The world of agriculture was ready for a new tractor. In 1939, John Deere’s small tractor lineup consisted of the Model 62, the Model “L,” and the larger, newly introduced Model “H.” The “H” was heavier than the “L” and more expensive, but it could plant and cultivate two rows and was well received by customers. These models faced a new competitor when Ford marked its re-entry into the tractor business with the 9N. Boasting electric start and an exclusive 3-point hitch, Ford followed its standard practice of mass marketing at a cut-rate price. John Deere leaders knew that developing a new, innovative small tractor was essential.
Production halted because of war
Before this new tractor could become a reality, there were some challenges to overcome. First, in the midst of World War II, the U.S. War Production Board disallowed new product production in lieu of military production. Soon after, in 1942, Charles Deere Wiman left his post as president of Deere & Company to work with military equipment, eventually leading the farm machinery and equipment division of the War Production Board.
However, Wiman made it clear that research and development of the new tractor should continue in his absence.
The company followed his instructions and by the end of 1943, renowned industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, had drawn designs for an experimental Model 69 Tractor, what would become the Model “M.” By the next spring, a prototype was built and basic testing began in Moline, Ill. In March 1945, John Deere approved an expenditure of $100,000 to build 20 Model 69 Tractors.
A new factory in Dubuque
Where should this new tractor be built? This was the next question that needed to be addressed. Both the John Deere Waterloo and Moline factories lacked the capacity to handle the new line. Instead of expanding those factories, Deere & Company made a bigger leap. In early 1945 the company approved a plan to acquire 750 acres in Dubuque, Iowa, to build a new factory. Wiman, who had returned to the company at the end of the war, set the cornerstone on the new building and Dubuque Tractor Works opened in the fall of 1947. Production on the Model “M” began two years later.
Model “M” innovations
Following the styling of its bigger tractor counterparts, the Model “M” was a complete system of farming. The new “Touch-O-Matic” hydraulic control system mounted in front of the seat enabled the operator to raise, lower and adjust implement depth with one-touch control. The one-person “Quik-Tatch” implement system provided fast, efficient hitching that rivaled, and in many cases surpassed, the efficiencies of the 3-point hitch. Operators simply had to back up to their integral implements, insert one or two bolts and drive away. A new adjustable air-cushion seat with backrest and adjustable steering wheel offered modern operator comforts. These features are highlighted in the our Out of the Vault video, “What’s New in ’52.”
Serial Number: 10001
The first John Deere Model “M” Tractor, serial number 10001, was shipped to the Arizona ranch of Charles Deere Wiman on Apr. 1, 1947 at his request. By the end of production in 1952, nearly 88,000 “M” Tractors – including variations such as the “MI,” “MT” and “MC”- would find their way to farms, fields, orchards, and construction sites.
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