Tractor Talk: Gold Standard

The 1970 Farmall 826 Gold Demonstrator

Upgrade or die was the watchphrase of tractor manufacturing in the 1960s. Farming was evolving rapidly and tractors were coming along for the ride. The International Harvester 06 series tractors, which had debuted in the early part of the ‘60s, had proven to be superb tractors and had done a lot to bring IH back into parity with arch-enemy John Deere. The disastrous 560 final drive faux pas in the late ‘50s had helped put the green machines into a sales lead but the new 06 Series units had done a lot to make up for it.


“A lot of improvements included options like hydraulic diff locks”

Andy and Robby Sarka’s Farmall 826 Gold Demo was seen at the 2015 Kalida Pioneer Days tractor show. The gold paint was from the IH truck line and was not a super bright color. “DEMONSTRATOR” was applied in decals to the rear edge of the hood. The Sarka’s 826 is well equipped with a TA, dual PTOs and diff lock. One thing the 826 models generally didn’t have, though it was optional, was the wedge-lock wheels. This one doesn’t have it, using the standard keyed wheel hub. Rear wheel track was adjusted by jacking up the tractor, loosening the center clamp bolts at the hub (two inner, two outer) and sliding the wheel in or out on the axle shaft. Duals could be added via a second hub or via clamp on duals. This tractor mounts a full rack of 10 suitcase weight up front (1000 lbs.) and 300 lbs of iron wheel weights in back (75 lbs x 4). Liquid filled rear tires were also common.

Starting in ’67, the IH 56 and 26 series began rolling out. They were major improvements on already good tractors. The models 656 replaced the 606, the 756 the 706, the 856 the 806 and the 1256 the 1206. Most of these tractors got upgraded engines and the D407 or DT407 (407 ci) replaced the D and DT361s (the “T” indicating a turbo diesel). They were similar engines, just increased in displacement and with a corresponding increase in power. Wedge lock wheels and axles replaced the failure-prone and horsepower-limited keyed axles. The final drives got a lot of improvements that include options like hydraulic diff locks. Controls and control layouts got improvements in function. Finally, there were enough cosmetic changes to give the tractors a fresh look without changing their basic outline.

Enter the 826

Fast Forward to 1969 and the debut of a new tractor, the 826. This was an era of intense competition with John Deere and the 4020 was the one to beat. The bigger IH 856 outperformed the Deere 4020 but was more expensive. Deere had also come out with the popular 4000 model, which was a 4020 engine mated to a 3020 final drive and with budget features. So, to reach price parity, IH also needed a budget tractor. First came the 856 Custom, which was a stripped down, low cost 856 with the bare bones of features. It was OK but in order to beat the competition, rather than just matching them, a full-featured but low-cost tractor that didn’t come across like a low-end stripper was needed and that’s how the 826 came to be.

“A small number of “Gold Demos” were built as promotional tractors”

The 826 was originally intended to be an “enhanced” 756 but it was decided a model that bridged the large gap between the 756 and the 856 was a better marketing move. It’s not quite as simple as this, but basically an 826 was an 856 final drive mated to a 756 front end and a D358 Neuss engine added to replace the 756 D310. Like the D310, the D358 (358ci) was built in IH’s Neuss engine factory in Germany and at 92 PTO hp, it fit nicely between the 76 hp 756 and the 101 hp 856. Because the final drive was rated for much more power than it was getting, it was pretty well understressed and the D358 had enough suds to equal the performance of the 4020 using less fuel and the buy-in cost was less.

Known for their fuel-sipping ways, the Neuss engines were a well-built, direct-injected seven-main diesel that weighed 1,160 pounds. In American applications, the D358 was commonly seen in naturally aspirated form but there was a turbocharged version, the DT-358, which appeared in 1979. The engine was also used in many other applications, here and overseas. In trucks, it had an rpm range up to 3,000 rpm and made 135 flywheel horsepower. When used in tractors, it was limited to 2200-2400 rpm and cranked out 100-104 flywheel horsepower. The turbo version used in tractors could crank out 125 flywheel ponies.

The 826 was most common in Farmall configuration, with either a narrow front and adjustable track rear wheels, or an adjustable track wide front. In addition to the diesel, they were offered with the IH C301 gas or a similar LP engine, though they aren’t common. Fixed track industrial or standard versions were also available that did not wear Farmall badging. The 826 came with or without the recently introduced planetary/hydraulic TA (Torque Amplifier) and had an optional hydraulic diff lock and dual 540/1000 rpm PTOs. A hydrostatic version was also available, albeit with a lower power rating. Power steering was standard.

At the working end, we see a beefy Cat II 3-point hitch. IH’s draft control was one of the better ones. Dual PTOs were also generally part of the 826 package, the upper fine-splined unit geared for 1000 rpm and the lower for 540.

The Neuss D-358 was a wet-sleeve engine with oil-cooled pistons. The crankshaft was made of Nitrided chrome-moly steel and the rods were forged steel. A liquid-to-liquid oil cooler (square unit near the oil filter) was standard on tractors. The compression ratio was typically very low, about 16:1. The low CR makes for the one universally bemoaned negative characteristic, hard starting in cold weather. The tractors could be fitted with an optional Etherizer and that helped, but did not cure, the problem for all farmers. The best aspect of the D-358 was its incredible fuel economy, about 6 gallons per hour at maximum power, maximum load and maximum ballast. It was also known for longevity. Most common was a Bosch Rotary pump that was a bit of an oddball.

The 826 has a driver’s station much like the other large frame IH units of the day. On the left is the TA lever. The throttle is vertical in front of the steering wheel. The two levers on the right are the two-speed range box (inner) and the 4-speed control. Hydrostatic steering was standard and the brakes and diff lock (operated by a lever on the platform) were also hydraulic.


And now for the Gold! In 1970, IH instituted a promotion designed to shine a spotlight on the Hydrostatic tractors. A small number of Red and Gold Demonstrators (commonly known as Gold Demos) were built as promotional tractors, though not all Gold Demos were Hydros, and many made the rounds of farmer’s fields if a guy needed further convincing. A sampling of the models available for that year got the special paint and were doled out to dealers around the country. Not every model got the treatment but it’s known 544, 656, 826, 1026 and 1456 models got gold paint. Most of these were models offered with hydrostatic transmissions, except most notably the 1456 (the 1026 was essentially a Hydro 1456). Once the promotion was over, the Gold Demos were sold, either with the gold paint intact or repainted by the dealership. Most were repainted per IH edict, but some farmers wanted the gold paint and were accommodated.

Today, the Gold Demos are highly prized but there are a lot of fakes. There are likely more “Gold Demos” today than were actually built. The original tractors were randomly selected for the special paint but there were no identifying characteristics, such as a special serial number and no paperwork has been found to indicate how many were done. The best indicators are found on an unrestored tractor or sales paperwork (rare) that indicates a Gold Demo. Because many, if not most, were repainted at the dealership, you may not know you have a Gold Demo until you start uncovering original paint.

The 826 helped IH compete in the medium sized tractor market and was built from ’69-71 with just under 10,000 built of all types. It had no direct replacement when production ended in ’71, but when the 66 series replaced the 56 and 26 series, the 966 is generally considered to have filled its place in the lineup using the D414 NA engine (96 hp). DW

Typical Specifications: 1970 Farmall 826 Red and Gold Demonstrator

Engine-                                              6-cylinder inline, Neuss/IH D358
Displacement:                                  358 ci
Bore & Stroke:                                  3.87 x 5.06 inches
Flywheel Power:                              103 hp @ 2400 rpm
Flywheel Torque:                             251 lbs-ft @ 1600 rpm
*Rated PTO Power:                         92.19 hp @ 2400 rpm
*Rated Drawbar Power:                  78.9 hp @ 2400 rpm
Compression Ratio:                         16:1
Transmission:                                   8-speed (4×2) plus optiona1 TA
Weight:                                              9,860 lbs.
Fuel Capacity:                                  37 gal.
Tires:                                                  Front- 9.5L-15/Rear – 18.4-34
*Fuel Consumption:                        6.25 gph @ full power
*Drawbar Pull:                                  8,780 lbs. @ 10.65% slip (max ballast)
*Top Speed:                                      18.25 mph
*As Rated by Nebraska Tractor Test 1045

Kalida Ohio Pioneer Days