55 Years of Agricultural Evolution

John Deere Combine via thefarmerslife.comWe recently completed wheat harvest on our farm using two John Deere combines.  After 20 years of sitting in a barn  after purchase, we were able to get our John Deere model 45 combine up and running so it could participate in the action.  I thought having a machine from the 1950s out in the field with our 2010 9670 STS would make for some great comparison photos.  It’s easy to see that the new combine is larger.  Quite a bit larger actually.

In addition to all the pictures I went to the owner’s manuals to get some specs on dimensions and capacities so we can all see just how much things have changed in half a century. Let’s take a look at the evolution of this essential piece of farm equipment over the years.

By the Numbers

45 9670
Cutting Width 10′ 35′
Grain Tank Cap. 40 bushels 400 bushels
Weight 6,100lbs 32,667lbs
Length 22′ w/ platform 34′ 3″
Height 12′ 9.5″ 14.9′
Width 7′ 2″ 17′ 6″
Wheel Base 10′ 4″ 11′ 6″
Rear Track 3′ 10′ 3″
Horsepower 42 305
Engine Displacement 188 cu in 549 cu in
Fuel Capacity 25 gal 250 gal

Some of those differences are huge, but others like height aren’t that far apart.  I went to the manual for the 635F cutting platform on the 9670 to find its weight.  The platform alone, at 6,710lbs, weighs 610lbs more than the 45 and its platform together!  Our 8 row corn head comes in at about 200lbs less than those.  I couldn’t find any specs on the capacity of the unloading augers.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the auger on the 9670 holds as much grain as the 45 holds fully loaded.

Harvest in Action

Here I am making my first pass in a combine without a cab!

Footage from last fall harvesting soybeans.  Different crop, same equipment.

Combines side by side showing the size difference. There’s a tiny two year old standing in front!

45 making its first cut.

9670 puts a lot more out the back!

Well. That’s one way to unload it. Our modern trucks are way too tall for this machine to unload into them, so we just emptied the grain tank into the other combine.

Our salesman from the local John Deere dealer came out to see the old combine. We told him he had to make a pass before he left. He was glad he did!

This is the son of the man Dad and Grandpa bought the combine from. He really wanted to come out an see it run again, and we made him take the wheel too!

Not a recent picture, but this is the cab of the 9670 when we first took delivery last fall. The 45 has a metal seat, several levers for activating various functions, and it obviously lacks a cab. You can see the new model is full of displays and switches. The newest combines from John Deere have cabs 30% larger than this one with more amenities such as Bluetooth and a refrigerator.  We sometimes trade for equipment 1 or 2 years old and the original owner never removed the factory floor and seat covers!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing how things have changed over the years.  These machines are really quite similar in the way they separate grain from the plants.  The basic operations are essentially the same, but efficiency and performance have improved bit by bit over time.  Do you think when my grandfather was running pull behind harvesters and combines like this one he could’ve imagined how large today’s machines would be?  Not to mention they’d be driving themselves via invisible GPS signals while creating printable maps of things like yield and grain moisture?  Amazing!


  1. Very cool post! Love it, and I’m sharing it on Benton County Farm Bureau’s FB page and my Real Farmwives of America and Friends FB page too!

  2. Your grandfather didn’t need yield maps and grain moisture monitors. he could tell you within a bushel what it was yielding by what it sounded like hitting the hopper and how hard the combine was “pulling” as he drove through the field. Moisture test? he grabbed a kernel and bit into it. accurate to within 1/2%.

    1. True story. I can do some of that myself. You know things are running too wet by the way it piles up or what it sounds like dumping into an empty trailer.

      1. Enjoyed the comparison but the real comparison would be the cost.
        There wasn’t computers and ekectronics to breakdown either, Our 2912 S660
        electronic issue just gave us a $6800. repair bill.

        1. Sue, the sad part is, that your S660 CANNOT even function without that, either.
          It’s do or die, for it.
          At least an 8820 or 7720 can STILL RUN without all those fancy monitors.

        2. The 45 has one harness with I think seven wires. There’s probably miles on our current S680. I’m so interested in our data though that I’ve been known to temporarily shut down planting or harvest to get my data recorded rather than keep going without.

  3. Love it! Can’t believe the original owners hadn’t removed seat covers and floor, 9670 must have been in pretty mint condition when you got it. 45’s looking pretty good too.

    1. Thanks. Our 9320 tractor came from the same farm. Had to take the covers off it too, and it was a few years old. Good or bad depending on how you look at it, the dealer just calls us when that guy trades something.

  4. Thanks a lot for posting all these pictures and the stories with it! Been anxious to see all this put together like you did. Great job on the comparison table too, can’t believe how close some of those numbers are though, like wheel base and height.

    Thanks again, sharing on all SM!

    1. I was surprised the wheelbase was so close too. The bolt pattern on the rear of the 9670 is very close to the front of the 45. I’m sure the ties wouldn’t clear though.

  5. great memories…we farmed rice in the Katy Texas area. I do have a question…do you remember or have you seen pictures of a JD 45 with steel tracks..we had one when i was very young…early ’50s…thanks for sharing..

  6. The 9670 is 400 bushels with grain tank extensions but other wise its just 300/250 according to the John Deere 70 Series combine brochure.

  7. I notice you have corn front & 635F. I have a 630F on our 9670 with a varispeed front drive & I’ve had to put a little tap on the hydraulic line to the front varispeed otherwise I couldn’t get the backshaft speed over 470rpm with the 630 front on. Same control for the reel lift let all the pressure out of the cylinder. Have you had anything similar? John Deere in Australia don’t know anything about it, very few corn fronts & vari speed front drives over here. Thanks for the vids etc, really good. I love the JD, had a CASE before, it was good too, but not as good as the JD

    1. I haven’t seen that issue, but I have trouble keeping the reel pulled all the way back on our last two 635Fs on the same machine. It creeps forward to the point where I’ve just developed a habit of retracting every 5 or 10 minutes. I don’t even notice myself doing it anymore. Dealer thinks it could be a slight problem on the combine side. We’ll have a new 635F on a newer 9670 next fall so I’ll see if the problem persists.

  8. Brian, I freaking LOVE old combines! I love new ones too. In fact, I’m just a big-time combine geek, but old, heritage combines have a charm and character lacking in the newest ones, with all their computers and high-tech gadgetry that pretty much allows them to run almost by themselves, like something more from a Buck Rogers or Star Trek scenario, than down on the farm. I really don’t think the most recent of combines can be heard as well, past the isolation and insulation of the new cabs. Can you honestly even hear the engine of a Maximizer, STS or Axial-Flow, once the separator is running?

    These old open combines are fast disappearing from the land, too. It is solely up to owners like you and the precious few who still have running runs, to keep them preserved for prosterity and even secure their destiny in wills, so that they won’t just fall into the hands of scrap metal vultures or those who would kill them in demolition derbies. NO combine desrves the latter, and THAT should be freaking OUTLAWED!

    Nel1jack is right, your grandfather and I sure did NOT need all those bells and whistles when we ran our combines. Sure, we may have missed a little now and then, or even lost some miniscule amount out the back, but we did not complain. We had oodles and oodles of it, binful by binful and truckload by truckload. We appreciated and respected our combines, too. We were careful and most picky about just who could run them or even ride with us, but we were also the irst to allow the curious to view them and answer the many questions others had about combines.

    1. I can definitely hear the motor and separator. My ear is tuned in to all the machine noises plus all the beeps and lights in the cab. There is a show in Rantoul, Illinois every two years where corn and beans are harvested and shelled by antique pull type and self propelled harvesters of all make and models. After that it’s time for antique tillage.

      1. I can hear the separator okay, but not so much the engine, at least on a 2188. I have only rode in, but not run an STS. I do remember doing some photography, back in 2001, when the STS’s were new. One of the combines had a problem. I heard a loud ‘bang” from one of the three, but nobody stopped. Finally, the last combine in line, did stop. Whatever I heard, went unnoticed by the operator, for at least 60-90 more seconds. When the boss drove up in his pickup, I could hear the hand tell him how he had heard nothing. I’ve had similar experiences with Maximizers when something broke and could be heard on the outside, but neither of us knew, until some light or buzzer came on.

        1. Meant ot also say that I’m very glad to see yet another vintage harvesting bee held somewhere. We definitely need more of such, to show off the old combines and their standing capabilities, rather than just destroy them in the name of “entertainment.”

    2. Hello. I have an old combine need to have removed from my cousins property. It was my Dad’s. He passed away in 1978. Any suggestion other than scrap metal? It is a John Deere but will have to look at the model.

      1. Depending on the condition there is very likely someone out there who would like to buy it. Find out what model it is and post it for sale! There are farm focused places on New AgTalk, Tractor House, and more. Even craigslist has a farm section.

      2. I have a wonderful group on Facebook [if you’re on there], called just “Combine Harvesters.”
        I always post stuff like this, as I find it, and Facebook also has some John Deere antique machinery groups, at least two more groups and one page, over on Facebook, are devoted to John Deere combines.
        If restorable, that is my first choice. If not, then parts salvage.
        Scrapping should be ONLY the last resort.
        Nowhere do any of the above mentioned groups support wanton destruction and demolition derbies!

  9. I reckon the best thing about old Combines is that we don’t
    have to use them anymore. Brian is right, yes you can hear the
    motor, yes you can feel the drum and after a while you pick up the
    beat and the thing starts singing to you. Listen to the music, and
    as soon as something isn’t right, you know about it just about
    before the sensors.

    1. I tell my wife the combine is easy to operate as long as everything is going well. Knowing what to do when things go wrong is the trick!

  10. Back again for another look Brian. After seeing this blog I had a look through my archives and found a brochure (in mint condition) on the John Deere 45, 55, 95 & 105 roundbacks which I had forgotten I had. Just a couple of questions, 1/. gasoline engine, right? Was diesel an option? 2/, do you know why they called them Hi/Lo combines? & 3/. did you happen to do a fuel consumption test in terms of tonnes per gallon on the 9670 & the 45? It would really be interesting to know that. Whilst our 9670 uses 20% more fuel per hour than the old Case, it puts through about 2x as much grain, I was wondering if that still applied to the old walker machines. Very Interesting blog, congratulations, Will from Australia

    1. Yes, it’s a Hercules gas engine. I don’t believe diesel was an option, but I’m not sure. Not sure about Hi/Lo, and we didn’t check fuel consumption.

      1. True Brian, on the motor. That particular style of No.55 was colloquially called the “high boy” or “high bin.” All John deere SPC’s from 1947 to 1959, were built like that. The “Hi-Lo” was the later style from 1960-1963. You may remember seeing old pictures of 55’s, 95’s and even the new 105’s, with the sides and top of their bins greatly flared out. This dramatically lowered the profile and overall dimensions of the combines, thus making transport much easier. It was a boon to the custom operators using Deere machines. Yes, John Deere was highly inspired by the recent [1956 and up] Massey-Harris “Streamliners” as they were called. To us combine geeks, that’s the Models 92 and 82.

        The term, “Hi-Lo” was coined, based on the retention of their signature large [high] capacity, while having such the low profile. The Hi-Lo was replaced by the fully styled square back configuration in 1964, which lasted until the 5 Series ended production at the end of 1969.

        1. Thanks for the info. It’s funny that despite the differences in capacities and sizes of these machines, that the 45 with the screen sitting on top isn’t much shorter than the 9670.

          1. That’s so true, Brian. Also, I forgot to mention that while the “high bins” have the breakover top folding unloader, the Hi-Lo’s have a single piece auger that neatly folds back, just like more recent models. On the New Generations [00 Series] the auger was straight and parallel with the separator, while the Hi-Lo’s had it slightly tilted upward, in the folded position.

            Looking back at the 5’s, those styled square-backs were not only the prettiest North American combines by sheer aesthetics, but are still quite comely to this very day, too.

          2. Do you know of any nice JD 40’s or 45’s for sale? I want to buy one to use on a small grain farm. If you could put me in touch with one in good shape I’d appreciate it. I’m George in Pa. (570) 807-2580.

      2. Diesel was an option in the square back 95’s. It was a 6 cylinder version of a 2010 motor. My father bought a new diesel 95 from hasting deering Dalby, queensland, Australia in 1964

  11. I have a John Deere Combine 55 that still runs and am trying to find a home for it since my husband passed in Dec., 2012. I live in Cheraw, s.c. 29520. My phone numbe is 843-623-2252 or cell # 843-622-4795 if you have any friends in this area that would be interested.

  12. Fascinating! Perfect pictures of my family’s farming. My father had combines from the 50’s. My sister and I sometimes rode inside the bin on the combine where the grain funneled in! Interesting tactile experience! My nephews, E & R Wolgemuth now use the latest combines with air conditioned cabs. But they work just as hard, and love it just as much. My father visited them while they were harvesting every summer until he died. He was so impressed and proud.

    1. This really brings back memories. Wh I was a teen, I drove a Massey-Harris self propelled compine with no cab and no power steering.

  13. I’m extremely inspired with your writing abilities as neatly as with the layout for your blog.

    Is this a paid subject matter or did you customize it yourself?
    Either way keep up the excellent quality writing,
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  14. Just wondered if John Deere ever made a 6621 pull type combine. I am guessing no, as I am unable to find it myself. Thanx!

    1. No, they did not.
      By the time the Titans were in production, Deere had moved the 7720 to the same place formerly held by the ever-popular Model 6600.
      There was a 7721 pull-type and later, a 7722 hillsider.
      However, the “side hill” line was carried on by the 6620.
      There was also a 6622 hillside combine, too.

    2. I’d have to search for it just like you. I’m not sure. There is an Amish farm near here that had a pull type 9500 at one time.

      1. As I said, there was not one.
        Yes, in the Maximizer family, there was a Model 9501.
        Sorry, no 9500 SideHill or 9502 hillsider.
        By then, any degree of adaptive articulation for hillsides, sidehills or whatever, were contracted out to either RAHCO [Raymond Hanson Company] or HillCo, another leader in after-market combine harvester leveling systems.

  15. I have 55 for sale in very good condition. No rust always stored inside. It hasn’t been used in last 8 years I think. Has no cab still has the original jd umbrella on. If anybody interested give me a call 507-383-4567. It’s located in Linton, ND

  16. Thank you for this page. I was doing a technology paper on the past and present, and this helped me a lot, thank you!

  17. I am working on the motor from a john deere model 24.
    The motor is a H A 145 G. I got it running!
    Does anyone know the horse power of it?
    send me an e-mail to mlively@ctcweb.net please
    we don’t twitter, tweet etc
    thank you Chuck

  18. Boy I got the numbers wrong in the cold while writing it down!!!
    what it is, is a JD 45 and I did get the engine running. we’re going to use
    the engine on a belt drive lumber edger. the engine I found out on your blog is the 42 hp 188 cu.in. now I might need parts for the motor later and could use any info you have to share. The rest of the combine is going to be a grain cleaner for the ranch here in council, Idaho.
    if you have anything to share please e-mail me at mlively@ctcweb.net. I’m retired and at 71 I still like to tinker on farm equip.
    thanks; chuck lively

    1. chuck try this one a friend has an ol
      d jd 45 round back the steering cylinder needs replaced but that cylinder was only used on that model we need a new one found or made any ideas?

  19. cylinder is now fixed my friend is a great engineer and has made a great replacement for the old one 1/3 hopper of beans were harvested yesterday before a separator chain had broke . we will have her back in running order again soon.At her age wow, she is a challenge.

  20. Howdy all—
    Very good and really enjoyed all the comments, suggestions and etc.
    Our Ag Museum here in SE WA now has a JD 45 combine—but unlike most others has a non-factory leveling system for use in our steep hills.
    Looking to find its year of “birth”—s/n 2449.
    Thanks for your help.

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