Blog Series Icon


Closing a Chapter: Rob Plendl’s 55-Series tractors


Ryan Roossinck

March 27, 2024

55-Series John Deere tractor collection at sunset

Rob Plendl’s 55-Series tractors are listed on Tractor Zoom on a Paulsen Auction ending March 28, 2024

As I turned on to Quest Ave. on the south side of Kingsley, IA, to go look at a beautiful lineup of 55-Series SoundGards, I was reminded of something about their owner.

He knows a thing or two about presentation.

Here’s what I saw.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been up to see Rob, though. He’s been collecting machines for years. More on that in a minute.

“It gets in your blood…”

Rob Plendl has a lot of irons in the fire; honestly, it blows my mind that he’s got enough time to collect anything. He farms with his sons, his dad, his uncle, and his brother. It’s mainly a row crop operation, but they also do some custom farming and harvesting. They also have a pretty good-sized cow/calf operation, as well as Plendl Feed, an ag retail business.

Like I said…he’s a busy guy.

Somehow, though, he finds time to be something of a serial collector. Tractors, muscle cars, pickups, motorcycles, signage, memorabilia, you name it. He came by it honest, too. His dad is a collector too, and to put it in Rob’s words, “Stuff like this just gets in your blood.”

Early collecting

It started with a 1938 John Deere G back in 1982 when he graduated high school and started farming. Over the next 27 years, Rob Plendl and his dad built up quite a collection of two-cylinders, New Gens, memorabilia, and more. When they were satisfied with the collection and were ready to move on to something new, they sold it all in 2009 at an auction in Le Mars, IA.

Then it was back to the drawing board…this time, with a focus on late New Gen tractors.

Ten years later, the collection was fairly substantial, and ready to be sold again.

The 2019 sale

Sullivan Auctioneers held Rob’s second sale in late September 2019. I was there for that sale, and it was really well attended. Here’s a few photos.

Rob Plendl collector auction September 2019
72° and sunny is hard to beat, especially when you’re selling collector tractors and vintage signs! Some of the signs went for big bucks! (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)
Rob Plendl John Deere 3020 diesel orchard tractor
This 3020 Diesel Orchard (one of my favorites) sold for $40K! (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)
Rob Plendl John Deere 2520 High Crop tractor
Rob sold a handful of interesting high crops that day, including this 2520 diesel side-console Power Shift…one of 18 built! (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)
Rob Plendl John Deere 4020 tractors
The main focus of his collection was 1972 diesel Power Shift tractors. This 4020 hammered home for $31,500. (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)

And lastly, if there was a bargain to be had, it was this 6030.

Rob Plendl John Deere 6030, 4620 FWA, and 1010 tractors
I’m a sucker for a nice 6030. This one had all the right stuff, too. It sold for $32,500. Definitely the bargain of the day. (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)

Overall, it was a great sale, and I believe Rob was pretty happy with it – although it wasn’t easy to let some of these tractors go. I remember him getting a little choked up a couple of times when Dan Sullivan handed him the microphone. His grandsons were all pretty young at the time, and I know there were some really good memories of Sunday afternoon tractor rides with Grandpa that made it a little tough.

I thought he might be done collecting after that sale. It seemed pretty final, y’know?

I should’ve known better…once a collector, always a collector.

The 55-Series Collection

55-Series John Deere SoundGard tractors
It’s not quite a full 55-Series SoundGard lineup, but it’s awful close. (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)

It took less than a year for Rob to start digging around for low-houred 55-Series SoundGards. He told me, “I spent a lot of time in 55s, and it’s not real easy to find low-houred ones. I wanted a challenge.” He’s right, too; the 55-Series used an electronic tach. Every second counts with those tractors, whereas mechanical tachs only register hours correctly when running at rated PTO speed. Furthermore, these machines didn’t just sit around. They got worked…hard.

At any rate, over the next four(ish) years, Rob put together a heck of a collection. With the exception of the 4055 and 4255, he was able to find very nice, low-houred originals of both 2WD and MFWD versions of every model in the 55-series!

I won’t bore you with the auction listing specs – you can go check them out for yourself here. However, that being said, these are all really nice – and save for a little bit of touch up on the weights and frame rails – very low-houred, original tractors. Most of them are high-option Power Shift machines with three SCVs, quick hitches, and many with brand new rubber (and none of them less than about 85%). The majority are fairly local – lots of Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota tractors in this bunch. I believe the one that came from the furthest away was from Ohio.

Paulsen Auction LLC auctioneer working with a customer
I caught a candid shot of auctioneer Kurt Paulsen covering some details with one of the guys who came out to look these tractors over. However, you can also see that quite a few of these tractors come with factory quick hitches, too. (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)

So what was so special about Deere’s 55-Series lineup? Glad you asked.

The 55-Series: New Firepower

55-Series John Deere SoundGard tractors lined up at sunset
All things considered, the 55-Series were just about the pinnacle of SoundGard engineering. (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)

As Rob put it, “The 55-Series is just a little bit better!”

Deere’s last SoundGard version was, for many green fans, the ultimate small-frame row crop tractor. It was the result of nearly twenty years of continuous refinement of a really good design. It wasn’t perfect, but for many, it was pretty darn close, and there’s still thousands of ’em out there earning their keep every day on farms across North America!

The final series brought more power, more efficiency, and greater operator comfort than ever before, and they sold remarkably well. The interesting thing is that it wasn’t any one major change in the 55-Series tractors that was the golden ticket. Rather, it was a series of small refinements and tweaks to the engine, driveline, and cab. It was a deal where the sum of the parts was greater than the whole, y’know?

(For the record, I’m lumping the 60-Series in with the 55s here. From a mechanical standpoint, the only really major innovation in the big-frame tractors was moving the exhaust. I believe that mechanically, they are more or less identical.)

Anyway, back to Rob’s collection…

The ones that stood out to me…

Rob Plendl John Deere 4055 MFWD tractor at sunset

1992 4055 MFWD

At first glance, I wondered if this was a Euro-spec tractor that someone had converted over to US-spec. The short axles and the fat front rubber kind of give that Euro vibe, y’know?

As it turns out, it’s not…but it is a pretty unique tractor nonetheless. See, this tractor never did any farming – ever. This tractor was ordered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service – and if I had to guess, it probably spent most of its life dragging a Bush Hog or a batwing at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, IA. In my mind, what makes it extra unique is what it doesn’t have – a radio, or long axles. The short axles I can understand; if I’m going to be maintaining walking paths and such, I think I’d rather have short axles. But man alive…a radio sure would be nice. Back in 1992 we didn’t have cell phones and wireless earbuds; that would’ve been an awful lot of silence in a cab!

Rob replaced the rims and rubber with the fat Michelins shown in the photo (the centers are original), added the front fenders, and replaced the halogens in the hood with LEDs. Other than that, it’s all-original with less than 3700 hours on it. It’s even got the Department of the Interior/US Fish & Wildlife asset decal in the cab in front of the Power Shift! I think details like that are really cool.

Rob has the documentation in his office, and will send it home with the buyer.

Rob Plendl John Deere 4055 MFWD tractor hood and LED lights
I’ll bet those LEDs are a huge improvement over factory halogens! (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)

The other one that I really liked was this 4955.

Rob Plendl John Deere 4955 2WD tractor at sunset

1990 4955 2WD

What. A. Unit.

This 4955 is a hoss. There’s no other way to put it.

4955s aren’t the rarest of the rare, but I’d be willing to bet that of any version of the 55-Series row crop machines, the 2WD 4955 is for sure the rarest one out there. To put it in perspective, I went to our Tractor Zoom Pro database to look. Of the 216 auction records we’ve got, only 25 are 2WD units! That’s less than 12%! I don’t know how many they built in total, but two-wheelers are pretty darn rare. Honestly, that’s probably because they weren’t super-practical at the time. By the late 80s, farmers were buying MFWD row crop tractors. There just wasn’t a lot of demand for a big heavy 2WD anymore – especially when you could pay an extra ten or twelve grand and have a power front axle.  

If I had to guess, the majority of the 4955 2WDs saw time running a good-sized planter. It would handle a 7200 12-row like nobody’s business (probably a 16-row too, come to think of it). They still make a pretty good grain cart tractor too; my buddy Jeff calls it “The Poor Man’s Triple Link Suspension”!

Rob’s is set up right, too; it’s dualed-up on new 46″ Firestones in the rear, and great big 16.5L-16.1s 4-ribs on the front!

Personally, I just think they’re cool. They’re like a SoundGard version of a 6030 with a more reliable motor!

Rob Plendl's John Deere 4955 2WD tractor
This particular 4955 only has a little over 3700 original hours on it. Still sits at stock fuel pump settings, too. Nobody’s monkeyed with it! (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)

At the end of the day, though, regardless of the ones that stuck out in my mind, they’re all really nice, really original tractors.

Why sell ’em now?

55-Series: John Deere 4455 tractor at sunset
If I had to guess, this 4455 is going to be the one to go a little nuts towards the end of the auction. It’s an awfully nice machine. (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)

So the question Rob’s kept hearing over and over again is, “Why sell now? Why not complete the collection and then sell it?”

It’s a pretty simple answer, really. Rob had an opportunity come up where he could expand the farming operation. When a nice farm comes up that borders yours, you do what you gotta do, y’know?

I get that. If I had that same opportunity, I’d do the same thing.

Wrapping up…

55-Series: John Deere 4255 tractor
This beautiful 3300-hour 4255 is also attracting a lot of attention. It’s currently tied for the 6th highest auction price of all time at $65K, and there’s still a full day left on the sale! (Photo: Ryan Roossinck)

This auction begins to close at about 5:30PM Central on Thursday, March 28, 2024, and it’ll be interesting to watch what these tractors do. I know there’s been a great deal of interest, and Kurt Paulsen has done a very good job of marketing this collection. In fact, I’d say that this auction has probably gotten more publicity than just about anything we’ve seen this year.

A lot of people are wondering if the depressed grain market will have an effect on the final hammer prices. Honestly, I think it could go either way. I mean, these are really nice, original tractors with low hours, but they’re not absurdly low. I’m not sure if these will be purchased by collectors or by farmers who plan to put ’em right to work.

The ones that’ll go the highest are the small-frame tractors. However, it wouldn’t be entirely shocking to see one of the big-frame tractors sneak in there too! It’ll be fun to watch!

Here’s the link to the catalog one more time.

Rob Plendl’s 55-Series auction listing on Tractor Zoom

Now, don’t take my word for all of this. Ryan Kelly, a buddy of mine from Wisconsin, and a guy you might know from his tractor stories on TikTok and YouTube, just went out there a day or two ago to take a look at this collection for himself. Here’s the interview with Rob, and more on these beautiful tractors! Enjoy!

You May Also Like

Image of Article
Article series icon


What’s My John Deere 333G Compact Track Loader Worth?

Author Image

Megan Schilling

February 20, 2024

Image of Article
Article series icon


What’s My John Deere S780 Worth?

Author Image

Megan Schilling

December 15, 2023

Image of Article
Article series icon


Interesting Iron: The Origin Story (and a sweet 4455)

Author Image

Ryan Roossinck

October 25, 2023

Image of Article
Article series icon


What’s My John Deere 8130 Worth?

Author Image

Megan Schilling

October 05, 2023

Image of Article
Article series icon


John Deere 6030 Non-Turbo: One of 45.

Author Image

Ryan Roossinck

September 27, 2023

Image of Article
Article series icon


Hillsboro Equipment: Thriving at 75!

Author Image

Ryan Roossinck

August 17, 2023

Image of Article
Article series icon


LEGOs, Landmarks & the John Deere 7000-Series

Author Image

Ryan Roossinck

June 15, 2023

Image of Article
Article series icon


What’s My John Deere 3025E Worth?

Author Image

Megan Schilling

June 12, 2023

Image of Article
Article series icon


The Kankakee Cold Case: Grandpa’s lost John Deere 4020

Author Image

Ryan Roossinck

February 22, 2023


Find an auctioneer and dealer near you

Farm Equipment Financing & Loans
Discover why ag equipment buyers are choosing Tractor Zoom as the go-to-platform for securing their next equipment loan.

Tractor Zoom is connecting farm equipment sellers and buyers faster than ever before. Finding farm equipment at auction or at a dealership has never been so easy.

Copyright © 2024 Tractor Zoom Inc. All Rights Reserved