Tractor Paint Colors — Breaking the Codes

When did John Deere Green Paint Join the Color Wheel?

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Today’s tractor paint colors identify which manufacturer made the machine, but it is not always this simple. The common John Deere Green is a more modern addition to the history of tractor paint colors. Tracing the origin of today’s tractor colors takes us back before the turn of the 20th century. Late 1800s shows most tractors being black, gray, and brown. Drab Gray seemed to be the choice of manufacturers for machinery.

Even the first automobiles were not the fun colors seen later in the industry. Speculation and guesses tell us that the paint used was sometimes surplus military paint. Other opinions focus on the more serious nature of the population and less time spent on frivolous extras. But most of this is speculation. Since tractors are a piece of common farm equipment, colors help us determine the brand. Any list of farm tools and equipment may include a discussion of the common tractor colors.

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John Deere Green Paint

Beginning with the most famous tractor paint color, John Deere Green, research is muddy right from the start. In the late 1800s, evidence points to the color being used in farm implements and machines before it was used on tractors. John Deere entered the market with the invention of the bottom plow under the name Deere and Co.

John Deere died in 1886 before the tractor was invented. His company, Deere and Co., bought other tractor companies after 1918. The Waterloo Engine Company was merged with Deere. The colors of the Waterloo Engine Company were green and red.

Others say the combinations used in John Deere Tractor paint colors represents growing and harvesting. And then, there’s the argument that the colors helped with safety because the bright green and yellow was easier to see in the field. When visiting tractor show grounds, John Deere tractors can be found in various other colors too. The white models are typically from dealer showrooms. The pink was a novelty color for showrooms as well. Yellow John Deere Tractors were a specialty line often sold to municipalities for commercial use.

International Harvester or IH Tractor Paint Colors

If you don’t own a green tractor with a Deere logo, chances are good that you have a red tractor from International Harvester. IH was founded in 1902 from a merger of McCormick Harvesting Machine Company and Deering Harvester Company, along with three smaller manufacturers. The first Farmall was manufactured in 1920. The red paint is called “flambeau red.”
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Allis-Chalmers

One of my favorites is the Allis-Chalmers. The iconic orange color brightens up any tractor lineup at the shows. Alis-Chalmers Manufacturing has a long history dating back to the early 1900s. The company formed from many acquisitions and reorganizing efforts during the 1920s.

Inspired by the bright poppy color in nature and the trend to add bright colors to farm equipment, Persian Orange was the color chosen for the tractors. Alis-Chalmers tractors were very popular in the 1930s. After working with Firestone, the Alis-Chalmers Company became the first to use pneumatic rubber tires on tractors. This trend soon replaced the historic steel cleat wheels. The Alis-Chalmers tractors continued to be popular choices in farm tractors through the 1970s.

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Ford

Ford has a troubled past in the tractor market. An early leader in the farm market, and in the car market, they largely dropped out during the 30s and 40s. The recession in the 1920s saw the loss of more than 100 manufacturers in farm tractors. Ford survived this by cutting the price, driving many others out of business. But, Ford did not keep up with the technology advances that other manufacturers were making.

Eventually, Ford tractors, the Fordson, moved manufacturing to Great Britain. After partnering with Harry Ferguson in the late 1930s, Ford returned to the market with a small, well-loved 9N series. Gunmetal gray was the color at first. The color scheme was switched to a two tone, using red and white, in the late 1940s. In 1961 the color scheme was switched again. The iconic blue and white combination debuted on the 6000 series.

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Oliver

Although Oliver’s date back to the mid-1800s, the company we know more about was formed by James Oliver’s son, Joseph. The Oliver Chilled Plow Company and three smaller machinery companies were merged to form the Oliver Farm Equipment Corporation.

Later this was shortened to Oliver Corporation. The Cockschutt Farm Equipment tractors in Canada were manufactured by Oliver. They were sold in a red color scheme, but are the same models as the Olivers. Later, White Farm Equipment Company took over the Oliver Corporation and transitioned out the Oliver name. Most Oliver farm tractors are the dark green with red wheels.

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Other common farm equipment manufacturers like Minneapolis-Moline, Massey-Ferguson and Case also used paint color to brand their products. Case tractors are commonly found in the gray color. Minneapolis-Moline is well known for the safety yellow. Massey-Ferguson farm tractors were often either a gray or a red with silver.
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Preserving the historical color scheme of your vintage tractor is one way that you can preserve the history and value of the machine. The serial number plate on each tractor can give you a good starting place when looking for the correct paint color.
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Many folks have a favorite tractor paint color. What’s yours?
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Comments
  • The red, yellow and black paint on the old pre-Ford Versatile tractors was always one of my favorite colour combinations.
    Versatile has already built the 50th anniversary tractors in the classic colours, and due to high demand they might return to the classic paint scheme in the future.

    Reply
  • I am presently helping to restore,, a 1949 Ferguson tractor. What is the product paint code. I have located 2 colors of grey,, which is the correct one

    Reply

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