Just how big can a company make a rubber-tired two-wheel drive tractor? If you presented this question to Deere and Company in 1950, some might have directed you to look at its model “R” as the answer to your question, as it was considered to be the pinnacle of two-wheel drive tractors at that time. Not everyone at Deere felt that way, though, and the size of the tractor and the power of its engine increased over the next decades as the need for it grew and the technology improved. Still, nobody really knew what the upper power limit was for a standard tread tractor.
Deere’s sales branches in small grain country had been reporting to Deere the fact that their customers were interested in tractors that had more power. Horsepower numbers of 75 or higher were considered to be easily within the range of what these farmers wanted and could use. Deere wanted to be there when tractors were putting out this kind of force, so the company did some testing of its own. The Engineering Department at Waterloo installed a 108 horsepower General Motors diesel engine in the robust Case “LA” tractor, put the largest wheels and tires that they could find on it, then sent it out to be tested. The results of this test were amazing to those who saw it and it was immediately recognized that not only could a tractor of this size be effective, but it would also be a great boon to large tract farmers.
As the years went on, Deere brought this power to the farmers, breaking 50 horsepower with the 80 and 75 with the 820. When the New Generation arrived, the big brute in its lineup, the 5010, showed up in 1962 and produced more than 120 horsepower and its progeny, the 5020, put out 133. This line of tractors kept John Deere at the forefront of design in the standard tractor class. The tractors had to be heavy enough to withstand all of the power that surged through them, as well as the major forces that large implements would put on them. Farmers wanted these big tractors not because it would allow them to get their work done in half of a day, but because they planned to get more work done in a year. Deere built these tractors knowing that fact and built them to withstand all of the abuse that they could imagine them receiving, plus a bit extra for good measure. Of course, building these tractors so heavy did not lead to any performance shortcomings, as the weight only served to improve their traction and pull. New ideas had to be put down to make these massive machines function so well and Deere even worked with tire engineers to create a new and larger tire size for the 5010.
The 5010 and 5020 did exactly what they were intended for, providing strong straight-ahead power and immense lugging ability to farmers in small grain country while exhibiting a characteristic of near indestructibility. These tractors were not the be-all and end-all, of course. Even though a row crop version of the 5020 was built, the weight and size largely kept it out of the game. Still, there were plenty of farmers interested in what the 5020 had to offer and plenty who wanted still more.
Deere began utilizing turbocharged engines in 1969 with the release of the 4520. The turbocharger not only allowed Deere to put more power into its tractors, it allowed them to do it with lighter weight and lower cost, making the tractor more affordable for the consumer. Of course, there was no reason why Deere couldn’t take its strongest tractor and make it still stronger using a turbocharger. So that is exactly what the company did.
Adding a turbocharger and intercooler to the 5020’s 531 cubic inch engine resulted in a machine easily capable of its 175 horsepower rating. This engine was the basis for Deere’s newest and largest two-wheel drive tractor, the 6030. Of course, a few changes had to be made to the engine to help it withstand the stresses associated with the addition of the turbocharger. The engine itself was bulked up a bit and the radiator, water pump and air cleaner were upgraded to keep the engine cool. In its standard operating outfit, the 6030 included a 1000 RPM PTO, dual hydraulic outlets, a hydraulically-actuated differential lock, a category 2/3 three-point hitch with a Quik-Coupler, deluxe seat, fuel gauge, adjustable front and rear axles, 18.4-38 inch 12 ply rear tires and 11.00-16 inch eight ply front tires. Many of these features could be left off by request of the purchaser, but most of the 6030s that were built came with the full suite. In its battle dress, the tractor weighed in at more than 18,000 pounds, but loads more weight could be added through various weight packages.
To transfer the energy from the engine to the wheels, the 6030 used the eight-speed Syncro-Range transmission. It is not known why a Power Shift transmission was not offered for the 6030, as Deere had some in hand for other brute force machines like its 760A scraper and the addition of a Power Shift transmission surely would have boosted sales. Perhaps Deere just wanted to be sure that the machine was just as stout as could be made and had more faith in the Syncro-Range.
Of course, an engine that big required a lot of fuel to operate and adding a turbocharger to the mix only made it guzzle that much more. Despite that fact, the 6030 exhibited a very respectable 15.82 horsepower hours per gallon of diesel when tested at Nebraska. To put this number in perspective, it is actually identical to the economy rating of the 4020 Syncro-Range. Of course, this number also means that the 6030 consumed more than 11 gallons of diesel per hour.
Like the 5020 before it, the 6030 was offered in two major chassis types, though the differences were negligible. Most of the tractors were outfitted as row crop machines, but a standard tread version of the 6030 was available, as well. The main differences between the two tractors were in the front axle, fenders and tires.
The 6030 was a top tier tractor, and as such, Deere offered a large list of options. A regular adjustable, extra wide adjustable or fixed tread front axle were available in the front. In the rear, the buyer got to choose from the regular rear axle, which offered a maximum tread width of 96 to 108 inches, a long axle allowing a width of 120 inches and an extra long axle for those who desired a width of 125 inches.
Tire choices were numerous: 11.00-16, 8.50-20, 14L-16A and 18.4-16A, each with multiple choices of tread design, were available in the front. In the rear, 18.4-38, 20.8-38, 24.5-32 and 30.5-32 tires could be worn. The smaller three sizes were also available as duals and the 6030 could have mixed duals made of 24.5-32 inch tires on the inside and 18.4-38 or 20.8-38 on the outside, as well. Most of these rear tire choices also had rice and cane tread tires available.
Optional Roll-Gard ROPS or Roll-Gard cabs with or without heaters and/or air conditioners were on the options list for the 6030. A third set of hydraulic outlets, an ether starting system, heaters for the tractor’s oil or water and radios were also optional.
Purchasing a 6030 often meant upgrading many of the implements on the farm. The 6030 may have been rated at 175 horsepower, but many who have used one would attest that number was a pretty low value, believing their 6030 to have well over 200 horsepower. Large tilling equipment was often no match for the 6030, which had the power to pull even nine-shank V-rippers with relative ease. Even when matched to a piece of equipment too large for it, the tractor would not go down without a fight. Stories have been told of well-weighted 6030s pulling so hard on stuck implements that they turned the tires right off their rims.
All of this power and ability was released to the excited public in March of 1972, alongside its four wheel drive counterpart, the 7520. Considering the size and cost of the tractor, the 6030 sold fairly well. It was a fairly specific audience that Deere was aiming at when it created the 6030, but the tractor that was built suited that audience to a tee. Those same farmers who came to Deere asking for more power in a standard tread tractor opened their wallets and went home happy men. The 6030 did everything that they had hoped.
For the next model year, Deere offered another option for the 6030 for cost-conscious consumers. It had been theorized that some farmers were shying away from the 6030 because it simply had too much power for them. These farmers might have liked everything else that the machine had to offer, but the power in the engine was too great and would have been simply too inefficient for them. For these farmers, Deere released a naturally aspirated version of the 6030. At 141 horsepower, this version of the tractor was still impressive in its capacity to get work done. This was one time that trying to save the customer money proved to be unsuccessful for Deere, though, and only 45 tractors outfitted with these engines were sold in its one year of production.
The production life of the 6030s lasted through 1977, when they were put away to make room for the 4840. The 4840 drew 180 horsepower out of its engine, but its lower displacement gave it a disadvantage should the contest come to low-end torque. That said, you just can’t fight change and the Power Shift and Sound-Gard body on the 4840 certainly would have given it the advantage to the paying public, so the 6030 was done. The 4840 could claim better, but not bigger.
The 6030 saw very few changes during the course of its production. The tractor was built primarily of existing and well-refined New Generation technology and, therefore, most of the kinks had been worked out in other models. The first 6030s utilized a camshaft-driven oil pump. After a bit of use in the field, though, some of these had issues, so the pump was modified to run off a gear on the rear of the crankshaft. The only other major changes were to the decoration of the tractor. Initially, the 6030 had the half-length 20 series “JOHN DEERE” plates on the sides of the hood and a model designating decal on the rear side shields. Starting with the 1973 model year, Deere decided to match the 6030 to the Generation II tractors and replaced the plates with the full-length stripe decal that had the model number at the front and the make near the middle. Some of the latest tractors also included a square medallion with a leaping deer at the front of the tractor.
The 6030 may be too big, heavy, or expensive for a lot of collectors and restorers, but its value as a collectible tractor should not be overlooked. The 6030 was the last New Generation tractor that was built by John Deere, lasting well into the Generation II era. It was also the largest two-wheel drive tractor of the era that was built by Deere or any other major company. You may never get to own one of these beasts, but if you get the chance to drive one, take it. The sound and feel of that big turbocharged 531 cubic inch engine will certainly get your heart racing.