The 420     
And other Dubuque built Tractors of the 50's

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Model 420 was the replacement for the 40 in the John Deere line of tractors in 1956.  It's said the 40W was the prototype for the 420s.  Three types or "phases" of 420's were produced corresponding to the three years the model was manufactured.   The serial numbering differed from the 40 in that the number began at 80001 and was consecutive.  The next tractor got the next number no matter what the type.  Each year had is own set of serial numbers.  More on this later. 

The 420 line included 6 rubber wheel tractors and a crawler.  You could order special options on your 420, like spin out rear rims.  This option made it easier to adjust the rear wheel width.  Lights, cigarette lighter, and front end weights were other popular add-ons. 

The first year, or phase I, 420s used a modified 40 engine.  The bore was increased from 4 to 4 1/4 inches but otherwise, it was a 40 block. The increase in compression and the resulting heat was too much for the thermo-siphon cooling system.  A water pump was added to help circulation.  It was mounted to a spot milled into the front of the block.  The rest of the tractor was the same components as the 40.  The phase I's were painted just like the 40's, all green with yellow wheel rims.

The Phase II 420's were made in 1957.  A new block was used but it was not much different that the 40.  It was cast with the mounting for the water pump so that  machining step could be eliminated in production.  An optional five speed transmission became available.  Some of the drive components were heavier.  A yellow stripe was added to the hood behind the John Deere lettering and continuing down the grill side.  More 420C's where sold this year than any of the other types.

The 1958 Phase III 420s had a revised block with oil dipstick moved to the right side with a combination dipstick and oil fill.  This same engine was used in the 430 and 440 gas units.  A slanted dash was used on these tractors with dash and steering wheel angled up toward the operator.  These are commonly called slant steers.  This year didn't sell as well as the first two years.  Sales may have been affected by the introduction of the 440 industrial line in this same year.

The types of 420s produced include the S - Standard, T - Tricycle, U - Utility, W - Row Crop Utility, V - Special, H - Hi-Crop, I - Industrial, and C - Crawler in 4 and 5 roller versions.  You could get a gasoline engine standard or order an optional LP gas engine or all-fuel version.  The LP engine was a first for a Dubuque tractor.  Some of the options you could order on your 420 were live PTO, orchard muffler, and power steering.  Black seat cushions were standard but, for the first time, a yellow cushion was a no cost option.  A few 420Us went to the Holt Equipment Company to be made in forklifts.  These are the rarest of the 420 type with surviving examples in the single digits. 

Production on the 420 began in October of 1955 for the 56 model year, and continued until October of 1958.  A total of 46,450 units were built.  The yearly serial number break down is in the following chart.  No real logic to the numbering on this series.  For example, 80100 could be a Standard and 80101 could be a crawler.

Year Starting Ending
1956 80001 94818
1957 100001 119764
1958 125001 136868


Horsepower - drawbar 26.2 tractor, 23.5 crawler Horsepower - belt 28.3 tractor, 28.8 crawler
Compression - gas 7:1 Bore & Stroke 4 1/4 inches x 4 inches
Compression - LP  8.5:1 Displacement 113.3 cu. in.
Compression - All fuel  5.15:1 Gears 4 fwd, 1 rev or 5 fwd, 1 rev
 Capacity for Work - Tractor 2 or 3 plow bottoms Electrical 6 volt positive ground
 Capacity for Work - Crawler 3 or 4 plow bottoms

420 Weights (bare tractor)*

Model Shipping Weight (lbs)
Crawler - 4 roller 4150
Crawler - 5 roller 4700
Tricycle 3000
Standard 2750
Row Crop 3000
Utility 2850
Hi-Crop 3400
Special 3050

*from JD 420 Service Manual

The John Deere 420 Series of Tractors.
The differences in the 420 Family with Pictures of the Various Styles

I would like to add some 420 photos of different models.  If you have a picture of your 420 you would like to share, send it to us.  A jpg image or bitmap image is preferred.  Please send your name, and any info about the tractor you would like and I'll add it to the caption.              Click to email photo.


Designed and built by DL