Saturday, 3 September 2011

I expect you will have an interest in old tractors otherwise the contents of this blog will not hold your attention for long. The story of the origins of the modern tractor is a momentous and truly fascinating one.
My adopted definition of a modern tractor is one that can work with implements as one unit. The Ferguson System (not the Ferguson Tractor) was without doubt the difference between early tractors and modern tractors. This blog attempts to tie together the origins of the modern tractor in such a way as to explain them simply and in a balanced format. As I state in the forward, this blog contains no new revelation: I hope to inspire you to pick up one or more of the many threads to this story and study them in more detail. The photo collage above shows five of my hero's; four of them made significant contributions and the fifth is just simply a hero.
Most of us will have visited County Fairs, Shows or FĂȘtes and will have seen displays of old steam engines, cars, motorcycles or tractors. These never fail to fascinate us irrespective of our connection with them. The men and women behind these bygones may well belong to one of the many specialist clubs, societies or web forums that support their particular pride and joys. The world of restoration and preservation is my world and whilst I prefer to see old tractors working at a ploughing demonstration, I also admire chaps who faithfully restore old tractors and other bygone farm machinery to concourse condition; never mind they will never see a spec of dust, let alone a muddy field. I must also say that all rivalry between owners of certain makes or models of vintage tractors is usually forgotten when engineers get together with their pride and joy’s.
Ask a Briton to tell you who invented the modern tractor and I suspect that he will conjure up the image of a Little Grey Fergie and answer Harry Ferguson. That’s OK because without doubt the first modern tractor was the Ferguson prototype Black Tractor. However, like with the invention of Television and the Jet Engine we're a bit biased here on our island and we miss the bigger picture. Important as he is - Ferguson never designed a practical working tractor, his Black Tractor was just a prototype. The Ferguson-Brown tractor was weak and one of the main reasons for Ferguson's split with Brown was the recognition of this weakness and the different paths Ferguson and Brown wanted to take.
During the 1960’s I was an apprentice agricultural engineer to a supplier of Massey-Ferguson equipment. The superiority of M-F products over Ford(son) products was instilled in me and for most of my life I believed that Harry Ferguson took crude Ford tractors and turned them into modern tractors - only for Ford to cheat him and force him to bravely fight for compensation.
My intention is not to diminish Ferguson’s importance in any way, but to introduce other important contributions to the modern tractor and to look at the sequence of developments that culminated in the first truly successful modern tractor. First we look at the independent Mr. Ferguson and the independent Mr. Ford. Then we explore Ferguson & Ford working in co-operation and finally at the Ferguson & Ford battleground.
The modern tractor is a classic tale of hands across the Atlantic and with this in mind we need to know some of the subtleties of Ford and Fordson tractors because there was an Atlantic divide during their development...
Originally the board of the US Ford Motor Company refused to get behind founder Henry Ford’s first tractors and he was forced to set-up the independent Henry Ford and Son Company (more detailed a little later on); first in the US, then in Co. Cork, Ireland. In the UK the British run Ford Company did produce and sell Fordson tractors and they continued to do so long after Fordson production stopped in the US and the Cork plant was closed. In the 1950’s and early 60’s some English made Fordson tractors were exported to the US Ford Motor Company for distribution in the United States alongside the Ford tractor range, the Dexta being a fine example. It was not until the mid-1960’s and the advent of the 2000, 3000, 4000 & 5000 series that Ford, by now a unified global corporation, consolidated the Ford brand for all tractors.
With a depression in agriculture draining funds, Fordson production in the US ceased in 1928. By the mid 1930’s however, the company was planning to take up tractor manufacture again, but under the Ford name: It was during this re-development that a joint manufacturing deal was struck between Harry Ferguson and Henry Ford. The deal meant that the proposed new Ford tractor would incorporate the Ferguson Hydraulic System. This tractor was the Ford 9N which became 2N and subsequently the infamous 8N before finishing it’s life span as the NAN or Jubilee. The British Ford Company never sold these tractors or derivatives.
Sadly today Mr. Ferguson’s name and Mr. Ford’s name have all but disappeared from modern tractors.

Tractors have their beginnings in Steam Traction Engines. The word tractor was thought to have originated around the first decade of the 20th century, in the US, to mean a haulage vehicle powered by an Internal Combustion Engine (or motor, to distinguish it from a steam engine); Logically, it’s a derivation of TRACtion and moTOR.
Today the word tractor refers as much to the hauling part of an articulated road truck as to a farm machine. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries there are many recorded examples of agricultural tractors in production and use especially in North America. There will be little reference in this text to such perfectly adequate tractor companies as Claas - John Deere – International Harvester – David Brown – Case – Nuffield – Marshal - Fendt – Lanz – Massey Harris – Allis Chalmers. There is no doubt that all these companies have made some improvements to tractors. David Brown could have played a bigger role in this story but circumstances did not favour him. In my mind the 1937 Allis-Chalmers model B was a very influential tractor (and the best looking - mine's a 1939). The small size and high power-to-weight ratio caught the attention of Henry Ford. He had a number of model B's on his various farms. It is hard not to see that the success of the Allis B influenced the design of the 9N; but there can be no doubt that the origins of the modern tractor lay elsewhere. At best they helped lay down some of the foundations of the modern tractor and then subsequently adopted it’s fundamental principals. That is not a meant as a criticism it’s simply a fact. Outside of the thrust of this storyline there was one additional and significant invention that resulted in the modern tractor being technically improved – 4 Wheel Drive. The story and origins of all-wheel-drive go back earlier than you may think and is a very worthwhile thread to investigate. Ironically Harry Ferguson, who would stubbornly still be making the TE20 today without any changes, devoted his post Massey-Ferguson-Harris era to pioneering the development of the Ferguson Formula ‘ff’ all-wheel-drive system for cars.
The modern tractor can be seen as distinct from the original tractors in two crucial ways… the original tractor was simply a traction engine, with an internal combustion engine in place of a steam engine. It remained heavy, cumbersome and inefficient. The modern tractor would still haul but would be lightweight and able to be used in heavy soils. It would be nimble and versatile. It would undertake all manner of farm work and importantly alleviate the need for horses. The modern tractor has been defined as a traction unit with hydraulic controls that couple tractor and implement into one efficient unit and that’s as good a description as any.
Harry Ferguson is the key to unlocking the development of the modern tractor; he took out the original patents on a practical hydraulic system. He would have seen many earlier attempts to make a link between tractor and implement – some purely mechanical - some using hydraulic lifting – but he devised the system that forms the basis on which all hydraulically operated tractors use up to this day. His system not only carries and maintains implement control but also uses inherent forces within the system to improve traction. Without doubt Harry Ferguson significantly improved tractors but that is only half the story.
Henry Ford was a man obsessed with agriculture and the mass production of a tractor to help farmers in the same manner his famous Model ‘T’ car had revolutionized traveling. His early work was closely studied by Ferguson who worked with them during WW1. Ferguson clearly admired Ford and pragmatically saw him as a man with a similar vision for agriculture as his own and as a man with the industrial might to turn his invention into a universal winner. Henry Ford’s work on the modern tractor is certainly equal to that of Harry Ferguson’s and yet in many ways much broader. Tyres are a typical illustration of Ford’s contribution. Early tractors had steel or solid rubber tyres. Ford’s good friend Harvey Firestone (pictured with Ford & and Thomas Edison) developed the “Gum Dipped” pneumatic tractor tyre in 1932 (or should I say Tire) for him and the all-new Ford tractor. Such tyres have developed and enable today's huge and ever more powerful tractors to have a soft, gripping footprint.
The Ferguson Black tractor was simply a prototype; a fairly un-spectacular chassis with a unique and spectacular hydraulic system. If it had been good enough to stand alone would Ferguson have looked for a partner? His first partner David Brown did not work out: It seems reasonable to believe Ferguson knew the tractor chassis was not good enough to match his hydraulic system. Ferguson must have known he lacked the resources needed to develop the rest of the tractor. Anyone who has read about Ferguson knows about his independent character; he was not one to work with others comfortably. There is a good chance that he learned about the development of the new Ford tractor from the Sherman Bros. Indeed Ferguson was introduced to Henry Ford by the Sherman Bros his US associates, who were old Fordson agents and well known to Henry Ford.


Harry Ferguson (pictured) was an Ulsterman born in County Down, in 1884 and was the son of a farmer.
He was no scholar and after school was contemplating emigration to Canada rather than to have to work on his father’s farm. He like Henry Ford was appalled by the drudgery and toil that farm workers endured. By his early twenties he worked at his brother Joe garage in Belfast where he showed he had a genius for mechanics. He tuned and raced motorcycles and later would do the same with cars. He even persuaded Joe that it would be good for their garage business to build and fly a new fangled airplane. Throughout 1909 construction of the airplane took place and on the 31 December 1909 it flew. Thus Harry Ferguson made the first flight in Ireland and was the first Briton to build and fly his own airplane.
During WWI Ferguson was asked to put his mechanical genius to work on improving agricultural equipment, which led him into experimental researches on tractors and ploughs. By 1916 Ferguson manufactured the ‘Belfast Plough’. It was produced as the result of Harry Ferguson's inventive streak and Willie Sands (his chief engineer) engineering ability. It was designed for use with the Eros, a tractor conversion of the Ford Model T car. When Fordson introduced the model F tractor shortly after this, Willie Sands was able to make an adapter for the plough. The very first Ferguson System was operated by means of an arrangement of springs and levers.
In 1925 Ferguson looked towards the US market and in partnership with Ebner and George Sherman, founded Ferguson-Sherman Inc. Ferguson-Sherman Inc. produced and sold the Ferguson plough with his patented ‘Duplex’ hitch system suitable to fit Fordson tractors. This association would later, in 1938, lead the Sherman brothers, who were Fordson agents and known to Henry Ford, to introduce him to Ferguson.
It was between 1925 and 1928 that he was granted patents for the Draft Control Hydraulic System and 3 point linkage. By 1933 he built the Ferguson ‘Black’ prototype tractor in Belfast; the original is now in the Science Museum in London. The Black tractor incorporated all his patents.
The David Brown Engineering Company of Huddersfield England, had made the differential gear and transmission for Ferguson. Between 1933 and 1938 Harry Ferguson co-founded with David Brown the Ferguson-Brown Co. to manufacture replicas of the prototype tractor.
The partnership was short-lived but around 1354 Ferguson-Brown model ‘A’ tractors equipped with the Ferguson hydraulic system were produced (see below). In 1938 in anticipation of a break with David Brown, Harry Ferguson set off with a model ‘A’ tractor for Dearborn Michigan.


Henry Ford, born July 30, 1863 was the son of an immigrant Irish farmer who famously made cars affordable to a large number of people. He is credited with inventing the production line assembly process and it created an empire, which took raw materials and turned then into the cars. The Ford Company remains one of the world’s largest concerns with an economy greater than that of many countries.
Henry always retained his father’s tie with the land. He was keenly aware of the hard toil experienced by the farmers of his era and sought to use his manufacturing knowledge to better the farmer’s lot. The Model T Ford car took all his interest for some time. He built his first experimental tractor (see photo) in 1907 using car parts. It was known as an Automobile Plough. In 1915 he started work on a production tractor the Model F. Under the direction of Chief Engineer Joseph Galamb, Eugene Farkas instigated, a self-supporting, iron casings to form the chassis instead of the traditional frame. Ford was hesitant but after the 50 prototype models were successful in the field, he agreed that the structure was correct and ideal for mass production. By making the casings of the motor and transmission for the tractor with materials developed in car industry, it was possible to develop a lightweight tractor. The Fordson model F tractor weighed only 1100 kg.

As a result of Ford boardroom dissent, Henry Ford set up a separate company to produce and sell tractors: Henry Ford and Son Company, referring to him and his son Edsel, sold the tractors under the Fordson name. Later, when Ford assumed complete control of Ford Motor Company in 1919, the two companies were merged. The Fordson Model ‘F’ was manufactured at Dearborn, Michigan, from 1917 to 1928. A sister plant was set up in Cork, Cork County, Ireland, and the Model F was made there from 1919 to 1929. Ford had sought ways he could help the country of his ancestors and this venture gave him an opportunity to help both the country and the in particular the farmer with whom he closely identified. All tractor production was stopped in 1928, but the factory in Ireland was re-opened, where the Fordson Model N was built from 1929 to 1932, mainly to serve the Russian market. This production line was moved to Dagenham England in 1933.

Whether you believe in coincidences or not, Henry Ford & Harry Ferguson have more in common with each other than may be considered usual.

• Slight builds and sharp features.
• Their initials were - H.F.
• Both were christened Henry
• Both scripted their names as their logos
• Their fathers were farmers
• Mothers were called Mary
• Shared an Irish heritage
• Self taught engineers
• They both wanted to take the drudgery out of farming worldwide
• Both drove racing cars to show off their technology
• Ford & Ferguson developed early aircraft
• Staunchly independent men who found delegation difficult
• Ford believed there was no need to improve on his Model T
• Ferguson would have continued with the TE20 to this day
• Ferguson believed only one man who could build tractors worthy of his system - Ford
• Ford only ever his name on his product with one other – Ferguson
• They were willing to participate in the infamous ‘Hand-Shake-Deal’


With help from the Sherman brothers Harry Ferguson engineered a meeting with Henry Ford. The meeting took place in a field alongside Ford’s house in Dearborn Michigan. Ferguson demonstrated a specially imported Ferguson Brown model ‘A’ tractor to Henry Ford together with a model to illustrate the Ferguson System. Ford immediately saw the importance of Ferguson’s invention. The story of how Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson reached their deal, which was famously sealed with only a handshake, is well documented.
Basically, Harry Ferguson invented the hydraulic three-point hitch and Ford agreed to put it on a new tractor. Earlier the depression in agriculture had forced the closure of the US Fordson factory but Henry had hankered to resume tractor manufacture and a new Ford model was well developed by 1938. It was agreed that the tractors would carry a Ferguson insignia (see photo). Called the "Ferguson System", this three-point hitch was put together using a combination of linkage (three different linkage points, two on the bottom and one on top) and hydraulics. Up to that point the farmer had to use complicated ways to link the tractor to the implement. With the Ferguson System they need only back up to the implement, hook it up, raise it with the hydraulics and set off.

Ford’s prototype was rapidly re-developed to accept the Ferguson System and by 1939 the tractor complete with the first three-point hitch was ready. It was developed as a versatile all-purpose tractor for the small farm and was to prove exceedingly popular. Credit for the design and engineering brilliance of the new tractor can be attributed to Charles E. Sorenson and his Ford Motor Co. development team. Ferguson was only involved in integrating his system into the Sorenson design. Incidentally, Draft Control was only made to work by Ford’s engineers; it seems that the ‘modern tractor’ with the Firestone pneumatic tyres was a different proposition, in Draft Control’ terms, to the Ferguson Brown model ‘A’ with it’s steel lugged wheels. The 9N, as it became known, exhibited many of the features that form the basis of today’s tractors. It was the first modern tractor.

Over a period of time the 9N went through subtle changes almost every year of production. For example, in 1939 the grille had horizontal bars and the steering box, grille, battery box, hood, instrument panel and transmission cover were made of cast-aluminium. It had snap-on radiator and fuel caps. In 1940 these caps were changed to the hinged type. In 1941 they changed the grill to steel with vertical bars. By the end of 1941 they had made so many changes, and had so many more ideas for changes, that they changed the name of the tractor to the "Ford 2N".
Henry Ford’s son Edsel, who had been the Ford President since 1919, died un-expectedly in 1943 and Henry had to return as President. Old Henry soon started loosing control to his so called Security Manager Harry Bennett. In 1945 Henry stepped down as President and nominated Bennett as his preferred successor much to the dismay of the rest of the Ford family board members. Bennett was basically Henry Ford’s thug, his union fixer. Finally after intense family pressure Edsel’s son, Henry Ford II (see photo) who was actually a serving naval officer at the time, was summoned to Henry Ford’s office and informed that he was going to be the new president of the Ford Motor Company. One of Henry Ford II first acts in regaining control was to tell Bennett his services were no longer required. Afterwards, he went to his Grandfather to inform him of his decision: "I went to him with my guard up. I was sure he was going to blow my head off." Old Henry nonchalantly said "Well, now Harry is back on the streets were he started."
Another decision involved taking control of the marketing rights for the tractors which had been given to Ferguson in the Handshake Deal. The Deal with Ferguson was unilaterally terminated and although the Ferguson System was used, the Ferguson Insignia was not carried on the next line of Ford tractors the 8N.

FERGUSON vs. FORD - 1944 to 1952

Trying to put together the events surrounding the end of the agreement into a chronological sequence is difficult. According to the different historical accounts I have read the ‘handshake agreement’ was terminated each year between 1944, and 1947. Typical of this confusion, the Time Magazine article below indicates the date as 1946, whilst the ‘Ferguson Family Museum web site’ shows 1944. What is not in dispute is that it was Henry Ford II who terminated the agreement and he took over as President in 1945. My choice of events is as follows: Near the end of 1946, Ford II advised Ferguson that his agreement would be ending on 30th June 1947. It was in July 1947 that Ford introduced a new model, the Ford 8N (see photo below), which had many similarities with the Ford-Ferguson 2N. With his supply of tractors gone Ferguson had nothing to give his extensive sales network to sell, yet he could clearly see his patents being used and sold in the new model 8N. A lawsuit was filed. This litigation achieve great notoriety at the time for it was billed as David (Ferguson) vs Goliath (Ford Motor Co.) and it was to last until 1952. The photo on the left below was taken outside Claridges Hotel in London after Ferguson stormed out of a lawsuit meeting mid-way though the litigation in 1949.
During the dispute both parties manufactured and sold what was in effect the same tractor.
"It'll be a grand fight," predicted Irish Inventor Harry Ferguson four years ago, when he slapped a $251 million antitrust and patent infringement suit against Ford Motor Co., its subsidiary, Dearborn Motors Corp., Henry Ford II and other Ford officials.
The fight started when Henry Ford II cancelled an oral agreement which his grandfather had made in 1939 to manufacture a tractor for Ferguson according to Ferguson's specifications. Old Henry had been intrigued by the tractor's ingenious hydraulic lift and new method of linking other farm implements to it. Young Henry was appalled at the manufacturing costs. During the seven years of the agreement, the Ford company made 303,501 tractors which Ferguson sold along with farm implements made by others for $313 million, netting Ferguson $4.3 million in 1946 alone. But the Ford company itself, said young Henry, had lost $25 million on the deal. He decided to set up his own company, Dearborn Motors Corp., to market his own tractors. Ferguson's aides took one look at the new Ford tractor with its hydraulic lift, and filed suit.

Ferguson's immediate problem was to stay in business. He had no plant, but he hastily built one near Detroit, and for the first time began producing his own machines in the U.S. He ran the works, by remote control, from his enormous English stone mansion near Stow on the Wold, Gloucester. In 1949, young Henry called on him to try to settle their differences. Ferguson set such stiff terms that Ford gave up. Finally, in Manhattan's federal court last year, the trial began.

In the year since then, 10,000 pages of testimony were taken, and the defence had not yet had its turn to be heard. Ford had already spent more than $3,000,000 in trial expenses: Ferguson Inc. had spent as much, and it looked as if the expensive legal fight would go on for years. But Ferguson, who had based part of his case on the charge that Ford was monopolizing the tractor business, could not prove it. His own sales in 1951 reached $64.5 million (v. their $79.4 million peak while Ford was making the tractor), and his company netted $406,956. The antitrust part of the suit was dismissed by the court.

Last week Ford and Ferguson made a deal and settled the case out of court. The cost to Ford: $9,250,000, the biggest patent settlement ever paid in a U.S. suit. In the settlement, Ford conceded that it had infringed Ferguson's patents by copying the hydraulic valve, coupling system, and the power-take-off setup, agreed to make restitution to Ferguson on the basis of about $21 for each of the 441,000 tractors Dearborn Motors has made since mid-1947 (Ferguson had asked $100). Ford also agreed to alter the designs of its own tractors enough to remove any further infringement. In England, Harry Ferguson estimated that his company will be able to keep $5.6 million of the payment after taxes.

THE ‘GREY MENACE’ - 1946 to 56

Just as Henry Ford II disliked Ferguson’s exclusive rights to market the 9/2N in the US, so Ferguson was equally incensed that Ford US did not pressurize Ford UK to sell tractors with his system in Europe (they still sold the antiquated EN27 Major). He saw this as a wasted opportunity and was anxious to do something about it.

Ferguson had managed to acquire a full set of the 2N tractor manufacturing drawings and these became the blueprints for a tractor to be produced under his own name; the Ferguson TE(O)20. These were unashamedly Ford Ferguson 2N clones albeit with a different engine and of course the horizontal grill bars in place of the 2N’s vertical ones (the original 9N was designed with horizontal bars).
In England over half a million Ferguson TE (Tractor England) 20 tractors rolled off the Banner Lane production line between 1946 and 1956. These were to be produced at an obsolete WWII aero engine factory then run by Sir John Black of the Standard Motor Company. The British Labour government had in-fact brokered the deal with Black for the Banner Lane Factory in Coventry and had guaranteed the supply of scarce raw materials.
Harry Ferguson was a brilliant publicist and throughout his life had drawn attention to himself, and his products, with a series of stunts, like the time he drove a TE20 Tractor, complete with cultivator, around the ballroom and down the staircase at Claridges Hotel in London (see photo below). Outside of the US the take up of tractors had been slow and this gave Ferguson an open market. The Ford Company, or that is the Fordson Company of Great Britain, was still making primitive tractors like the EN27 Major. They had not imported, or produced, the 9N, 2N or 8N. Dagenham operated independently from Dearborn and liked it that way. From 1946 until 1957 Harry Ferguson had the UK small tractor field to himself (sales reached 78.4% by 1949) and nothing could seem to compete with the Grey Fergie. A complete range of implements was designed to compliment the TE20 and a diesel version was introduced along side the TVO model. A school was set up at Stoneleigh Abbey near Coventry and training was given to overseas visitors. As farming became mechanized Fordson could not compete and with the help of a well-planned marketing strategy the TE20 became the most popular tractor in the UK and by the mid-1950’s it was outselling Fordson on such a scale that it was Fordson’s own salesmen that called them the ‘Grey Menace’.
In 1947 the post war UK economy needed export income and many TE20’s models produced at Banner Lane were sent to the US to fill the gap left when the supply from Ford’s was cut off. Harry Ferguson eventually purchased a factory site in Detroit Michigan and US production of the Ferguson TO20 (Tractor Overseas) began in October 1948.
Much against his better judgment, Harry Ferguson yielded to pressure and oversaw the design of a larger TE(O) 20 during the 1950's . This model became the TE(O) 30 and eventually was re-modeled the FE35 and then the MF 35 after the Massey-Ferguson-Harris Company became Massey Ferguson. The MF 35 and then the MF 35X became the MF 135 in the mid 1960’s.

Ford had continued to sell the 8N tractor throughout those eight years of litigation and by the time judgement was given in Ferguson’s favour many of his important 1925 patents were expiring and Ford were merely required to make small design changes in order to continue tractor production. Called the NAN it was virtually a continuation of the 8N and therefore the original Ford Ferguson 9N.

Fordson UK had introduced the new Major, which was a large tractor aimed at out powering the TE20. The Major had some success but Fordson still needed a small tractor to directly compete with the Fergie. At first the Dagenham factory developed a scaled down Major, but their sales staff insisted that only a Fergie look-alike would sell. The simple expedient was to import one American NAN tractor and re-develop it, which they did. In 1957 the Fordson Dexta was launched and it was a worthy competitor for the Fergie and its contemporary the TE35. It had a better gearbox (with High Low Ratios), better horsepower and most importantly a better starting diesel engine (the Fordson F3 - Perkins P3 derivative).

The Dexta led to the Super Dexta, which in the mid 60’s evolved into the Ford 2000 and 3000.


This is the tractor I drive today... a Korean made 2011 Kioti EX40. It's still basically a TE20
but with luxury. You can't beat it, in my opinion, or the service Kioti UK gives you. Ironically, the company is based not a million miles away from the home of Dan Albone.

Ferguson and Sir John Black
By the time the litigation was over Harry Ferguson’s health had become very poor. The financial benefits had been very little in comparison with the amount he had asked for; nevertheless he was a wealthy man in his own right and perhaps of more importance was the fact that Ford’s had to concede they were in the wrong and had infringed Ferguson’s patents. The next year 1953 Ferguson merged his company in a $16M deal with Massey-Harris another fascinating thread to pick-up. Who else would have resolved the negotiation sticking point and risk $1M on the toss of a coin during a car ride. In 1954 he sold out completely and never worked on tractors again.
Henry Ford (I) had died on April 7th 1947. Harry Ferguson died on the October 26th 1960.
Today neither Ford or MF make tractors as such, they are just brands marketed by conglomerates. The Banner Lane Factory is no more. Nevertheless the Dexta and the 35 would not be out of place on today’s farm… albeit with a cab, aircon’, stereo and satellite navigation.
From my time as an apprentice in the mid 1960’s I retain a special memory for all those MF35’s and 65’s I learned to work on. Clearly the Fordson Major was a primitive beast compared with the MF65. But the Dexta was a super tractor and is just as linked to the 9N as the TE20 and the MF35. My own 1956 TEF20 is a joy to drive but lacked extra Oomph, PTO control and 8 speeds. When I decided to get a second tractor, nostalgia said - get a 3 Cylinder 35… but in the end I decided on a Fordson Dexta because it’s place in tractor history is at least equal to the superb MF35. So alongside the TEF20 there stands a 1959 Dexta.


Henry Ford was an inspiration for Harry Ferguson and the Ferguson‘s system was the significant leap forward in tractor technology that inspired Henry Ford. Undoubtedly Henry Ford & Harry Ferguson are the mother and father of the modern tractor… but without Ferguson’s engineer Willie Sands and Ford’s engineer Charlie Sorenson, I’m not sure Harry or Henry’s ideas would have gone into mass production (another thread).
Is Dan Albone the Grandfather of the modern tractor? His lightweight IVEL tractor was invented in 1903, the year the Ford Motor Co. was started and a decade before Henry’s first tractor was made. Dan Albone died in 1906, aged 46: had he lived his inventiveness would surely have engineered greater developments… possibly the first modern tractor.
Indeed, would Ferguson have chosen to work with Dan Albone instead of David Brown or Henry Ford. Dan Albone was only 3 years older than Henry Ford (more threads).
Dan Albone - The IVEL Tractor - (L-R) Charlie Sorenson, Edsel Ford and Henry Ford