Here’s a cool find: a German-made John Deere tractor!
John Deere exported American-made tractors all over the world. After World War 2, the company was ready to make a big jump forward in their overseas sales. They quickly learned that imported tractors were too expensive to compete in overseas markets. If John Deere was going to become popular overseas, the best way to grow would be to manufacture the tractors overseas too.
In 1955, John Deere sent a representative to negotiate the purchase of a controlling interest in the German Heinrich Lanz AG tractor and harvester company. The Lanz tractor company was well-known in Germany. Their Bulldog tractor was incredibly popular, with more than 220,000 produced over a 40-year span. Even today, Germans will sometimes use the word “bulldog” to refer to any tractor.
By 1955, however, the Bulldog model was 25 years old. The market was ready for an upgrade, and war-torn Europe was ripe for American investment.
It took 5 years for John Deere’s new German factory to get up to speed. Huge changes were made to the product line, culminating in the 1960 release of the John Deere-Lanz 500 and the similar John Deere-Lanz 300. These tractors were the first John Deere designs made in Europe. The tractors are similar to the John Deere 3010, but they are not an exact copy. They were designed specifically for the European market, taking into account parts availability, common European designs, and the needs of European farmers.
These tractors were very successful in Europe. John Deere soon set up manufacturing facilities in France to supply the German operation. Before long, John Deere was replicating this strategy worldwide. One year after the John Deere-Lanz 500 was introduced, John Deere had operations running in 6 countries (including the US).
It’s rare to find JD-Lanz tractors here in the United States. Parts are difficult to find, making them a real challenge to restore. The one shown in these photographs was at a local Mecum auction in June 2016. What a neat treasure!