|2015 FEATURE TRACTOR HISTORY||LAST UPDATED
APR, 12, 2016
Ford, Fordson, New Holland, Tractors and Equipment
The Ford Motor Company was founded in June, 1903. And after a few rough years, the company achieved tremendous success with the famous Model T that was born in 1908. From that time until 1927, more than 15 million Model T cars and trucks were sold.
While Henry Ford was undoubtedly the leader of the era in the automobile business, he was also the son of a farmer and understood the potential of applying some automotive technology to the farming sector. His desire to manufacture a tractor was strong, but efforts to start tractor production were roadblocked by a board of directors that was well satisfied with the sales and profits from the Model T cars and weary of taking a chance on what was an unestablished industry.
Despite opposition to his plans, Ford continued work on the tractor. But as development proceeded, and it became clear that the Ford Motor Company directors were not at all willing to produce a tractor, Henry decided to form an independent company for his tractor business. In 1917 Henry Ford & Son (Fordson) was incorporated, with Henry Ford firmly in control of it's destiny.
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 gave the fledgling tractor industry a substantial boost. Food was desperately needed to feed the soldiers, but a lot of the manpower that would normally be employed in crop production had been converted to soldiers. Mechanization and farm tractors were an answer to the problem. Tractors offered the power and efficiency to produce more food with fewer farmers. Ford had not invented the tractor, just as he had not invented the car, but he designed and produced a tractor that was affordable to the masses and revolutionized the farming industry. The days of plows pulled by horses were numbered. Henry Ford & Son built the machine that would change the world of farming forever.
In 1917 the Model F began rolling out of a plant in Dearborn, Michigan in limited quantities, and production was scaled up rapidly to meet the urgent need for tractors. Ford Limited for automobiles had been establish in England in 1911 so Ford already had a presence there and the British were also in need of tractors. To fill that need, Fordson production was also begun in Cork, Ireland in 1917. At the retail price of $750, the Fordson enjoyed a large price advantage over its competitors and did very well.
The Fordson was smaller than most of the tractors produced by other companies of the time. Other tractor manufacturers seemed to be operating under the belief that bigger is better. But the smaller Fordson design coupled with Henry's assembly line technology made his tractor easier to produce and more affordable. A key factor was that the engine, transmission, and axle housings were all bolted together to form the basic structure of the tractor eliminating the need for a conventional frame. And as a result, there were fewer parts to manufacture and assemble and the tractor could be sold at a lower price. Just as Ford had brought an affordable car to the world through assembly line mass production, the tractor was now also within the financial reach of many more farmers. 755,278 Fordson F's were produced in the 12 years it was manufactured. And dozens of companies made add ons and conversions for Fordson tractors.
When Henry assumed sole control of Ford in 1920, the Henry Ford & Son Company was rolled into the Ford Motor Company, but the Fordson name was retained.
The Fordson F changed the way American farmers got their work done, but it had a reputation for poor reliability and starting problems. Some farmers of the era claimed it could cost $1000 a year to keep one running. And they were noted for tipping over backwards when pulling a heavy load, sometimes injuring and even killing the driver.
Ford Motor Company was undoubtedly the largest and most successful company in the tractor business during that period of tractor history. It is a testament to the importance of these tractors and the dedication of tractor enthusiasts that many of them are still running today.
However, towards the second half of the 1920's, the agricultural market entered a slow down due to declining farm prices. So the decision was made to suspend production of Fordson farm tractors in early 1928. This move was partially reversed when strong demand for tractors by the Soviet Union and an urgent need for spare parts prompted Ford to reopen the Cork production facility. And Ford had now designed a new model that was to be built there, the Model N. The major change being an increase in horsepower which was achieved by increasing the cylinder bore diameter by 1/8 of an inch. All production of Ford tractors was now in Europe.
It was during this period, from 1928-1939 that Fordsons lost their dominance of the American tractor market. The high cost of importing from Europe, (by then Ford had a tractor plant in Dagenham, England also), and the development of newer models by domestic competitors caused the Fordson U.S. market share to slip to barely five percent. An attempt to improve sales with the launch of the Fordson All-Around, a rowcrop version of the N with a 3-wheel style arrangement was modestly successful in the British market, but met with almost no success in North America, where it was marketed as the Fordson Row Crop.
The situation was unacceptable to Henry, who decided to retake the tractor industry for the Ford Motor Company. In the latter part of the 1930's, he started development work on a new model tractor that would replace the Fordson and could be economically mass produced for the American market. Early prototypes looked promising, but as development got underway, Harry Ferguson came to visit Henry Ford and brought with him a Ferguson-Brown tractor, which he was producing in England with David Brown. The performance of the tractor impressed Ford and the two came to a handshake agreement by which Ford would produce tractors using Ferguson's patents and Ferguson, in turn, would also market these machines as Fergusons. Ford engineers, using the Ferguson-Brown tractor as their model, and with the assistance of Harry Ferguson, developed the Ford 9N. The Fordson name and models would still be sold in Europe, but the Ford N-series would grow to dominance in America.
The 9N was a revolution in design when compared to the Fordson it replaced and a big success. Use of the Ferguson System for implement attachment and control was a great improvement over the straight drawbar of the old Fordsons or any other tractor being produced. The three point hitch allowed for the easy attachment and removal of implements and the system of draft control allowed for some regulation of how hard the 3 point hitch implement was pulling and a limited amount of depth control. The tractor was also quieter, more comfortable, more reliable and safer than the Fordsons, which all added to its popularity. And with the efficiency of mass production, the new Ford farm tractors were sold for $585 in 1939. With a price like that and a very competitive product, Ford was soon back on top of the sales charts.
The tractor would have been an even greater success were it not for the U.S. entry into the second world war in 1941. Raw materials for production of tractors (and everything else) became difficult to acquire due to war machinery material demands. So in 1942 Ford was forced to cease production of the 9N in favor of the 2N, a 9N that used materials that were not as scarce. Basically the same as the 9N, but with steel wheels and a magneto replacing the battery and generator. Rubber and copper were particularly scarce commodities.
Meanwhile, in England, the Fordson still reigned as king of the tractor landscape, and much to the annoyance of Harry Ferguson, no plans were made to introduce farm tractors based on his system in that country. The Second World War had delayed most efforts at producing a new model, but work had began on designing a model to be produced after the war was over. And this new model had many of the design features of the original 1917 tractor that had launched Fordson into the tractor industry. Whereas the Ford 9N in the U.S. represented a major revision, the new tractor developed for the English market would be a less dramatic change and still be badged a Fordson. This upgrade resulted in the E27N Fordson Major which was enough of an improvement to continue the Ford hold on the British market. The primary differences in the new model was the availability of an optional diesel version, a sturdier structure, and the elimination of the inefficient worm wheel final drive. Land Utility, Row-Crop, Industrial, and Standard Agricultural versions of the new Fordson were available.
Back in the States Henry's son Edsel died in 1943, prompting Henry Ford to come back as President of Ford. But due to his age, he was unable to keep up with running the company and in September of 1945 passed leadership to his grandson, Henry Ford II. Henry Ford passed away in April 1947, at the age of 83. The man who had brought the automobile into the homes of average Americans, tractors to the average farmers, and who had pioneered the assembly line and the technology of mass production was gone. but his memory will be with us forever.
With Henry Ford's death, the handshake agreement between Ford and Ferguson collapsed. Henry Ford II disliked the lack of marketing control over the tractor business (since all marketing and distribution was handled by Ferguson in the original agreement) and soon announced that Ford would be establishing their own distribution and marketing company to distribute an improved version of the 9N. The decision to cut Ferguson out would be a very costly one, as he was now in a position to directly compete with Ford. But that would be a few years off, and Ford would be on top at least for awhile with the 8N, an improved version of the 9N/2N, and one of their best selling tractors ever with a total production run of 524,000 units.
The 8N was a refinement of the 9N/2N line and although a lot of the changes were not readily visible, improvements in the product were significant. One of the most important upgrades was a four speed transmission that made the tractor more productive and flexible. The 3 point hitch Position Control System was also a big step forward in that it allowed implements to remain at the same height relative to the tractor, as opposed to the draft control on the original Ferguson system that allowed the depth to vary. But the Ford 8N still used a lot of the Ferguson System that was in the 9N/2N line, and this unauthorized use of the Ferguson patents was one of the main contentions in the Ferguson lawsuit. The lawsuit Ferguson filed after the termination of the handshake agreement, claimed damages for loss of sales because of the ending of the marketing agreement and because of the infringement of his patents, and went on to be one of the most lengthy and costly suits of its kind. The Ford 8N would have had a longer and still more successful run were it not for fierce competition from Ferguson's TO-30 and the lawsuit, which eventually forced Ford to have to design a totally new hydraulic control system to avoid using Ferguson's patents. In spite of that more than 500,000 8N's were produced and it is estimated that at least half are still in operation today.
The new hydraulic system and other improvements including an overhead valve engine were incorporated in the new Ford NAA, often called the Jubilee. The Golden Jubilee logo was used to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Ford Motor Company at the time of the NAA launch in 1953.
But now the E27N was beginning to show its age back in England and Ferguson was on the rise with his TE line of tractors. The dominance that Ford had once enjoyed in the British market was gone. To combat declining sales, Ford Dagenham developed a new engine and tractor to be the successor to the Fordson Major. The engine was available in kerosine, gasoline and diesel versions. With many other improvements, the Fordson New Major was introduced in 1952 and took the lead in the British market in diesel tractor sales. Diesel was popular in Europe because of the greater fuel efficiency of diesel engines, a key advantage in a market with high fuel prices.
Henry Ford had a deeply held belief that one automobile, if made right, would be good enough for just about everyone. While this made mass production much easier and helped reduce costs, the Ford Motor Company would learn the hard way that one size does not fit all. The Model T was a great machine for its time, but could not be all things to all people. This is why the Ford car division had to break with Ford's philosophy of one basic model and match their competitors with a wide range of models targeted at a wide range of markets. But up until this time the old Ford philosophy had survived in the tractor division. In America, Ford sold one model of tractor targeted at the "average" farmer. And in England the same strategy was followed. New models were introduced, but Ford offered only one model for sale any one time.
This practice of a simplified product line came to an end along with the NAA in 1954. That was the year Ford produced their last one model tractor and the 600 and 800 series with variations were launched. The 600 series was based on the NAA design and aimed at the small farm equipment market, while the 800 was more powerful and focused towards larger farming applications.
The 600 series used the proven 134 cubic inch engine from the NAA. The 640 was essentially the same tractor as the NAA, the 650 featured a new five speed transmission, and the 660 had a five speed transmission and a live PTO (power take off), a feature that had been optional on the NAA. The 800 series featured an improved 172 cubic inch version of the NAA engine, and came standard with the new five speed transmission. The 850 had an independent (engaged with a separate control) PTO, as opposed to the live (controlled by depressing the tractor clutch pedal farther) PTO of the 860.
Ford was now interested in pursuing more segments of the tractor market and this meant also having tricycle style tractors. If their competitors offered something, they would match it. Still working with the NAA as the basic design, Ford launched the 700 and 900 series with features similar to the 600 and 800, but with a three wheel design.
In 1957 Ford decided to spruce up the appearance and identification of their product line. The biggest change being the addition of a cross section of bars across the grille. All existing models were kept the same in terms of specifications, but the 1 suffix was added in place of the 0 at the end of each model. Also, the differences between the engine size of the 600 and 800 Series, now the 601 and 801 Series, was augmented by the addition of Workmaster, designating the smaller 134 cubic inch engine, and Powermaster, which had the larger 172 cubic inch design. Liquid petroleum gas was now also an option on all Ford tractors.
As development in America was marching forward with the 600-900 series and the new 601-901 line, England was moving ahead with revisions of their own. The Fordson New Major had been successful, but the tractor was large, and the lack of a small tractor for those with lesser needs was hurting Ford's position in Europe. To address this weakness in the product line, Ford developed the Dexta in 1957, which featured a Perkins three cylinder diesel engine.
The next year, the New Major was replaced with the Power Major. The Power Major, as the name suggests, had a more powerful version of the engine that had revolutionized the diesel tractor industry in Europe.
Ford then rolled out upgraded versions of each of these tractors. The Super Major replaced the Power Major in 1961, and the Super Dexta replaced the Dexta in 1962. These two models would be the last of the Dagenham tractors, as production was shifted to nearby Basildon, England in 1964. They would also be the last separate British designs, as soon the Tractor Division would become unified world wide.
Also in 1962, Ford introduced the 2000 series to replace the 601, the 4000 line to replace the 801 series, and the 6000 as the top of the line, with a powerful six cylinder engine. The 6000 had a lot of issues, however, and Ford was forced to replace all of them due to mechanical problems. Making moves towards unification, the English Super Dexta was imported and sold in America as the Ford 2000 Diesel, and the Super Major was imported as the Ford 5000. In 1964, a plant was opened in Antwerp, Belgium to provide more European production capacity. The world tractor line that Henry Ford had always favored was now a reality, with the same tractors being sold around the globe. The Ford Tractor Division was no longer separated into Ford and Fordson.
In 1965, the entire range from the 2000 to the 4000 was revamped, with a new three cylinder diesel engine. The 5000 was equipped with a four cylinder diesel, and the 6000 was renamed the Commander 6000 and significantly redesigned to fix the earlier problems. This tractor series continued expanding until it ranged from 2000 to 9000 in1975.
In 1979 Ford introduced the TW series ranging in size from 105 to 170 horsepower. The last TW bearing the Ford name was produced in 1990.
A FW series ranging from 150 to 300 HP was also sold by Ford, but was built by Stieger and had Cummins rather than Ford engines.
After 1982 when CaseIH purchased Steiger, Ford's large tractors were produced by Versatile. Versatile was founded in 1946, but only started producing tractors in 1966 and they were aquired by Ford 1987.
In 1986 Ford purchased New Holland from Sperry New Holland aquiring a very successful well established product line that included combines, haying equipment and skid steer loaders
The original New Holland Machine Company was founded by Abram Zimmerman in 1895 in New Holland, Pennsylvania. In about 1903 New Holland began producing a line of gas engines ranging in size from 1-1/2 HP to 16 HP. They remained in production until somewhere around 1925. The company also produced a variety of feed mills, rock crushers, wood saws, concrete mixers, side delivery rakes, manure spreaders and more primarily agriculture related equipment.
The great depression pushed New Holland almost to extinction, but they squeaked through. And then became very successfull by developing a major improvement in hay harvesting technology. 1941 was a big year in the history of New Holland with the introduction of the first truly successful automatic self tie hay baler. Previous hay balers had required at least one extra person to tie the bales and it was a dirty, nasty, and tedious job. Although the early ones were not flawless and required a lot of maintenance, they were a great improvement over what they replaced.
In 1947 Sperry Rand Corporation aquired New Holland and the name was changed to Sperry New Holland. The same year the company begin selling the haybine. The first combination hay mower and contioner which dramatically improved the way hay is harvested.
Also the same year, New Holland introduced an automatic bale loader to further increase productivity and ease the farmers tough life a little.
In 1964 Sperry New Holland purchased the majority of Clayes of Belgium who was one of the most successful producers of combines in Europe.
And in 1967 their name was changed to Clayson
Sperry New Holland introduced the
first twin rotor
combine and that technology is still used in much of todays grain
And in 1986 Sperry New Holland was bought by Ford and together they became Ford New Holland
The combination of Ford and New Holland created an organization that manufactured a broad variety of agricultural and construction equipment in sizes to satisfy everyone from the city front yard weekend grass primper to the endless plains states mega farmers to huge interstate highway construction giants. And a dealer network covering not only Europe and North America, but a large portion of the world. At that time Ford had about 1,400 North American dealerships and New Holland equipment was sold in 17,000 dealerships of which some 400 were Ford. Although Ford did sell implements, most were produced by other manufacturers. And New Holland, having primarily concentrated their efforts on a few major lines of harvesting machines and implements was a leader in that segment. It was a natural fit. Ford Tractor Operations reported worldwide sales of $1.25 billion in 1984 and New Holland sales that year were close to $750 million. The combination was a powerhouse of products, sales distributions networks and engineering talent.
New Holland had marketed a model 5610 tractor with it's nameplate in 1982 (before the merger) , but under the name it was totally a Ford 5610. But by 1990 New Holland was selling seven different tractor models that were also sold by Ford with only the name different.
In 1991 due to a weak tractor market and the need to focus more resources on its primary business of manufacturing cars and trucks, Ford sold its entire tractor division to Fiat with the agreement that they must stop using the Ford name by 2000. Ford needed the cash for new product lines and for developing technology that would comply with environmental regulations. In 1999, Fiat removed every bit of Ford identification from the blue tractors and renamed all of them "New Holland" announcing the end of the Ford/Fordson tractor era.
Fiat was already a giant in the tractor business and the biggest producer in Europe. Having started making tractors in 1918, they understood the business and were manufacturing tractors in a number of European countries. By 1980 over a million Fiat tractors had been produced.
In 1999 New Holland Agricultural and CaseIH were merged to become CNH Global. In 1984 Case had taken control of the International Harvestor Agricultural Division. IH was in serious financial conditon and that merger may have saved both companies from becoming victims of the 1980's farming recession. Fiat is the majority owner of CNH Global holding company.
New Holland tractors are now manufactured in 18 wholly owned plants and 6 more joint ventures around the world including the countries of Turkey, Poland, India , Mexico, Brazil, Yugoslavia, Argentina, Russia, Spain, South Korea, China, France, Austria, Romania, Pakistan and the US.
New Holland now has distribution networks in 170 countries.
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