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Hoosier Perspectives: In this edition of Tractor Treasures: John Deere’s celebration exhibit for the Model D, paired with the 9R 640 tractor, dropped jaws and brought out cameras, smiles, and even a few tears.

Tom J. Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

December 18, 2023

2 Min Read
A John Deere Model D tractor and a 9R 640 tractor on display at an exhibition
2 WORLDS: What would a farmer who first drove the Model D think if he saw the 9R 640 tractor in the background today? Photos by Tom J. Bechman

How to attract attention to your exhibit at the Farm Progress Show? Bring in a century-old tractor in working clothes, and then park one of the biggest tractors made, new and shiny, behind it. Then sit back and watch people pour in, smiling, sometimes shedding a tear, and taking pictures of both machines.

John Deere worked this formula to perfection when it celebrated the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the John Deere Model D and featured the John Deere 9R 640 on tracks at the same time in its exhibit at the 2023 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill.

The Model D was first released to the public in 1923. Rated at 34 hp and capable of pulling over 3,000 pounds, it was John Deere’s first mass-produced tractor. Deere made the Model D for 30 years, with the last one rolling off the line in 1953. Some 160,000 Model D tractors were produced over that record-long run.

According to, it was a three-plow, standard-tread tractor that produced 38 hp in official tests, belting out a nifty 42 belt-pulley hp in testing. It had three gears and featured an 8.2-liter, two-cylinder, all-fuel engine. In 1953, you could purchase one of those last Model D tractors for $2,124.

Tom J. Bechman - A rear view of a John Deere Model D tractor

Meet Goliath

Now look at the John Deere 9R 640. According to Deere statistics, it is rated at 640 hp, but capable of producing 691 maximum hp. This four-wheel-drive giant weighs 56,981 pounds, compared to 5,000 pounds for the Model D.

While the D pulled 3,000 pounds, the 9R 640, according to, can be configured with the proper hitch to pull 10 tons. Compared to three speeds on the Model D, the 9R 640 features a John Deere e18, 18-speed Power Shift transmission with Efficiency Manager, with a top speed of 25 miles per hour.

Remember that $2,124 price for a new Model D in 1953? According to, typical list price for a new 9R 640 on tracks is around $750,000.

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About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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