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Automoblog Book Garage: The John Deere Century

Growing up in rural Iowa I was subjected to many a debates over Ford, Chevy, and Dodge trucks. There were guys in my high school who fondly preferred one over the other and would adamantly defend their position during our lunch time discussions. While the jury remained inconclusive on trucks, there was a general consensus that John Deere made the best tractor.

It wasn’t even a debate. In fact, you didn’t go there.

Mean Green

So prominent were those green machines that to suggest red, or yellow, or blue (especially not blue) would be outright madness. Even the “town kids” wore John Deere shirts. Patrons at the local barbershop, upon leaving the chair and paying, would often proceed over to the coat rack to grab their John Deere hat. Tossing on a hat following a haircut is a contradictory concept in most parts of the world, but in my rural Iowa home it was just another day.

Our Book Garage series is (normally) filled with muscle and sports cars and other classic performance vehicles, but this time around, we are featuring something a little different. And The John Deere Century by Randy Leffingwell qualifies. The cars we normally feature should be green with envy by now (see what I did there).

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The 1929 Model C appears on page 40. At the time, farmers pulled implements behind them similar to how horses would have. Photo: Deere & Company Archives.

Nothing Runs Like…

The John Deere Century opens with the famous manufacturer struggling to gain traction as agriculture was becoming more modernized at the turn of the 20th century. John Deere branch managers were petitioning the company’s board for an offering that could stand up to the growing “power farming” movement. Indeed the board responded, but the first efforts were not well received.

Leffingwell walks us through this and other John Deere hallmarks, from the Model D in 1926 with its innovative flywheel, to the 530 and 630 in the late 1950s now regarded as styling wonders. Later on we learn about the extensive technology in today’s tractors and John Deere’s expansion across the globe. Leffingwell even draws the conclusion that John Deere accomplished what former General Motors Chairman Alfred P. Sloan wanted: that is to create something for every purse and purpose.

The John Deere Century is unlike any book out there on the topic. It’s easily one of the most unique in our Book Garage series and definitely a favorite.


Leffingwell wrote his first book, American Muscle, in 1989 while still on staff at the Los Angeles Times. Since then, he has authored another 47 titles for Motorbooks and is one of the top Porsche historians today.

Leffingwell’s book Porsche 70 Years: There Is No Substitute was featured in this series last year.

The John Deere Century is available through Motorbooks and Amazon.

The John Deere Century Gallery