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ToyTractorShow.com Salutes 25 years of Axial-Flow Combines


Silver Anniversary CaseIH 2388

Editor's note-Its hard to imagine that the Axial-Flow will celebrate its 25th anniversary in the fall of 2002, considering what a "radical departure" it was from the conventional combines of the same vintage. It was designed for capacity, simplicity, and reliability-things that are sometimes lost when an "all-new" theory is put into production. This tribute will focus on the history of the Axial-Flow from its inception to the present-day machines and is dedicated to the fine employees of the East Moline plant who have made this dream into reality. 

Jim Schroer 

 1977 International Harvester 1440 Axial Flow

When the Axial-Flow was introduced to the world in the fall of 1977, it was the culmination of many man-hours of hard work, testing, and engineering. Virtually everything on this new machine was thoroughly examined & re-examined to make it adapt to the many hundreds of different crops it would be required to harvest with efficiency, with a minimum of effort required to adapt to all of these different crops, while maintaining a high standard of quality of the grain it would harvest. Over a million man-hours went into this project. Different configurations were tried, different concepts were tried. When International Harvester produced "the final product", it was decided that one single, longitudinally-mounted rotor offered the most promise. While other manufacturers had experimented with rotary combines, IH went "full-tilt" into the rotary combine business with the Axial-Flow. 

Different By Design

While many viewed this as a risky proposition, IH was fully committed to go "full rotary". Why? Perhaps market share numbers answer this question more clearly. While IH was considered a "strong #2" in most agricultural machinery markets at the time (behind John Deere), their combine numbers were lackluster, to say the least. With Deere, Allis-Chalmers/Gleaner, and Massey-Ferguson all having a large share of the North American combine business, IH had rather poor sales numbers in this area. Couple that with the fact that IH had relatively few "unique features" on their conventional combines, and it becomes easier to understand why, perhaps, that IH took the bold step to release an entirely different kind of machine from what the market already had.


International Harvester 15 series Conventional Combine Line Up

IH introduced the first 2 models of Axial-Flows, the 1440 & 1460, in the fall of 1977. IH produced an initial run of 300 machines at that time that were subjected to many different types of crops & conditions. These were closely & carefully monitored to make sure that nothing had been overlooked in the design process for the combine. Once IH made sure there were no "big gremlins" to worry about with the initial design, regular production began. Early in 1978, a larger model was introduced, the 1480. IH now had the "nucleus" to its "Axial-Flow fleet", with more models to show up later. The 1480 had a 190HP DT-436 IH engine, 30" rotor, 208 bu. grain tank, and a sieve cleaning area of 6420 sq. in. The 1460 had a 170HP DT-436 IH engine, 24" rotor, 180 bu. capacity grain tank, with a sieve cleaning area of 4750 sq. in. The 1440 had a 135HP D-436 IH engine,24" rotor, 145 bu. capacity grain tank, with a sieve cleaning area of 4750 sq. in. While the 1440 & 60 shared the same threshing/separating specs., there were a few other differences besides grain tank capacity & engine horsepower.  IH also offered a hillside model 1470 with a 210hp IH DT-466 engine,  145 bu. grain tank, 24" rotor and the 1482 pull-type combine requiring a 130hp or larger tractor, 30" rotor and 245 bu. grain tank.


IH Specialty Combines the 1470 Hillside and 1482 Pull-Type

Most importantly, the main frame was considerably lighter on the 40 models. In addition, the transmission & final drives were of lighter construction as well. All models were equipped with hydrostatic drive only, which was coupled to a 3-speed transmission. All models used a 3-piece concave, of which there were 2 sizes-small wire for wheat and small grain applications, and large wire for corn & other row-crop applications. Concaves were able to be changed in an hour. In the back half of the rotor cage were 3 separating grates. 2 different styles of grates were available- slotted for most crops & bar (commonly referred to as "keystock grates") for conditions were more aggressive separation was necessary. Rock protection was offered in the form of a stone retarder drum-which was a front feeder drum with recessed areas for the feeder chain links. The crop was fed from the feeder to the front of the rotor, where impeller blades (commonly referred to as "elephant ears") accelerated the crop to threshing speed with the help of a transition cone. There were 4 blades on an 80 rotor, 3 on the 40/60 models. Adjustable vanes in the rotor cage controlled the speed of crop flow through the rotor cage area. They could be adjusted to the "advanced" position to move crop through faster, or in the "retarded" position to slow down crop movement through the cage area. Behind the rotor was a 4-blade discharge beater, which expelled the crop material coming off of the back of the rotor to a pair of spreaders which spread the material on the ground. The cleaning fan was a 6-blade paddle fan. The unloading auger was a hydraulically activated, turret-mounted design; which offered ease of unloading into tall trucks or wagons. A shaft speed monitor, which monitored 6 different shafts, was available as well. Fuel tank capacity was 123 gal. on the 1480, 92 gal. on the 1440/1460.

International Harvester 1440 with 810 pick up head

Model 810 straight headers were available from 13' to 24', as well as pickup models in 5 & 6-belt sizes. 800 series corn heads were available as well. 1440s could handle 4RN, 4RW, and 5RW sizes. 1460s could handle the same size heads plus 6RW & 8RN sizes as well. The 1480 could handle the model 884 8RW head in addition to all of the smaller heads.

International Harvester Rice Combine

The model year of 1979 brought about some minor changes to the Axial-Flow lineup. The turbocharged engines in the 1460 & 1480 models became "B" series engines, which were the result of some major changes in engine design of the IH 400 series engines. Major changes were involved in the camshaft/lifter area as well as piston/piston ring/sleeve design, and the relocation of the engine breather to the valve cover. Another change to the Axial-Flow was the discharge beater behind the rotor. The previous 4-blade design was replaced by a 3-blade design for better performance. The water separator for the fuel system was changed from a canister-style to a spin-on filter style design. The pulley that drives the hydro pump and hydraulic pump belt was changed from a one-piece style to a 2-piece style with a replaceable hub. The feeder slip clutch was changed from a "ratchet-style" to a "disc-style" for improved strength. The Niehoff "brushless-style" alternator was released to be installed in conditions where the factory-installed Delco alternator was plugging up from chaff & debris, causing over heating of the alternator. The 820 flexhead was introduced for harvesting of crops very low to the ground. It was available in sizes from 13' to 22 1/2'. A new option allowed the cleaning fan speed to be adjustable from inside the cab. Previously, fan speed was adjusted by turning a knob by the fan speed adjusting sheaves on the RH side of the combine. Also introduced for 1979 were the 1460 & 1480 Rice Special combines. Major differences from their "regular grain" counterparts were: a special rice rotor, rice tires, long unloading auger, raised grain tank leveling auger, swing-up operator's ladder, a 466 engine in the 1480 model, and could be equipped with tires or tracks.

Generations Working Together CaseIH 2388 and IH 1460

Follow the IH Axial-Flow Combine Story through the 1980's on Part V


Article by Jim Schroer 

Page Arrangement by Jason Hasert



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