The History of John Deere Engines: A New Generation of Power (1960 – 1989)

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

At the onset of the 1960s, a race to space was underway, which would drive a technology revolution in America. Thanks to that technological revolution, by the end of the decade the United States would put a man on the moon, and John Deere would become the leading manufacturer of agricultural equipment.

In 1960, John Deere introduced the 300 and 400 Series engines — our first in-line 4- and 6-cylinder gasoline, LP gas and diesel engines — in the model 1010, 2010, 3010 and 4010 tractors. Ranging from 36 to 84 power take-off (PTO) horsepower, the engines provided our “new generation of power” tractors with an excellent reputation for performance and reliability and enabled John Deere to move into the No. 1 position in the agricultural industry. Two years later, we launched the 500 Series engine — a 6-cylinder, 531 cubic-inch model — in the 5010 tractor. At 121 PTO hp, the 5010 was the first farm tractor with more than 100 hp at both the PTO and drawbar.

By 1969, diesel engines had become the basic power source in farm tractors due to diesel engine improvements, led in large part by the introduction of turbochargers. That year we introduced our first turbocharged diesel engine in our 4520 row-crop tractor.

The growing reputation of John Deere diesel engines for performance and reliability made them ideal power sources for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), so in 1972 John Deere began marketing diesel engines directly to the OEM market. One year later we would reach a major milestone by producing our 1 millionth diesel engine.

In 1987, John Deere celebrated its 150th anniversary. Four years later, after more than 70 years in the off-highway engine business, we would celebrate the production of our 3 millionth diesel engine.

In the decades to follow, off-highway diesel engine manufacturers would be faced with new challenges from regulations put forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to reduce emissions. John Deere’s rich off-highway engine heritage would provide the fundamental building blocks to meet those challenges in the coming decades.

Check back soon to read about our technology path to the future in Part 4 of our four-part series exploring the history of John Deere engines.

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