50 Years of the Grey Ferguson Tractor

50 Years of the Grey Ferguson Tractor: (Journal 26, Summer 1997)
By Michael Thorne. Member No 809

The Fergusons on display are from the Coldridge Collection, which Mike Thorne started in 1985 with the purchase of a TED 20 tractor. We have a selection of models spanning the development of the Ferguson from 1936 with the production of the Ferguson Brown (Nos.7 & 39 in the collection) through to the French-made 130 tractor (No.73.)

Perhaps before looking at individual models represented here it would be worth while considering what Harry Ferguson was trying to achieve when he began experimenting with the idea of uniting plough to tractor in 1917. His idea was to produce a light tractor that could perform as well as if not better than the heavy tractors of the time. It would be cheap to produce and economical on fuel, and replace the horse as a power source on the farm, thereby releasing land used for horse fodder production for the production of food for mankind. Harry Ferguson was a pacifist and a philanthropist as well as a perfectionist, hence the survival of so many of his tractors to this day. They were very well designed and produced to exacting standards far in advance of any others of the time.

The Ferguson system utilises the suction or draft of the mounted implement to pull the rear driving wheels of the tractor into contact with the ground, whereas other tractors of the time utilised their heavy built-in weight to achieve this to some degree.

Also built into his system was an overload protection feature which lifted the rear driving wheels clear of the ground allowing them to spin if the implement struck a solid obstruction. Other tractors not having this feature would rear up and overturn backwards: many tractor drivers have been killed or seriously injured in accidents of this type. Ferguson issued dealers with a working model to demonstrate this feature and we have one of these in the Coldridge Collection.

It is interesting to note that virtually all agricultural tractors produced world wide today utilise the Ferguson system though it is often in a modified form, i.e. electronic circuitry replacing mechanical linkages.

Coldridge No. 28: Ferguson TE20 Continental Engine, 1947: 38 DUX 185: S/N TE 5148

In the line up of Grey Fergusons TE 20’s (Tractor England) the earliest here is the TE 20, from 1947 (Coldridge Collection No.38.): note the set in the exhaust pipe and the stays on the engine sump, features of the Continental engine installed in this tractor.

Coldridge No. 67: TE20 Perkins P3 engine & Epicyclic Reduction box, 1947, CFX 408 S/N TE 2632

Next we have a 1947 TE 20 (Coldridge Collection No.67.), fitted with a Perkins P3 engine conversion delivering 34 HP; it is also fitted with a Ferguson Epicyclic Reduction gear box which also gives live PTO in the low range.

Coldridge No. 4, Ferguson TEA 20, Fitted Handy Loader, 1948, KTT 82, TEA 57082

This is followed by a TE-A 20, (Coldridge Collection No 4), fitted with a Standard petrol engine: the Classic Grey Fergie.

Coldridge No. 64: TEE20 Narrow ‘Vineyard’ version, 1951, Not reg’d, S/N TEE 172038

Next in the line up we have TE-E 20. (Coldridge Collection No 64.) which is the narrow version intended for orchards and market gardens.  This tractor is on its original tyres. Note the hub caps on the front wheels, a feature found on this model.

Coldridge No. 61: Ferguson TEL20, Narrow Industrial Model, 9 Hole Drawbar, Howard Reduction Box, 1953, RYC 244 S/N. TE

Standing next in line is a TE-L 20, (Coldridge Collection No.61.), industrial model with matching industrial 3 ton trailer.

The last TE 20 tractor came off the production line at Banner Lane Coventry in 1956 after a production of over half a million tractors, 517651 in fact.

Other tractors on display on the one hand represent the progressive development to the emergence of the TE 20 range whilst at the other end of the spectrum we have representatives of these models produced after Harry Ferguson sold out to Massey Harris, to become known as Massey Harris Ferguson, MHF in 1954, and later in 1958 Massey Ferguson, MF as we know it today. It has production facilities world wide and a range of equipment from small garden tractors through to heavy earth moving plant.

To cover the lead into the TE 20 we have a Ferguson Brown, (Coldridge Collection No.39), on rubber tyres. This early example is fitted with a Coventry Climax Engine. After the first 500 units were produced the engines were changed to David Brown and production ended in 1938 with some 1300 tractors made.

Coldridge No. 24: Ford 9N, 1943, Not Registered, S/N Not known.

Next to be developed, this time in America was the Ford with Ferguson system. The example here is a 9NAN, (Coldridge Collection No.24), probably imported into the UK in 1943 to help with the production of food during World War 11. This tractor came from Fred Baulch of North Tawton.

After production of the TE 20 ceased MHF went on to produce a slightly larger and more powerful tractor with a wider range of gears and both draft and position control on the hydraulic system. This was designated the FE 35 range (Ferguson England): on display we have FE 35 TVO, (Coldridge Collection No.49), on its original rear tyres and fitted with a mid mounted mower.

An FE 35 Diesel, (Coldridge Collection No.16), is my working tractor often used to drive standby generator. In the Coldridge Collection we have other examples of the FE 35 including a Vineyard and Industrial but these are not on display and are awaiting restoration.

The next development occurred in 1958 when MF acquired F Perkins Engines of Peterborough and therefore made the obvious decision of installing Perkins diesel engines in their range of tractors.

The earliest representative of this on show is the MF 35 X Vineyard Model, (Coldridge Collection No. 48).

Around this time there was pressure on MF sales staff to be able to offer a heavier and more powerful tractor to compete with Fordson, Nuffield and David Brown.

In 1952 – 56 a series of 6 prototypes were built with this in mind. Harry Ferguson was not too keen on this idea because he believed in a small light tractor. After evaluation of these LTX prototypes it was decided to go into production in 1958 with the 65 model. These featured a compromise, a large 4 Cylinder Perkins Diesel Engine, and the MF 35 transmission, but fitted with epicyclic reduction hubs in the rear axle and large rear wheels to compensate. The front end came from America as did styling of the body work and its tooling.

Thus MF were able to offer an economically priced 50HP tractor to the British farmer and industrial use. This range is represented here by Coldridge Collection No.54, a late industrial model. We have also an early agricultural model in the collection but at present it is in bits awaiting restoration.

Just to round off the display are a couple of French made tractors, a MF-825, (Coldridge Collection No. 40), and a MF 130, (Coldridge Collection No.73).

Coldrige No 70: Standard Motor Company Prototype, 1958, 23C Diesel Engine, with Pick Up Hitch, 1971, Not Reg’d. S/N EXP1

Also featured in the line up is the Standard Motor Co. prototype tractor, (Coldridge Collection No.70) from 1958 when the Standard Co. attempted to break into the tractor market. Two of these were produced and worked hard on farms in the Midlands. Eventually I purchased the one and half that remained, rebuilt the tractor on show and scrapped the remaining parts, so this is a unique tractor. Standard also produced 2 more prototypes before giving up the idea.

For those interested the Coldridge Collection is always available to view by prior appointment with Mike Thorne, just phone 01363 83600 and I’ll be happy to show you around. Not only do we have a wide range of Ferguson tractors, but also a lot of matching implements, and quite a range of other common and unusual tractors.

Details correct when published in Journal No. 26 Summer 1997.  Line-up of Coldridge tractors may have changed in the meantime.