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Precision Perspective
By Phil Alstaetter

Historically the John Deere “D”, the “A” and “4010” have been viewed as classics in the long green line.  In 1972 a modern day classic joined the line when John Deere introduced a series called “Generation II”.   Ertl  honored the “Generation II” series in December 2004 by releasing the top selling 4430 as the first new Key Precision tractor. 

The 125 hp.  John Deere 4430 and its three sister tractors the 4030, 4230 and 4630 were distinguished  by new styling, dramatic  innovations for comfort safety  of operators, new transmission options, and hydraulically controlled Perma-Clutch .   Time proven features  such as closed-center hydraulics,  power brakes and hydrostatic power steering.   Options included such  familiar favorites as a 3-point hit7060 ch with lower-link sensing ;  Power Weight-Transfer Hitch ; power front wheel drive. Only diesel engines were available on the 4430 and other 30 series tractors.  By 1972 farmers preferred diesel fuel over gasoline and liquid propane.

Until Generation II, only automobiles had bodies.   Tractors had cabs that were add-on enclosures simply placed over the operators platform.  With John Deere’s new line, tractors had full bodies designed like cars so that the cab was an integral part of the entire vehicle.   John Deere called there new tractor body Sound-Gard.    Like the working home of the astronauts,  the Sound-Gard body was a self contained unit command module.  Deere’s new design offered a refined posture seat, and a Control Island housing all instruments, power steering and brake mechanisms, and PYO and clutch controls.  The frame of the Sound-Gard body had 4-post ROPS ( Roll Over Protection)  structure for tractor roll over safety.

Equally important were Sound-Gard innovations directed at reducing  sound levels in the cab to less than 85 dB.   The curved front and angled sides, sound absorbing blankets of space-age lead septum; vibration absorbing rubber body mounts all reduced the outside engine and work noise in the cab.

The combination of comfort and performance features on the “Generation II”  tractors inspired a new name: Sound-Idea line.  The word “sound” as used in “Sound-Gard” body implied noise reducing ability of the modular body.  As used in “Sound-Idea” , “sound”  is synonymous with valid, which refers to the entire range of features incorporated into the 4430 and other 30 series tractors. 

The introduction of the “Generation II” Sound Idea tractors coincided with a rise in the farm economy and farm incomes.  The demand for these tractors  supported by farmers ability to buy, outpaced  manufacturing ability at the John Deere Waterloo Works tractor factory.

The John Deere 4430 tractor from the Sound-Idea series starts a new tradition in farm toy collecting just like the real model did in the farm world.  In 1990 Ertl surprised  the toy world with the Precision Classic Series.  The John Deere A served as the first high detail replica in the Precision line.  Ertl’s Precision Series replicas were not toys of any form, they were highly detailed 1/16 scale models created from hundreds of separate parts and carefully finished.  The precision models were packaged in boxes with a collector’s medallion and reproduction of a historical brochure.  The first Precision Classic John Deere A sold for about $75.00 in 1990 whereas most Ertl products sold for $20-30.  Soon an extremely detailed John Deere A with mounted cultivators was released for an even higher price of $115.  Collectors bought up these Precision A’s despite these higher prices because they understood they were of a better value at not an unreasonable price.  The John Deere Precision Classic series includes 25 models that were produced over 14 years.  In 2004, Ertl decided it was time to take the Precision Series in a new direction and ended the original series with Model number 25, a John Deere 5010 packaged in a special chrome colored box. 

Ertl has embarked on a new generation of precisions called the Key Series which has vast improvements over past replicas in detail and packaging.  The first Precision Key Series is the John Deere 4430 which has opening  engine compartments, removable individual front weights, opening cab doors and windows, 3 point hitch, moving gear shift levers and hydraulic controls, engine wiring and steerable wide front.  If you carefully look around the model 4430, you will notice the Good Year tires have valve stems, a tiny spring under the iso-mounted cab, lifelike hinges on the opening cab windows, moveable windshield wipers, extreme engine detailing complete with a radiator fan, and authentic warning details on the model. 

The big change with Precision Key Series is the packaging.  Gone is the fully enclosed ice cream style box.    The model is in plain view covered in conforming plastic.  The collector’s medallion has been replaced with a key.  Each tractor will come with an exact replica of the real tractor’s key.  The new box incorporates pictures and text from the 4430’s original sales brochure. 

The Key Precision Series is off to a strong start with the 4430.  There are some concerns from collectors and dealers about thee open air box exposing the model.  One thing to be careful of concerning the open box is that flood lights and other small parts can easily be broken off in shipping.  Ertl is reviewing the box and may add a clear plastic cover over the front to protect the model. 

The next John Deere Precision Key Series tractor will be a John Deere G and the 2005 East Moline John Deere Collector’s Center tractor will be a model 40 with a snap on two bottom plow.  CASE IH will unveil its first Key Precision as the International 1206 later this year. The #2 CaseIH Key Precision will be a big surprise a something new for red fans. Ertl is still determing options to launch the New Holland and AGCO Precision Key Series. The new Key Series will encompass any tractor from 2004 to the early 1900's that is no longer in production. Thathat is a wide range to chose from and should keep collectors happy for many years to come.

Remember: Collect what you like and like what you collect.

Philip J. Altstaetter  

Ertl John Deere 4430 Key Precision introduction flyer

John Deere 4430
Precision Key Series

New Ertl John Deere 4430

Key Precision John Deere 4430 box backing with historical images

Key Precision 4430 replica facts

Gold 4430 Key with the #1 for the first KEYPrecision

Detailed John Deere
4430 engine

Detailed cab with small
spring underneath

Detailed cab interior complete with all controls and hinged windows.

The 4430's windows open just like the real thing.

The door opens to show a life like 4430 cab interior.

Detailed tire complete
with valve stem

Detailed three point hitch