Whispering Giant -1968 Oliver 2150 Four-Wheel

1968 Oliver 2150 Four-Wheel Drive

As a tractor brand name, Oliver was just about lost to history when they started building their most powerful rear-drive tractor, The-2150, in April of 1968. Oliver had been purchased by White Motor Company in October of 1960 and White soon snapped up Cockshutt in Canada and Minneapolis-Moline. The brand names were retained initially but by 1968, White had consolidated production to the point that tractors within those brands were often the same units with different paint and nameplates. Oliver was generally the most advanced of the three brands, so most of the surviving original DNA came from them. In just a few short years, all three of the original names would end and the tractor line homogenized under the White brand.

We Need More Power!

Though 1967, the most powerful row-crop tractor in the Oliver line was the 1950T. It was powered by the turbocharged Oliver-Waukesha D310T, a 310 cubic-inch, 105 PTO horsepower six that had been Oliver’s first turbocharged tractor. The 1950T and its Jimmy-powered 1950 GM counterpart, were substantial tractors but Oliver needed more to balance against the other manufacturers. Thus, 2150 was born.

This is a row-crop version of 2150, complete with a Class III 3-point hitch, rear PTO, and flat top fenders. An option was to replace the fenders with dual 39-gallon fuel tanks. The auxiliary tanks were more commonly seen on the Wheatland version due to the longer distances that type of work took the tractor away from the farmyard. You can better see the adapters for dual rear wheels in this image.

The tractor industry was still exploring the traction limits of the rear-drive tractor. Around 1960, the “100 horsepower barrier” had held up a lot of tractor development industry-wide. Tires and final drive strength were a big part of that, but by the mid-1960s, better tires, rear duals, and stronger final drives had made over 100 horses doable. Of course, four-wheel drive was always there but the row-crop farmers in particular were resistant to them. It came down to cost, mainly, and maneuverability. The rear-drive tractor still had the edge in that area.

This ‘68 2150 four-wheel drive is the standard duty unit, which is the say the “regular” heavy duty. When the four-wheel drive was added, they tended to be called, 2150 Heavy Duty. The rear-drive 2150 had a rear final drive with planetary gears (reducing axle loads by 30 percent), necessary because most often these tractors were run with duals. The four-wheel drive heavy duty did not have a planetary rear as standard. Oliver knew that with the addition of a driving front axle (which had planetary gears) the extra beef of the planetary rear was not needed in most cases, as the extra driving axle reduced the torque loads on the rear substantially. Still, they made the planetary rear available as an option. If you ordered a 2150 Extra Heavy Duty it came with the planetary final drive as well as the planetary front. Heavy-Duty units had a serial number suffix of 661. Extra Heavy Duty had a 665 suffix and rear drive units had a 657 suffix. This Heavy Duty unit is also set up for rear duals. We saw this superb tractor at the 2020 Tri-State Show in Portland, Indiana, but weren’t able to find the owner.

The-2150 came about when Oliver engineers gained access to a new Hercules 478 cubic inch diesel. Though Waukesha had long been Oliver’s engine go-to company, plus the GM diesel Oliver had used in later years, the parent company of Oliver, White Motor Company, had recently bought Hercules Engine giving them an in-house engine manufacturer. The Hercules D4800T (“T” for turbocharged), more precisely called the White-Hercules D4800T, gave them a brand-new powerplant that got all the “latest-greatest” checkmarks. As fate would have it, 2050 (which used the NA D4800) and 2150 were the only Oliver-badged tractors to use the D4800 and D4800T. White badged tractors would use them many years later, however.

The D4800 in 2150 was at an early stage in its long life and White had only recently added Hercules Engine to its stable of companies, renaming it White Engine. Output varied a lot by application. In the tractor, flywheel power was about 150 horsepower at 2400, delivering 131 ponies on the PTO. In on-road applications, versions of this engine could make up to 195 horsepower at 2800 rpm and 425 lbs-ft of torque at 2000 rpm for the turbo engines. The NA engine used in the 2050 Oliver, basically the same tractor without a turbo, was rated for 119 PTO horsepower and the maximum flywheel ratings we found were around 130 horsepower at 2600, and a paltry 300 lbs-ft of torque at 1400. The D4800 had seven main bearings, wet sleeved cylinders and used the MAN M-System direct injection system. The injection pump was an AMBAC (American Bosch) Model 100. The engines were quiet and advertising coined the phrase, “Whispering Giant.” The engines were not known to not be particularly fuel efficient but they were stout.

The Hercules turned out to be a long-running powerplant. It debuted just as White Motors, which seemed to be gobbling up everything in sight, folded Hercules into their stable of businesses. Called the D478 by Oliver and D4800 by Hercules, it used the M-System, a combustion chamber developed by M.A.N. It’s considered direct injection but many think it’s a bit of a hybrid between indirect and direct injection, plus a little vintage oil engine fuel vaporization.

The M-System features a deep chamber in the piston crown, into which most of the fuel is injected. Injection pressure is relatively low for a direct-injected engine and timing is a bit earlier than most diesel. That early injection allows some of the fuel to start vaporizing and intake ports are designed to induce a swirl, so between the two processes, they achieve excellent fuel mixing. When they fire, they fire smoothly, and quietly, and don’t smoke a lot. They are said not to benefit as much from forced induction as much as a normal direct-injected engine, though many if not most applications of the engines were turbocharged at relatively low boost levels.

The operator’s station was on par for the era. 2150 was offered with a cab and it’s seen relatively often on survivors.

A side benefit to the M-System was its ability to operate as a multifuel engine. Most of the U.S. military’s fleet of 2-1/2 ton 6×6 M-35 series trucks used a multifuel version of the 478. Built by Hercules and Continental, the multifuel engines could run on all grades of diesel fuel, jet fuel, the lighter grades of fuel oil, kerosene, and low octane gasoline (with lubricating oil added or a 90/10 gas/diesel mix). Over the years, the military engines were slightly tweaked in various ways for their applications but that engine was in common use. After the 2150s got old the vast production of military spare parts has become a Godsend.

A burley engine is of little use without a capable final drive to strap it onto. Oliver was in good shape there, with freshly updated final drives. Their standard 6-speed was up to the task and with the new Over/Under Hydraul-Shift, a 3-range update of their 2-range Hydra-Power, the system had a lot of gearing flexibility. Hydraulic Shift offered a direct position, an overdrive, and an underdrive, all attainable on-the-fly. The transmission was backed up by a final drive that used planetary hubs (on the rear drive tractor). Reportedly the system did well and has stood the test of time, even with the mildly annoying trait of freewheeling in underdrive.


The-2150 was offered in three main variants, Rowcrop, Wheatland, and Riceland.  Differences between the Rowcrop and Wheatland mainly came down to standard features, such as a 3-point hitch and PTO on the Rowcrop, and the presence of chaff guards around the operator’s station for the Wheatland. A Riceland tractor was pretty much just a Rowcrop with taller diameter tires and a few other alterations.

Because it was a powerful tractor and capable of pulling 8-bottom plows, a Category III 3-point hitch was used. The rear PTO was 1000 rpm, as this one is, but a dual speed 540/1000 rpm was optional.

The second variation was the option of four-wheel drive, available on all models, and approximately one-third of the 2150s produced had that option. An Extra-Heavy Duty option combined the planetary rear final drive of the rear-drive tractor with the four-wheel drive option. Apparently, all the Extra Heavy Duty 2150s built were Wheatlands. Power steering was standard on all models. The-2150 came standard with a mechanical 6-speed gearbox but they must have been exceedingly rare. We couldn’t find 2150 without the optional Over/Under Hydraul-Shift auxiliary transmission.

The-2150 was available with a cab that came in three guises, standard Rowcrop, narrow Rowcrop, and Wheatland. An A/C system was available. Dual auxiliary fuel tanks that replaced the rear fenders were on the menu as well, offering a full load of 104 gallons including the main tank.

Oliver Green Fades to White

Late in 1969, White Motor Company reorganized into the White Farm Equipment Company and a new line of tractors emerged the 55 Series. These units completely homogenized Oliver and Minneapolis-Moline and it wouldn’t be many years before the White tractor identity would emerge and sublimate all the brands that White had purchased starting in 1960. The-2150 was replaced in the lineup by 2155, which was a rebadged Minneapolis-Moline G1350, so the direct 2150 DNA died after 1969.

While 2150 was offered for two model years,1968 production started late and 1969 production ended early, a total of only 14 months of production and 1,018 units of all types. Of those, 373 were four-wheel drive and 41 of those were extra heavy duty units. Because there was a lot of rebadging going on, 112 of the listed 2150s were in Cockshutt clothes and a few of the very last were badged as “Oliver-White,” as were many tractors that year and in the following year.

The-2150 was one of Oliver’s best and one of the last purely Oliver tractors. It’s very rare and collectible but it’s also a very effective tractor and still capable of working to great effect in the modern farmscape.



1968 Oliver 2150 4-Wheel Drive  
Engine: 6-cylinder, Hercules D4800
Displacement: 478 ci
Bore & Stroke: 4.562 x 4.875-in.
*Rated PTO Power:  131.48 hp @ 2400 rpm
Flywheel Power: 175-195 hp @ 2800 rpm
Rated Torque: 425 lbs-ft @ 2000 rpm
Compression Ratio: 18:1
Transmission:                18-speed (6×3)
Fuel Capacity: 27.5 gal. (76 gal aux. opt.)
Tires:          Front- 12.9-26
Rear-          18.4-38
*Fuel Consumption:                           8.625 gal./hr At full power                                          *Top Speed:          16.8 mph

* As Rated by Nebraska Tractor Test  986 (2150 rear drive)


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