The History of John Deere Engines: Our Diesel Debut (1949 – 1959)

This is the second blog post in a four-part series highlighting key moments in the history of John Deere engines. For more historical context, check out our first blog post in the History of John Deere Engines series: Our Early Engines.

In the 1890s, German engineer Rudolph Diesel dedicated himself to developing an internal combustion engine with superior efficiency.Within that groundbreaking decade, he conceived, patented and demonstrated the engine that would later bear his name— an engine that would become a dominant industrial power source around the world.

The efficiency and relatively simple design of Diesel’s compression-ignited engine quickly established a foundation for success. The engine was adopted as the primary power plant for submarines in World War I (1914 – 1918). In 1922, the first diesel engine with size and weight suitable for an automobile was built in Germany, greatly expanding application possibilities. Over the following decades, the technology developed into the primary power source for equipment on land and sea during World War II (1939 – 1945).

John Deere entered the new engine era in 1949. We had more than 30 years of experience developing off-highway engines when we built our first diesel engine that year — a 2-cylinder, 6.8L model for the Model “R” tractor. At 43 belt horsepower, the “R” was the most powerful tractor John Deere had ever built.

In 1953, we launched the Model 70 as the largest row-crop tractor to date. Originally available with gasoline, “all fuel,” or LP gas options, the Model 70 soon was offered with a diesel option and thus became the first John Deere diesel-powered row-crop tractor. In its Nebraska tractor test, the Model 70 diesel set a new industry fuel economy record, bettering all previously tested row crop tractors of all manufacturers.

John Deere began working on 4- and 6-cylinder engines in the 1950s, building toward the introduction of a new generation of power in the 1960s.

Visit again soon to learn about our debut 4- and 6-cylinder engines in Part 3 of our series looking at the history of John Deere engines.

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