In the late 1950s, John Deere made a change that brought their line of tractors well ahead of their competition. For over two decades, John Deere had used 2 cylinder gasoline engines in most of the tractors that rolled off its Iowa assembly lines. In 1959, all of this changed with the introduction of the John Deere 8010 with a General Motor’s produced 150 horsepower six cylinder diesel. While they only sold around 100 of the very expensive (for its time) 8010/8020 series, it was truly the beginning of something new. The next year, 1960, brought the John Deere models 2010 and 4010 tractors which came with a 4 cylinder or 6 cylinder gas or diesel engine. The “10 series” soon gave birth to the John Deere “20 series” also known as the “new generation series” in 1963, and with it the iconic John Deere 4020.
The 4020 came in several different engine types which included gas, LP fuel, and diesel. A number of configurations were offered: standard, high crop, row crop, and others. Both 2 wheel and 4 wheel drive were also available. Between 1963 and 1972 almost 185,000 4020s were manufactured, making it one of the most produced and iconic tractors ever made by John Deere. It was also one of the easiest to maintain and most reliable machines John Deere has built since 1960 until today.
With a modern horsepower rating of around 95-100, the 4020 is far from the most powerful tractor available to today’s farmers. That said, it is perfect for the small to medium size farm with 50 or more acres of crops to plant, fertilize, and harvest. The rear PTO is set up for both 540 and 1000 rpm, making the tractor highly versatile for a small to mid-size farmer. The 4020 is a tractor that performs field work well, but can, with the shift of a lever, be just as useful balling hay.
Over the past few years, the number of used 4020s that have sold have increased dramatically. The demand for fully restored and rebuilt 4020s is steadily increasing. A decade ago, one could find a used and rebuilt 4020 for less than $15,000. Today, one will be hard pressed to find a rebuilt and restored 4020 selling for less than $24,000. Most farm machinery experts, including Machinery Pete, believe the 4020s are not going to be decreasing in cost for the foreseeable future.
This makes perfect sense seeing that a brand new 100 horsepower row crop tractor will sell for at least 3 times the amount of a restored 4020. Purchasing a restored, like new, 4020 is in reality quite a bargain when compared to buying new. One downside to the old John Deere warhorse as compared to a new tractor is fuel economy. You are not going to get the same miles per gallon with the 4020. However, it’s not terrible, but it’s not great either.
I would be willing to bet over the next decade, we are going to see a continued trend of many small to mid-size farmers buying restored equipment of yesteryear. The 4020 is going to be around for a very long time. While not as new as the Iron Horse series from the 70s, the 4020s are just as reliable and have the numbers to cement their continued farm use for the next several decades.
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