13 November 1998

Early tractors which set the pattern of progress

FARMERS son Henry Ford objected to unremitting toil based on horse power and decided to do something about it.

His business ability, drive and vision led to the Model T Ford, the Ford Automobile Plow in 1906 and then the Fordson tractor. Both developments brought affordable transport to the masses and a practical alternative to horse power on the average-sized farm.

By the 1920s, his reliable Model T Fordson tractor accounted for 75% of all tractors throughout the world and the rest is history.

The evolution of Ford tractors in all their shapes and forms is charted in a lavishly-illustrated book* which draws heavily on company archives and the enthusiasm of collectors.

Fords contribution to British food production during World War One, when the Ministry of Munitions bought 6000 "MOM" Fordsons was followed by an even larger contribution during World War II, by model N Fordsons turned out by the companys Dagenham plant in Essex.

Variations on the basic power unit including high-clearance row-crop models and crawlers are included in the text.

Much of the book details the turbulent collaboration with Ulsters Harry Ferguson and development of the Ford-Ferguson 9N, after a brief dalliance with David Brown.

Claimed with justification to be the "tractor of the century", the three point linkage with depth control and implements to match, set new standards in tractor design and efficiency of operation.

Fords "gentlemans agreement" with an equally canny Harry Ferguson ensured that Ford-Fergusons were made by Ford at a loss, while Ferguson distributed and sold them at a profit. A parting of the ways with Ferguson winning an expensive patent rights case, was inevitable.

Both then went their own ways with equal success and the principles evolved by Ferguson are now to be found in all makes of tractor.

Those who owned and worked Ford and Ferguson tractors, will thoroughly enjoy recalling the models which helped to revolutionise farming practice throughout the world. HPH

*Vintage Ford Tractors by Robert N Pripps, Midland Publishing Ltd, 24 The Hollow, Earl Shilton, Leicester LE9 7NA (£19.95).