, given the condition and its needs, I’d estimate that it’ll sell for the lower end of that spectrum. Maybe $3,000 to $3,500?

Note: If you have to rebuild a D361, you need to find a machine shop to do it. These are dry-sleeve blocks and you can’t just hammer them into place with a block of wood. The tolerances in the cylinders are very tight; sleeves need installed with a hydraulic press to get the heights exact. It pays to spend a little money here; take it to a machine shop that knows with these motors.

Ryan Roossinck
TractorZoom.com

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!

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