The Big Cat’s Ninth Life: 1987 Steiger Panther 1000

The 1980s are not pleasantly remembered by most in agricultural manufacturing. Things took a downturn in the late ‘70s, got serious in the early ‘80s, and had agriculture reeling on just about every level for most of the rest of that decade. The early and mid ‘80s changed the tractor manufacturing landscape for good and some of the long-established cornerstones of that business were forced to reorganize while others disappeared completely.

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Daron Rittenauer’s ‘87 Panther 1000 is almost a last-of-the-breed tractor. Though built under the ownership of Case IH, it was still the same tractor offered by Steiger in its last year of corporate independence. The Panther and the Lion shared a platform this year, the only difference being the Cummins or Cat engines (your choice) were turned up from 335 to 375 hp. Yeah, it’s safe to say Daron’s is turned up that much.

Daron Rittenauer’s ‘87 Panther 1000 is almost a last-of-the-breed tractor. Though built under the ownership of Case IH, it was still the same tractor offered by Steiger in its last year of corporate independence. The Panther and the Lion shared a platform this year, the only difference being the Cummins or Cat engines (your choice) were turned up from 335 to 375 hp. Yeah, it’s safe to say Daron’s is turned up that much.

Steiger had helped change the farming landscape when the Steiger family built a big, 6-71 Jimmy-powered tractor in 1957 and entered a market with only a couple of competitors. They soon set the standard, made the right moves, and, for many years, dominated the big tractor market. They weren’t too big to fail; however, and the ‘80s hit them as hard as anyone. By 1986, they were operating their Fargo, North Dakota, plant at about 25 percent of capacity and had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Late that year Tenneco Inc., the parent company of Case IH and already a part owner of Steiger, bought the remainder of the company. Big changes loomed.

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The original buyer of this ’87 Panther chose the 855 ci Big Cam Cummins over the 893 ci Cat. (We won’t enter into the Cat versus Cummins argument!) Debuting in 1957, the 855 Cummins has an enviable reputation as a powerhouse, and variations are still in production today. The NTA-855-A 1987 was an aftercooled, turbocharged, four-valve engine in the Big Cam IV Series. The crankshaft has seven 4.5-in diameter main bearings and the con-rod journals are 3.125 inches in diameter. This engine uses wet liners and is a monster, weighing in at almost 3,000 lbs. The pistons feature three compression rings and one oil control ring. In the Panther 1000, the engine was rated for 335 hp, but the Lion was cranked up to 375 hp—up to 480 hp intermittent is listed in other manuals and a maximum of 535. Peak torque was at 1400 rpm, and the 335 hp engine was listed at 1,135 lbs-ft.

The original buyer of this ’87 Panther chose the 855 ci Big Cam Cummins over the 893 ci Cat. (We won’t enter into the Cat versus Cummins argument!) Debuting in 1957, the 855 Cummins has an enviable reputation as a powerhouse, and variations are still in production today. The NTA-855-A 1987 was an aftercooled, turbocharged, four-valve engine in the Big Cam IV Series. The crankshaft has seven 4.5-in diameter main bearings and the con-rod journals are 3.125 inches in diameter. This engine uses wet liners and is a monster, weighing in at almost 3,000 lbs. The pistons feature three compression rings and one oil control ring. In the Panther 1000, the engine was rated for 335 hp, but the Lion was cranked up to 375 hp—up to 480 hp intermittent is listed in other manuals and a maximum of 535. Peak torque was at 1400 rpm, and the 335 hp engine was listed at 1,135 lbs-ft.

The Panther had an optional PTO and a 3-point lift, but they aren’t common—Daron's doesn’t have either, just a huge drawbar and four pairs of remotes. Four radial 20.8R-38 tires put the power to the ground. The original tires size was listed as 23.1-34 non radials.

The Panther had an optional PTO and a 3-point lift, but they aren’t common—Daron’s doesn’t have either, just a huge drawbar and four pairs of remotes. Four radial 20.8R-38 tires put the power to the ground. The original tires size was listed as 23.1-34 non radials.

RABA makes the axles, which feature single or double reduction hubs. They’re made in Hungary at a licensed Steiger tractor plant.

RABA makes the axles, which feature single or double reduction hubs. They’re made in Hungary at a licensed Steiger tractor plant.

When 1987 rolled around, there had been many changes to the Steiger lineup, but Case IH began rebadging Steigers—painting them red and placing them in the lineup. That was good for production, and under the Case IH banner, the rebadged Steigers sold well. By the end of 1988, it had been decided to retire the Steiger name and signature green paint—the nameplate was to come back later but not the paint. The old Steiger plant in Fargo, remains in operation for Case IH, still cranking out big tractors.

There’s a tale of dealers applying Steiger badging to the Case IH units in the early days to help with the mental transition of customers.

In 1982, the 1000 Series Panthers debuted alongside the standard Series IV Panther. The 1000 line was bigger than the Series IV, offered a better cab, full powershift final drives and other upgrades. Later, a Cougar, Wildcat, Bearcat and Lion would join the 1000 series line, the Puma, Wildcat and Cougar being smaller, lower-power tractors and the Lion being higher powered.

Two engines had been previously available in the Panther: a 325 hp CAT 3406 DIT inline six or a Cummins NT-855 C-325, also making 325 hp. For ’86, similar but upgraded powerplants were used, either the CAT 3406 DITA or the Cummins NTA-855—both cranked out 335 hp with aftercooling. Another big difference in the newer 1000 series was advancement in final drive, with the full powershift 12-speed transmission getting some upgrades. For ’86, the Lion was added to the line, and it shared the same chassis and basic engine as the Panther, though the Lion engines were rated for 375 hp versus 335 for the Panther.

The pivot point of an articulated tractor is where a lot of stuff happens: Not only is there power transmission to the rear axle via huge universals, a lot of hydraulics transfer as well. You will note that the forward end of drawbar attaches just before the pivot point. Those two pivots carry a lot of torque, so maintenance is important to avoid an extensive and expensive repair.

The pivot point of an articulated tractor is where a lot of stuff happens: Not only is there power transmission to the rear axle via huge universals, a lot of hydraulics transfer as well. You will note that the forward end of drawbar attaches just before the pivot point. Those two pivots carry a lot of torque, so maintenance is important to avoid an extensive and expensive repair.

For ’87, with a repaint in red, the Panther 1000 was also sold as the Case IH 9170. Starting in January of 1988, the Steiger line was gradually eliminated from production, and all units were badged Case IH and painted red. Reduced numbers of green Steigers continued to be sold into 1989. From that point, the Steiger name was randomly applied. There’s a tale of dealers applying Steiger badging to the Case IH units in the early days to help with the mental transition of customers. Later, the Steiger name was resurrected for certain special models and it continues to be used for specific upper-end, big-power tractors. The Steiger legacy can still make some claw marks! DW

A nice place to work. Plenty of visibility, air conditioning, a suspended seat with armrests, a nice sound system and plenty of controls to keep you occupied. It even has autosteer tied in with a GPS and automation for planter and fertilizer application. The hour meter shows 1380 hours.

A nice place to work. Plenty of visibility, air conditioning, a suspended seat with armrests, a nice sound system and plenty of controls to keep you occupied. It even has autosteer tied in with a GPS and automation for planter and fertilizer application. The hour meter shows 1380 hours.

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