Red, Green, Silver, Yellow…How to choose the right combine

The right combine for a model harvest crew is mostly personal preference in the model world. In the real world, dealer support, capacity, reliability and a whole host of options determine what harvesters are using. Read along to see what options are available for a model crew and what kinds of combines the real harvesters are using.

Common Scales and Models.

1/16 scale is the size of farm model most people are familiar with. Many of us grew up plowing dirt, hauling manure, or baling hay in the front yard or on the carpet with one of these great models we received for Christmas or our birthday. This size is great for kids to recreate farming like grandpa but not quite as great for recreating a harvest crew.

The selection of models in 1/16 scale is limited to the John Deere S670 at 29 1/2″ long, 13″ wide and 12″ high. The combine alone is going to take up serious real estate.

1/20th scale offers more older options. The Massey Ferguson 850 and 860 can be found to name a few.

1/24th provides some great machines if going old school. Like 1/28th scale though support equipment is nonexistent. If one is not afraid to mix scales of models there is a John Deere 6600, Massey Ferguson 8780XP, Gleaner N6 through S88 series of combines. I actually created a 1/24th scale combine trailer and married it to a 1/32nd scale combine. It worked, but did looked odd with two distinctly different sizes mixed together.

1/28th scale made a splash in the 80s with the newly arrived Titan series Deere combine. Just like the real machines, the models came with yellow and green cabs but no numbers to designate if the combine was a 66/77 or 8820. In the 90s Ertl rolled out the 96 and 9500 series Maximizers. Moving down in physical size this combine will take up quite a bit of room. In addition, there are no trucks in this scale and support equipment to finish off the crew.

1/32nd begins to offer more options in both combines and trucks. Measuring 10″x6″x5 1/2″ tall, this size is more manageable compared to the other scales mentioned thus far. Moore’s Farm Toys offers a 1/32nd header trailer. It was designed to be towed behind a combine, but there is no reason it could not go behind a pickup or combine trailer. Regarding combine trailers, there are no 1/32nd trailer manufactured beyond custom built. I have made one 1/32nd scale combine trailer for a friend with many 1/32nd scale pieces. Not too difficult and quite fun to build.

There is a nice selection of John Deere combines from the S690 back to 9750STS with several in between. New Holland offers the CR9090, CR 8090 and dives back to the TR series.  From a 1460, 1680, 2188, to 9230 CaseIH has several nice models to choose from. Gleaner made news with the L series combines from the 1980s, but stopped production with the L3 in Deutz stripes. Even Cat has entered the 1/32nd with the Lexion 590R and Claas 780 in Cat colors.

1/64th is where the largest amount of choice in model combines exist. In addition, the size and price is very attractive with models falling into a size range of 6″x3″x3″. Entry level prices can be as little as $15 for bargain shoppers. There is a whole host of aftermarket parts to trick out these models. From tires, handrails, decals, bin extensions (in open and closed positions) to feederhouses that tilt and raise. There is even a sidehill kit for the harvesters going into the hill country of Washington State.

Want a CaseIH 7230? No problem, re-decal an 8230. Want an 8820? Re-badge a 7720. With a little work and creativity a simple $20 model can turn into $200 model with all the parts available to make them very accurate and freaking awesome.

Special bonus when the ebook is published. A list of 1/64th scale combines that have been manufactured.

1/80th scale was my introduction into combine models. For those of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, this odd sized combine was the only game in town for model farmers. There was the Deere Titan in a couple variations and the IH 14xx series model. For the day it was great because what else was there? Nothing! But these two models looked silly when lined up next to the rest of the equipment as we farmed carpet.

1/87th scale is the outlier. Combines in this scale take on a largely European flavor, but there are no combines styled after North American “looking” machines. There are trucks available so a crew can be made in this scale. When researching for this book, I found photos of a John Deere and Kenworth outfit a fellow assembled in 2005. It looked pretty awesome. Scratch built combine trailers and end dump grain boxes made for a very cool looking fleet. The only trouble is finding modern combines. The choices are very limited in 1/87th for a harvest crew as seen in the United States.

Selecting a model combine for a harvest crew

Choosing the combine for your crew can be a bit overwhelming, but not so difficult when we consider what the custom harvesters are using. The most popular brand on the harvest trail is John Deere with the S670 and S680 being the two most common sizes.  Deere has a great dealer network so parts are available virtually anywhere wheat is grown.

The second most common brand is Case IH with the 7240 and 8240 being two common sizes.

Making a modest comeback is the Gleaner combine. With the introduction of the S series combines, a few more Gleaners are making the run. Stegman, Kulhanek, and Gossen Harvesting are using the S78.

It is surprising how many New Hollands are making the run. Osowski Ag, Zeorian Harvesting and Trucking and L. Petersen Farms are three of several haversting businesses using yellow machines. The 8090 is a common model number.

I have seen a few Massey Ferguson, and Cat Challenger Combines from time to time, but these brands do not have the harvester market as the four previously listed.

Should I trade every year like the big boys?

Many custom harvesters are trading combines annually. When we have selected a brand and model number for our model crew, we too will need to decide if we want to upgrade as manufacturers release new model numbers. My main crew, Rockin H Harvesting, has five 7088 CaseIH combines. This model is now four series old. I keep them due to this particular model of combine having insane detail. Practically speaking, “selling out of the box combines” every year is a losing proposition as they are hard to sell and do not bring much money. It would be easier to give them away to your neighbor kid, niece or nephew.

If a model crew has very many machines, we not only have the cost of upgrading, we have the issue of what to do with the older models. Unlike the custom harvesters that trade their machines, we are stuck with ours. It’s not like we are flipping combines that cost $350k per machine, ours are going to cost $30 per model or less in some cases. But it is one more thing to do each year along with the hassle of trying to sell the old stock. It’s not a great big issue, but it is one more thing to add to our to do list.

A way to work around keeping up with the newest combines each year is to make a slightly older crew or work older machines into the story of a layout. There are harvesters that run older model combines along with new combines. Mark Heil Harvesting is running a 2388, 7088 and a Massey 860 in a pinch. Misener Family Harvesters run Maximizer Deere combines from the 90s. Open A Lazy E Land and Cattle Company runs one 2388, one 7088 CaseIH and a New Holland. It is very common to see a blend older machines and new iron making the trail. This can give those of us comfort if we are working to replicate a real crew.