The 8820 Flagship of Deere’s Titan Combines

“Sent an 8820 down the road yesterday. Father bought it with 100 hours, probably in 1987 or ’88. I can remember when the truck brought it in the yard. It was a very dependable machine. With 6,000-plus hours, the head was never off the engine. Only major engine problems were a leaking oil pan gasket and rear crank seal. Oil pan gasket leaked first time in the field with only 100 hours. Engine had to come out, took probably another 15 years for the rear crank seal. I’m not a dog guy but it is almost what I would imagine it is like when a good ol’ pooch goes. I had to rub my hand on the side of her before I left. Tried to sell it locally all summer, but no bites. Went to a used equipment guy. Semi was straight out of Mexico. About now, she might be crossing the border. Driver said it was going four hours into Mexico. Bought a different combine last winter and just couldn’t store another one in the shed. That ol’ girl pretty much put me through college. Hard to imagine all the nuts and bolts a guy turns on a machine in nearly 30 years. Was a huge upgrade from a 105 back in the day.

— A North Dakota farmer

Harvest season is a time full of pressure. Many farms and farmers are pushed to their maximum limit, and hired (or family) help is the most present during this time of year. After careful planning and planting, praying for rain but dodging severe storms, monitoring the plants to keep pests and disease at bay and patiently waiting for the crop to dry down for harvest, nobody wants to lose crop that is ready to harvest. Waiting can cause losses due to animals, weather or the crop simply falling to the ground. Time is of the essence at harvest and, in 1979, Deere had a way to help the farmer get the most out of his time come fall.

Deere’s new lineup of combines, named the Titans, showed an increase of capacity of about 20 percent across the board, when compared to the previous line. The flagship of the Titans was the all-new 8820, a machine which Deere advertised as being capable of 45 percent more work than the outgoing 7700. This was an enormous (titanic, even) jump in the amount of crop that a single combine could harvest in a day and it significantly opened up the bottleneck that was harvest time. Now, a single operator was less restricted by what he could get done at harvest, opening up the potential of farming more acres.

The new 8820 sported a turbocharged and intercooled version of the 466 cubic inch engine. It produced 200 horsepower, keeping the machine turning as it churned its way through a field at record speeds. Deere’s eight row corn head was the largest made for an 8820 and it quickly lapped up what that head could bring in. The improved separator in the new Titan series helped to ensure that all of the grain was collected from the chaff and the revised cab kept the operator comfortable.

A number of refinements were made to improve the separating ability of the combine. One more bar was added to the concave, allowing it to wrap farther up the back of the cylinder to increase separating area. This change also made it so that the crop was fed into the beater more directly, improving its ability. The cylinder was 65-1/2 inches wide, a full 10-1/2 inches more than the 7720, and the concave covered 1,377 square inches. The straw walkers were lengthened to 150 inches on all of the Titans, including the 8820, which had six. This extra length gave the combine more time to shake grain out of the chaff and provided a total area of 9,867 square inches. The cleaning shoe encompassed 6,799 square inches. The combine was also equipped with a feederhouse reverser. Pulling a handle and running the feederhouse allowed the operator to power plugs out of the combine, rather than having to pull them out by hand.

The 8820 came with planetary final drives as standard equipment. The extra strength that these drives provided certainly helped to tow around the combine’s weight—more than 18 tons when completely loaded. It also allowed the combine to be equipped with dual wheels in the front, providing more flotation and less compaction in the field. When conditions got particularly bad, the 8820 could also be equipped with rear wheel drove, allowing it to power out of soft spots.

The operator of the 8820 found himself in Deere’s first Sound-Gard cab on a combine. All of the features that made the Sound-Gard body so popular on Deere’s tractors were now standard equipment on their combines. The cab sat on six rubber mounts to protect it from the noise and vibration of the rest of the machine and an inch of open space was placed between the cab and the engine firewall to buffer noise from the engine. Inside, the cab was upholstered in foam to reduce sound reverberations. Full-height windows provided great visibility to the front and sides.

A new digital tachometer kept you informed on the engine speed and could be cycled to give readouts of ground speed, header driveshaft RPM and separator fan speed. Gauges and warning lights monitored every sensitive part of the combine and the system called out with a loud buzz when a part had stopped or slowed to below working range. Nine lights brightened the night to keep the farmer at work as the autumn days got shorter and the Personal-Posture seat helped to keep his back from getting too stiff.

When it came time to service the combine, the farmer would find it to be an easier job than with his older combine. There was not as much frequent servicing to be done on the 8820 as there had been on previous machines, but that which remained was made easier by the fact that 13 of the hard-to-reach grease fittings were put on grease banks to make things easier. There were still a few that required a long reach and impressive flexibility, however. The precleaner never required servicing and a door in the grain tank made servicing the air cleaner simple. Each combine came with a dump-type stone trap as standard equipment.

Options for the 8820 included tires in sizes all the way up to the new 73 by 44-32 inch tire. These tires provided 40 percent more footprint than the standard 30.5-32 inch tires and were particularly helpful in muddy fields. An optional HarvesTrak monitor kept track of how much material was in various parts of the combine, letting you know if you were over- or under-loading the separator. A straw chopper or straw spreader was available for the back end of the 8820. Dial-A-Matic header height control was another option, allowing the operator to adjust the ground pressure of a row crop head or flexible platform. With Dial-A-Matic, the combine would automatically adjust the height of the head to respond to changes in the terrain. A platform suspension system consisting of an accumulator was optional with or without the Dial-A-Matic. It worked to soften abrupt changes in platform ground pressure. An extra long unloading auger, a spotlight, a rotary-screen trash guard, a fire extinguisher and mounting bracket for just outside the cab door and a few types of radios were also on the options list.

The 8820 was Deere’s flagship, but never its best seller. Many acres were needed to justify an 8820 and some who purchased it confessed to a bit of buyer’s remorse. Not because the 8820 was a bad machine—quite the opposite, in fact. The 8820 could harvest so quickly that it easily outstripped many farmers’ ability to get the grain from the field to the bin. The grain tank held 222 bushels, meaning that it could fill many trucks in two loads or less. Couple your 8820 with an eight row corn head and good yields and your time harvesting could quickly turn into time waiting for the truck driver to get back. The simple solution for that was to buy a bigger truck or more of them, of course, but after buying a new combine, it might have been hard to make that purchase.

Those who needed the 8820 and its capacity found the machine to be all that they could ask for. They were very capable machines at the top of their class, and when put to work, they did it with ease. The big 466 was a very reliable engine with plenty of torque to keep the combine running smoothly even with a separator full of material.

Deere had even more capacity in store for the 8820 in 1981. A few modifications, including an improved injection pump, brought the engine up to 225 horsepower. Now the 8820 had the power to run Deere’s new 12 row corn head, the first in the industry. This gave farmers of narrow row corn the option of mowing down 50 percent more crop at a time. The combine was certainly suited for a head this big, as there were very few, if any, conditions in which the 8820 would hesitate when harvesting eight rows. The clean grain elevator on the machine was expanded at this time, as well. Previously, it was the same size as that on the 7720; the combine’s expanded capacity made this change necessary.

A few more minor improvements were made over the next couple of years, including the adoption of an adjustable heavy duty rear axle, replacing the fixed one used previously. In 1984, the Titan series was updated to the Titan II combines. The 8820 Titan II had a range of updates that improved it over the Titan. A dual-range cylinder drive offered more effective cylinder speeds for better separation of a wide range of crops. Rasp bars on the cylinder were made of hardened chrome to last longer. The concave was strengthened, as was the beater. The chaffer and sieve were each lengthened by six inches, providing 7,498 square inches of cleaning area, and now shook 20 percent faster to improve grain cleaning. Deere claimed that these two improvements increased the capacity of the cleaning shoe by 25 percent. The HarvesTrak monitor became standard equipment at this time.

Farmers’ opinions of the 8820 were all extremely positive. At the time, the combine was ahead of the competition in terms of what it could get done in a day, which was exactly what those farmers who were at maximum capacity needed. As time went on, the 8820 proved that it was built to work hard and long, and many reports of the machine surpassing 6,000 hours without any major work done are very common. The 8820 was “built like a tank,” farmers said, and warm recollections of the autumns spent in an 8820, like those in the quote at the start of this article, are not hard to come by. After 35 harvest seasons, the Titan II combines live on, working alongside their much newer brethren. Model 8820s purr along in many fields across the country each year, helping farmers get their crop in before winter arrives.