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The International Harvester 4300

A company insider’s memories of introducing this unique machine to the Prairies

In the late 1950s the farm tractor horsepower race was really starting to heat up. International Harvester had just introduced its New World of Power machines — a line up of new, modern, high speed tractors moving away from the old fashioned, the-heavier-the-better concept into more efficient engines, hydraulics and transmissions. At the same time, John Deere was about to leave its traditional two-cylinder design and launch the New Generation tractors which included the breakthrough models 3010 and 4010.

Against this backdrop both Harvester and Deere decided to develop a really big tractor with all four wheels the same size. The result was the John Deere 8010 and the International Harvester 4300.

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The 8010 was big by the standards of the time, with a 7.0 Litre Detroit Diesel engine developing 215 engine horsepower and delivering 150 at the drawbar. It weighed in at 19,700 pounds.

The IH offering was bigger with a 13.4 Litre (817 cubic inch) turbocharged engine turning out 300 engine horsepower, Nebraska tested at 204 drawbar horses. It weighed 29,815 pounds and offered three steering options: front wheel steer, four wheel steer (with the front turning in the direction of travel and the rear turning the opposite way to provide full power turns) and, lastly, crab steering, where both sets of wheels turned the same way to hold on side hills. This was also meant to facilitate implement hookup and to escape getting mired in sloughs and wet spots.

The original plan was to produce 38 tractors, but ultimately 44 were built at the International Hough Plant in Libertyville, Illinois.

4300s in Manitoba

In the early 1960s I was the IH zone manager living in Killarney, Manitoba, with responsibility for the company’s farm equipment sales and dealers in that part of the province.

The 4300 tractors were first sold in 1961 and by 1963 there had been three sold in Canada — two on my territory. The first unit was sold by the Deloraine dealership Hainsworth Sales and Service to the owner of a large farm in the Medora area.

Remi Mosset was the farmer who bought it. He operated a 5,000 acre mixed farm and seed cleaning plant. Since the 4300 was new and very different, Remi wanted to see one in operation before buying. So we took him to visit the Kirschman Farm at Lemon, South Dakota. Kirschman happened to be a successful inventor and manufacturer of aftermarket fertilizer attachments for grain drills, as well as one of the first purchasers of a 4300 in the U.S. Remi was much impressed with what he saw; after a lot of negotiation, a deal was struck for the tractor and a IH 40-foot HD model 75 chisel plow.

Two things I particularly remember were the arrival and the settlement process. The tractor was shipped by rail flatcar — it was a full load and stuck out on both sides of the car. Many of the townspeople came out to watch the unloading. The 75 chisel plow was the only one ever sold in Canada, and it came unassembled by boxcar.

When Remi was ready to take delivery he paid the dealer with a combination of cash, milk cheques, grain cheques and miscellaneous cheques. We had a pile of money on the dealer’s desk which we had to count several times to get the same total twice.

The tractor was a huge success and was nicknamed “Crunch”, because it was supposedly able to pull anything not tied down. One story was the moving of a water tower —a D6 couldn’t move it, but “Crunch” did.

As was often the case with new products, there were a couple of hiccups. In the case of the 4300, it originally came with a standard gear transmission which had two problems. First, it got very hot under heavy, constant load and so did the operators feet. Second, the gears were large and very well balanced. So when the clutch was depressed they kept turning, making shifting harder and slower than normal.

This was resolved in the winter of 1962 when the tractor was shipped to Brandon to the International heavy duty truck shop where an Allison power shift was installed. This system used a torque converter to start the load but locked up when it got up to speed. It was great. The only other issue was a change of wheel rims to overcome possible failures due to weight and load. Both were done as company-paid field changes.

In late 1962 the International Harvester publication Canadian Farming ran an article about Remi and the 4300 for the spring 1963 edition.

I vividly recall when we were in the field with the 4300 they were working land which had been recently purchased. Much of Remi’s farm had been small holdings, which like everywhere in the Southern Prairies during the “dirty thirties” had topsoil piled up feet deep along the fence lines. He wanted large fields, which meant working up the old fence lines. He would be working at an eight to 10 inch depth with the chisel plow, but when it came to the fence lines the chisel plow went “to the frame.” The 4300 gave a puff of smoke when the governor opened up but didn’t change speed and made a sound that any tractor guy would love.

Remi Mosset has left this earth, but I recently came in contact with his grandson Patrick Mosset who farms in the Melita area. I found that the 4300 was traded in the late 1970s and was subsequently sold to a highway construction company to pull a large packer. Patrick eventually found the tractor in Kansas, owned by a collector who really didn’t want to sell it — but would for U.S.$185,000! It is still there, but Patrick did buy another one, which he sold last year for $84,000 — more modest but still many times the new Canadian price.

The other two Canadian 4300s were sold in 1962 and 1963.The first one was to Reid Farms from the Wawanesa, Manitoba, area and the last one to a farmer near Three Hills, Alberta. Although there were only 44 of these tractors sold, they set the stage for IH and others to develop four-wheel drive tractors.

At the time of this writing there are three 4300s still in Canada. One is with the original owner at Three Hills and another with a collector in the Calgary area. The third one is part of the outstanding IH collection owned by the Richards family of Barrie, Ontario.

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