This tractor was designed to use the once widely available distillate fuel
IN THE SHOP with Rachel
By Rachel Gingell
All-fuel tractors are an important part of farm history – and John Deere made some of the best. The John Deere 60 all-fuel tractor is a particularly excellent example of this innovation. Today, it’s a sought-after collector’s item with a great story.
The John Deere 60 replaced the iconic Model A in John Deere’s lineup. The tractor was manufactured from 1952 until 1956. More than 50,000 tractors were manufactured across all fuel options, which included gasoline and LP gas, alongside the all-fuel version.
All-fuel tractors were the Flex Fuel machines of their day. These tractors were designed to make use of the variety of non-gasoline burnable byproducts that were widely available years ago. Before today’s advanced refinery techniques, these byproducts were far more common than they are now – and they sold at a significantly lower price (one-half to one-third lower) than gasoline.
Compared to gasoline, distillate fuel (also called “tractor fuel”) is slower burning. John Deere’s two cylinder engines were easy to adapt to burn distillate: the long, slow strokes were a good match for the slow-burning distillate fuel.
Distillate fuel isn’t good for starting the tractor, though. John Deere compensated by adding a small auxiliary tank for gasoline. Operators would start the tractor on gasoline and then switch to distillate once the tractor was warmed up.
The only significant mechanical difference between an all-fuel and a gasoline John Deere 60 is in the manifold. The all-fuel manifold makes the tractor run a little hotter. Today, these manifolds are hard to come by. If you purchase an all-fuel John Deere 60, be sure the manifold is in great condition.
The only disadvantage of the all-fuel tractor was its lower horsepower. The slower-burning fuel just couldn’t turn out the same amount of power as its gasoline counterpart. When running distillate, the John Deere 60 tested at five to 10 fewer horsepower than the gasoline version. This makes a big difference in a 40-horsepower tractor!
The good news is that distillate tractors can also run on gasoline. Farmers who owned these tractors would often switch fuels depending on the chore of the day – they used gasoline when performing heavy farm work and distillate when completing lighter chores like raking hay. When every dollar counts, it’s helpful to have the flexibility to burn different fuels.
Today, distillate fuel is hard to find. While these tractors aren’t as practical on the farm as they used to be, they are an important piece of history and a valuable collector’s item.