It’s the early sixties, and IHC has just gotten punched in the jaw with the dumpster fire that was the Farmall 560, the failing rear ends, and the biggest recall they’d ever issued. Some estimates push upwards of $19 million bucks ($167 million today) to deal with the fallout of that recall.
Harvester is bleeding and their backs are up against the wall…but they ain’t dead yet. In fact, they’re pretty salty. They know the 560 deal was their own dumb fault, they know what it cost them, and they’re tired of continually hearing about it.
Armed with a new CEO, a chip on their shoulder, and a point to prove, it was time to start punching back.
(You can queue up the theme from Rocky right now if you want…I’ll wait until the good part to start up again…)
Harry Bercher was the new CEO, and he was determined to get IH back on top. The 706 and 806 were the first all-new designs from Harvester in close to 30 years. Bercher told the engineers to make darn sure that they were built tough, and the engineers listened. They beat the everlovin’ snot out of those tractors, to the tune of about 75,000 hours of testing before the product launch.
They marketed the 806 as “the toughest tractor ever built,” and it was a heck of a mean right hook, too. One of the biggest reasons for the success of that tractor was the all-new D361 motor. It’s the single toughest motor that Harvester ever turned out. You couldn’t hardly kill ’em even if you tried. It was a beefy dry sleeve block that dissipated heat really well, which meant you could run ’em harder for longer periods of time without warping the block and blowing the head gasket. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to find 20,000 hour 806s that have never had the pan dropped or the head taken off!
(You 414/436 guys can argue with me all you want, but y’all know you overhaul those 66-series motors a lot more frequently than 20,000 hours even if you won’t admit it!) ?
The comeback of the decade
All in all, Harvester rolled nearly 43,000 806s out the door between 1963-1967. Not only that, they set annual sales records in every one of those years, too. From where I’m sitting, the 806 was the comeback story of the decade. We just talked about this in the office just a few minutes ago, and I made the comment that the 806 was the tractor that saved the company, and I believe that. Had the 806 been a flop, I think IHC would’ve likely imploded before the end of the decade.
In any case, it wasn’t a flop. Even though John Deere’s 4020 outsold the 806 by a pretty wide margin, the 806 made more power from less fuel in the Nebraska tests. It was brute of a tractor, and there’s a reason that even the Deere guys respect them.
This particular 806 is a 1965 IH model and until Tuesday, November 24, it lives at a ranch in Montana. It’s not perfect; the motor is locked up, it needs a new starter and batteries, and you’ll definitely want to put some new rubber on it, as the tires are cracked and I doubt they’ll last for much longer. Ultimately, though…for an owner who’s willing to give it some TLC, this could make a great tractor. The nice thing about these tractors is that parts are readily available. Even if the motor is locked up and it’s beyond repair, there are plenty of motor options available out there that fit in there pretty easily. The DT361, the D407, and the DT407 are all fairly common motor swaps. Additionally, there’s loads of information on the internet about how to do it right.
Finally, the 806 is a tractor with values that go all over the place. I checked our Iron Comps data, and we’ve seen them sell for a thousand bucks, and we’ve seen them sell for upwards of $20,000. This one is a true IH Wheatland model with no PTO or T/A. That does add to the rarity and collectability. Still, given the condition and its needs, I’d estimate that it’ll sell for the lower end of that spectrum. Maybe $3000-3500?
Note: If you have to rebuild a D361, you need to find a machine shop to do it. These are dry-sleeve blocks and you can’t just hammer them into place with a block of wood. The tolerances in the cylinders are very tight; sleeves need installed with a hydraulic press to get the heights exact. It pays to spend a little money here; take it to a machine shop that knows with these motors.
Sherry & her team at Heritage Iron wrote a really nice profile on the 806 a few years ago for their magazine. They do have reprints available here.
Diesel World Magazine wrote a nice piece about an 806 FWA at a tractor show a few years ago too. Good photos and some great information!
By now, y’all know that I have a thing for old tractor advertising. Here’s a few pieces that Harvester put out during the sixties for the 806 that are pretty cool! BTW, if you’re into this stuff, 3 Point Ink has a pretty cool book that focuses on IHC advertising. (It’s on my Christmas list if anybody’s shopping for me…) ?