If you have read this column over the years you probably remember reading about one of my family's vintage iron tractors, a 1935 John Deere D. My dad and uncle fully restored this, their dad's, tractor around 20 years ago after it sat for 40 years.
The fact my grandpa even owned a D is pretty interesting as most farmers in eastern Nebraska at the time were more likely to have As and Bs. He also owned those over the years. We figure he had this D because his brother owned a local sand pit business and maybe this was a machine Great Uncle Ed had bought and then sold to his brother.
Recently on Twitter someone had a link to an online estate sale which featured many vintage John Deere tractors. The main picture was a rusty John Deere D, which looked a lot like ours, so I clicked into the page.
All of these tractors were still in their "work clothes" and many didn't run. So most current bids were in the hundreds or low thousands of dollars.
All but this D.
This tractor had a current bid of $13,000. It said right in the description that it was stuck.
My first thought was "why in the world is this D bringing so much money compared to the other tractors?" After re-reading the description, I found my answer.
This D was called an "Exhibit B D". For once I didn't turn to the internet for information but my bookshelf in my home office. I found the book "The Big Book of John Deere Tractors" by Don MacMillan to find the answer.
The John Deere D had the longest run of any model of John Deere tractor, from 1923 to 1953. Like the other Deere tractors of the time, they featured unstyled and styled versions.
According to the book, by 1928 a decision was made to upgrade the D and in the fall of that year 96 experimental "Exhibit A" tractors were built. These tractors featured a three-speed gearbox, steel platforms, improved fenders, an enclosed PTO and right-hand steering.
The D's production doubled in 1929 but the Great Depression also started that year so these proposed modifications never made it to the production line.
John Deere was determined to improve the D and in the summer of 1930 the company manufactured another 50 tractors dubbed "Exhibit B" tractors. The engine was beefed up, its speed increased from 800 to 900 rpm and both the steering and PTO positions from the "Exhibit A" tractors were used.
From serial model number 109944 most of the Exhibit A and B modifications were adopted on the D except the three-speed transmission, according to the book. So this particular D on this sale is only one of 50 tractors ever made -- which is why it is set to bring WAY more money than a D would normally bring.
Deere continued to experiment with different features on the D. Again, according to the book, another 10 machines had crawler half-tracks in place of the rear wheels, a few became DOs (orchard tractors) and three were fitted with full tracks.
These experiments obviously never made it to production. Can you imagine the value one of these extremely rare tractors?
The final unstyled version of the D was introduced in 1934 and these tractors finally featured the three-speed transmission which were first on the "Exhibit" tractors. Rubber tires were becoming more common by now and this pushed the adoption of the third gear, the book stated.
Our D is 1935 model and thus it features the additional features from the "Exhibit" tractors, except for a PTO shaft. Family history says the tractor was originally on steel but it was converted over to rubber at some point and my grandpa really just used it to plow in the spring.
One more interesting tidbit about our D. We had to replace the front tires when we restored it but the back tires were still good despite the fact they are probably 75 years old and they sat in same spot in the Nebraska soil for several decades.
Needless to say, my grandpa got his money out of those tires!
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