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The IH Black Stripe: Dressing up the 66-Series

Author

Ryan Roossinck

June 20, 2024

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International Harvester’s 66-Series was far and away their most popular line of the “modern” era. It really was a runaway success, and whether you love ’em or hate ’em, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t an iconic machine.

However, by the spring of 1975, IH worried that sales would fall off as farmers anticipated a new model. The 86-Series – which would be available with Harvester’s first factory-built cab – was on the horizon, but it wouldn’t be introduced for another year and a half as part of the 1977 model year. They still had lots of 66s to build, and IH needed to keep up the forward momentum.

So what do you do with a classic design to kick it up a notch?

Well, first you hire the right guy for the job.

Gregg Montgomery

Gregg Montgomery left Ford’s Automotive Styling & Design team to sign on with International Harvester in March of 1975. He’d been with Ford for a few years and had a fair amount of experience styling the F-series dent-side pickups. So, when the 66-Series refresh project came across the desk of Bob Skyer, head of IH’s industrial design, he gave it to Montgomery as a first project.

I’ve never met Gregg Montgomery in person, but if I were in his shoes, I’d have been a little unnerved by the task. I mean, even back in the seventies, the 66-Series was heralded as a modern classic. The idea of re-styling that tractor would’ve been a pretty tall order!

Nevertheless, Gregg got to work. After submitting a few different options, the one that stuck out came to be known as “The Black Stripe.” Harvester introduced it to the public on September 30, 1975 at the Farm Progress Show just west of Malta, IL. As I understand it, over 75,000 people saw the tractor that first day alone!

The response was great, too. Farmers loved the fresh new look and sales remained strong for the rest of the production run!

Why the IH Black Stripe styling worked…

IH Black Stripe 1466
Gregg Montgomery didn’t know it at the time, but the IH Black Stripe design would become widely regarded as one of the sharpest tractors to ever roll out of Rock Island! (Photo: Mountain View Tractor LLC)

The refreshed styling of the 66-Series tractors was a massive shift away from the past. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the original styling; it’s classic and it always will be. However, that original styling used more color, metal badges, and the cursive “Turbo” script. You could argue that those elements, coupled with the big splash of off-white on the side panels made for a busier design.

The IH Black Stripe design was a dramatic departure from all of that. No more badges or extraneous stuff to clutter up the sides of the tractor. Just a simple vinyl decal – and a whole bunch of 2150 red. It was very clean, bold, and strong. It stood out in 1975, and it still does today, from where I’m sitting.

If you need further proof of the Black Stripe’s popularity, that styling is faked more than just about any other tractor. Even more than Gold Demonstrators!

Real or fake?

IH Black Stripe 1466
There are more fake Black Stripes out there than any other IH paint scheme. This one, however, is the real deal. (Photo: Mountain View Tractor LLC)

At the end of the day, it’s awfully easy to fake an IH Black Stripe. All it takes is a fresh coat of IH 2150 red, the decal kit (which you can still get from your local red dealer), and a flat bottom panel without the louvers. That’s it.

1466 BS clone
This 1971 IH 1466 is definitely not a true Black Stripe tractor. For the record, it wasn’t advertised as one when it sold at auction a few years ago. (Photo: Auctioneers Miller & Associates)

That said, there are a few mechanical differences between Black Stripes and earlier models, but not many. For instance, you’ll find that a lot of them have 86-Series rear ends, and quite a few have 86-Series 3-point arms as well. As I understand it, as the assembly line ran out of 66-Series parts, Harvester would swap in the newer model parts, since they’re a direct bolt-in. You’ll also find that most Black Stripes have a serial number tag on the right side of the transmission housing by the hydraulic filter. However, early examples still have that tag on the left side of the clutch housing.

Honestly, the only real way to tell whether you’re looking at a real-deal Black Stripe is by the serial number, because IH did keep a record of the serial breaks for each. See the handy-dandy chart below!

Black Stripe Serial Breaks
If the serial number on the IH Black Stripe you’re looking at is the number on the right or after, it’s a legit Black Stripe.

Now, what about this one in the photos?

Mountain View Tractor’s IH Black Stripe…

IH Black Stripe 1466
I don’t know a lot about this Black Stripe 14, but the team Mountain View Tractor did a nice job with it! This one is 100% legit, too; I checked the serial number myself. (Photo: Mountain View Tractor LLC)

This one just listed on Tractor Zoom a few days ago, and she’s a pretty one!

Now, I don’t know a ton about this machine, but I do know a little bit about it and I’m happy to share it.

I had a brief chat with Randall at Mountain View Tractor about it the other day; here’s what he told me.

They bought the tractor from a farmer’s widow in Washington, IA either late last year or early this year. They’ve spent the past few months restoring it to what you see in the photos. It’s a late 1975 model (the 103rd Black Stripe 1466). Total hours are unknown, as I believe the tach was replaced. It’s a dual-remote tractor with 540 & 1000 PTO. It’s got a set of fairly fresh Firestones in the back and new 4-ribs up front (I think they’re Carlisles).

Overall, it’s a nice example of an IH Black Stripe 1466 with a clean bill of health, and I doubt it’ll last very long on the market. They’re asking $32,500 for it, which is about in line with what I’ve seen other restored Black Stripe 14s going for over the past year or so. Actually, there was another very sharp late-1975 model that sold on a C.A. Tesch consignment auction earlier this week that brought $39,000, so this one could be a bargain.

Click below to see the TZ listing.

IH Black Stripe 1466

One more thing about Gregg Montgomery…

Gregg wasn’t a one trick pony. After the success of the IH Black Stripe re-style, he went on to a long and storied career with the company. These are just a few of the red tractors he designed.

IH 5488
According to an interview for Octane Press’s Red Tractors books, Montgomery’s favorite tractor design was the 50-Series. (Photo: Hanold Auctioneering)
Super70
The 7488 was a pretty rare animal, with only 16 ever being built! (Photo: International Harvester)
Case IH Magnum 7140
Montgomery designed the legendary “Boxcar” Magnum line for Case IH’s 1987 model year. (Photo: Central Equipment)
Magnum 290
In 2006, Montgomery won an international “Good Design” design award for the 3rd-generation Magnum. (Photo: Plains Ag)

I’m fairly sure that he’s retired now, but make no mistake, Gregg Montgomery has had a hand in some of the most popular red tractors we’ve seen in the last fifty years! That’s a heck of a legacy! Someday I’d love to buy him dinner. Who knows…maybe I can get another story or two for Interesting Iron! (Gregg, if you’re reading this, the invite is open!)

Make it a great week, folks, and if you’re heading to Red Power Roundup this weekend…bring an umbrella and have a great time! I’m heading up there on Thursday morning, and I can’t wait to check it out! This’ll be my first one!

 

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