Classic corner: Is this the ultimate modern, working classic tractor?
The ongoing evolution of tractors within a company’s line-up can be somewhat confusing to those who are not ardent followers of a particular brand. deere
To be fair, it is difficult for the manufacturers as well; they are under constant pressure to appear modern and innovative and trundle new models out at regular intervals, each of which must appear to be a logical addition or replacement to their existing ranges.
John Deere is an excellent example of this conundrum – keep up with the Jones’s or keep things simple and risk falling behind.
However, during this constant process of reinvention and niche-filling, there are a few gems produced that stand out from the rest; the John Deere 6610 of the late nineties being a case in point.
The origins of this particular model lie in the introduction of a brand new range of mid-sized tractors in 1992. This was known as the 6000 Series; it consisted of four models between 75hp and 100hp.
Their most noticeable feature was the adoption of a new frame and a modular form of construction. The engine is not expected to form the main stress-bearing member, as is the standard format for most tractors.
This development may have been sold as a great innovation at the time, but was hardly novel in the history of farm machinery. John Deere’s earliest tractor in its colours – the Waterloo Boy – was based on the same principle a century ago.
The first four 6000 Series models were powered by a four-pot, 4.5L engine or, in the case of the 6200, a small but turbo-charged 3.9L motor.
They came with a variety of transmissions, depending on model and market. The most basic gearbox was a 12F 6R unit; at the top end we saw the 24F 24R PowrQuad transmission which arrived in 1995.
In response to the demand for even more powerful tractors, John Deere decided to extend the 6000 Series with the addition of two six-cylinder models in 1993. These were designated the 6600 (110hp) and 6800 (120hp).
However, they did not share the same engine; the 6600 had a 5.9L motor, while the 6800 was equipped with a larger 6.8L unit.
Both these engines had the same bore of 106.5mm, retained from the four-cylinder 6000 models; the extra displacement was obtained from a 17mm-longer stroke in the 6800. This raised maximum torque by 18% to 536Nm, as well as providing that extra 10hp.
Equipped with either a 24F 16R or 24F 24R hydraulic powershift box, they remained in the John Deere brochure until 1997, when the range was revamped and four new ’10’ series models were introduced.
One of these was the 6610; it had the 24F 24R transmission as standard and an increased power rating of 114hp – from the larger 6.8L engine.
The displacement may have remained the same, but injection pressure had been raised and the cylinder crowns redesigned.
It was with the ’10’ series that John Deere brought a much greater degree of automation to gear selection in its mid-range tractors.
This was most evident in the optional, and much more advanced, ‘AutoQuad’ transmission; it selected a (powershift) ratio most appropriate to forward speed and load for any given throttle position.
The engine, at that time, was also unencumbered by any great demands from emission standards – a situation that was to change rapidly in the next few years, bringing the engineers many headaches along the way.
It represents one of those machines where everything came right and it all slotted into place – to make as near a perfect machine as possible.
It might also be regarded as an important evolutionary link between the old, mainly mechanical tractors and the brave new world of electronics being integral to a tractor’s operation (rather than just bolt-on aids to driving).
Despite being out of production for only 17 years, the John Deere 6610 is now attracting the interest of collectors with an eye for the future.
There are still plenty being worked today, although 110hp is now regarded as a lighter tractor on most farms. One such investor is Jonathon Hannon of Cappaquin, Co. Waterford. He brought in a well-groomed example from Somerset (England) in 2015.
7,000 hours on the clock
Jonathon’s 6610 hails from 2001 – the last year of the model’s production. It has just 7,000 hours on the clock, so he’s happy that it is sound throughout.
“With a lot of tillage tractors you can’t see the wear inside,” he explained, adding that UK farmers tend to work their machines hard, so he was delighted to find one at Parris Tractors of Taunton, in the west of the country.
That was in 2015 and, other than repainting the wheels, he has had to do nothing further to it.
However, it is more than just an investment, for it was on a John Deere 6610 that Jonathon first got his taste for driving tractors. Those early days left a great impression and he doubts that this example will ever come up for sale.
He now considers it one of the last of the “proper tractors”, lamenting the fact that the ‘twenties’ and ‘thirties’ (i.e. 6620 and 6630) were just “not quite the same tractor”.