Wessels Living History Farm - York Nebraska Farming in the 1950s-60s
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IH Farmall Tractors

International Harvester (IH) began the decade of the 50s as the dominant tractor manufacturer in the world, and they continued to introduce new and better models through the '60s. But internal problems hurt their sales and IH slipped from number one in market share to number two behind John Deere by the end of the '60s.

The 1950s began with IH replacing their "Letter Models" – the venerable Models A, B, C and F series – with the "Number Series" models. With each new series between 1950 and 1969, the number of models increased and the horsepower of each increased as well.

  International Harvester Tractor Models 1950-70  
  • In the early 50s, IH introduced the Super Letter series – the Super A had been introduced in 1947 with around 17 HP and a hydraulic lift. The Super C came in 1951 with 23 HP and the two-point "fast hitch." In 1953, the Super H and Super M replaced the "ordinary" H and M with 30 and 44 HP respectively. In 1954, the Super M-TA – for Torque Amplifier – introduced power steering to tractors and later IH and other manufacturers' models included the convenience feature.
  • The Farmall Cub continued as the bottom of the line from 1947 to '58 sporting just under 10 HP.
  • The number series began in 1954, when the Farmall 200 replaced the Super C with 22 HP. A year later, the 100 replaced the Super A with 18 HP, the 300 replaced the Super H with 35 HP, and the 400 replaced the Super M with 48 HP.
  • In 1956, the model number and horsepower increased from the top to the bottom of the line. The Model 450 upped the top of the line power to 51 HP. The 350 had 39 HP, the 230 had 27 HP, and the 130 had 21 HP.
  • In 1957, one of the longest running models was introduced. The Farmall 140 anchored the bottom the IH line from 1957 to 1979. It was intended for small operations with 21 HP.
  • In 1958, IH introduced models that could run on different fuels, like gasoline, diesel or LP gas. The Farmall 560 had between 57-61 HP depending on fuel. The Farmall 460 had between 47-50 HP. The Farmall 340 had between 32 and 39 HP. The Farmall 240 had 28 HP.
  • By 1961, the tractor industry and their customers – the farmers – had reached a consensus that the Ford-Ferguson three-point hitch system was the best way to attach implements to the tractors. IH abandoned their own two-point hitch system for the three point with the introduction of the Models 404 and 504 with 36 and 45 HP respectively.
  • In 1963, the maximum horsepower offered by IH almost doubled. The Farmall 1206 replaced the 560 with a maximum of 113 HP from a turbocharged diesel engine, compared the previous high of 61 HP. The line was filled out by the Model 806 at 94 HP, the 706 with 73 HP, and the 606 with around 50 HP.
  • In 1976, the model numbers and horsepower numbers continued to go up. The Farmall 1256 sported 116 HP, the 856 had 100 HP, the 756 had around 75 HP, the 656 had 65 HP, and the 544 had 53 HP.
  • Finally, the 60s were ushered out with the Model 1456 at 132 HP and the 826 at around 90 HP. Both models were marketed between 1969 and '72.

  IH Farmall 400 Tractor  
In 1951, the Farmall line had reached a milestone – the one-millionth tractor rolled off the production line. At that time, the factory was producing 306 tractors a day, and International Harvester was the number one tractor manufacturer in the world.

But that same year, the IH board of directors replaced CEO Fowler McCormick (a descendant of the founder Cyrus McCormick) with John McCaffrey. McCaffrey was a good engineer and pushed IH to increase its share of the construction equipment market. But he also decreased the company's spending on product testing.

In 1958, IH introduced the Farmall 460 and 560 with more horsepower than their predecessors. But the company didn't extensively test the transmissions for those models. Before long, farmers were coming back to dealers reporting that after around 300 hours of heavy usage, the drives on their tractors were failing.

Terry Schrick InterviewIH engineers worked overtime to fix the problems, and the 460 and 560 tractors are among the most reliable vintage machines today. But a lot of damage had been done to the reputation of the leading manufacturer. By 1958, IH had been overtaken by John Deere as the leading tractor manufacturer in the world.

Brand loyalty is a strong theme for farmers. "Dad was an International man," says Terry Schrick. "We had to have that red! We always said the John Deere's was so you could hide them in the ditch with the trees, you know."

Terry says that the increasing size of tractors and implements was the biggest technological change for farmers in the last half century, and his Dad saw it all. "He lived to 96 and one day. So, he got to see a lot of changes, and that was special," Terry says. But his Dad had his limits. When Terry's brother got a new, large tractor, Terry asked his Dad if he would drive it. "He was getting up in age, and he said, 'No.' And that was not the last verse. He said, 'When the ground shakes underneath you, I'm not going to drive that thing.' Now, that's a small tractor compared to what we see today."

Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First published in 2006. A partial bibliography of sources is here.


 

John Deere Tractors


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