Published in Journal 36 Winter 2000
Reprinted from The Implement and Machinery Review March 1,1938
Published in Journal No. 34 Spring 2000.
Reprinted from The Farming Reporter Supplment for March and April 1955
Probably originaly advertised by Ferguson following the North Sea floods of January 1953
“The 1953 North Sea flood was a major flood caused by a heavy storm at the end of Saturday, 31 January 1953 and morning of the next day. The storm surge struck the Netherlands, north-west Belgium, England and Scotland.
A combination of a high spring tide and a severe European windstorm over the North Sea caused a storm tide. The combination of wind, high tide, and low pressure caused the sea to flood land up to 5.6 metres (18.4 ft) above mean sea level. Most sea defences facing the surge were overwhelmed, causing extensive flooding.” (Wikipedia)
The Club is pleased to reproduce over several issues The Ferguson Story as written by Michael Williams in his book British Tractors, Published by Blandford Press Ltd. Details of this book and similar publications are available from Blandford Press Ltd. Link House, West Street, Poole, Dorset.
Most of the tractors in use throughout the world have features developed originally by Harry Ferguson. He and his team made an immense contribution to improving the efficiency of farm mechanization, and he also established a highly successful commercial empire.
The success story had a modest beginning on a farm in what is now Northern Ireland, where Harry Ferguson was born on 4th November 1884. The family farm at Growell, County Down, was about a hundred acres, larger than the average in the area but too small to provide more than a fairly simple home.
Living and working on the family farm probably helped Harry Ferguson in his later career, although the toil and routine of a farm worked with horses and manpower were not to his liking. Another factor in his childhood was the austerely religious way of life which his father imposed on the family, and against which Harry increasingly rebelled. Before his eighteenth birthday he decided to leave home to find a way of life away from the farm, He was offered an opportunity to join an elder brother in a garage business he was building up in Belfast. Harry welcomed the idea, which suited his interest in cars and engines.
The garage prospered and built up a good reputation, helped considerable by Harry’s talent for tuning the unreliable engines in use at that time. The business also benefited from his racing success with motor cycles, which was exploited to the full for publicity for the garage.
Another of his early talents, and an outlet for his mechanical aptitude, was aircraft design. When Ferguson first joined his brother’s business in 1902 they were operating on a tight budget. By 1908 there was sufficient money to finance Ferguson’s ambition to design and fly his own aircraft. After numerous failures he made his first flight in December 1909. This was the first time an aircraft had flown in Ireland, and Harry Ferguson was the first person in Britain to design, build and fly his own aircraft. More flights followed, and he might have considered making his career with aircraft, but in 1911 his energies were diverted to making a success of a garage business of his own after breaking away from his brother.
The new garage business included the agency for Vauxhall cars, and Harry Ferguson achieved a good deal of local publicity with Vauxhall on the racing track. Much later, in the 1920’s, he became a leading figure in the campaign to establish a major motor sport event in Northern Ireland. His influence and energy played an important part in starting the famous Ulster Tourist Trophy races in 1928. These attracted some of the most famous cars and drivers in the world to Northern Ireland, drawn by the prestige of the Ards circuit.
Harry Ferguson’s interest in farm mechanization developed during World War 1. Tractors had suddenly become important as the key to increasing food production, and the government launched a ploughing campaign to turn large areas of pasture into more productive arable land. Imported American tractors played a major part in the campaign and the Ferguson garage held the agency for the ‘Overtime’. This was the British name for one of the American imports, a sturdily built and reasonable reliable tractor which became popular in Britain.
Harry Ferguson relied on demonstrations to overcome some of the sales resistance to the tractor, and these were usually carried out with a plough. His activities with the Overtime were noticed by the Irish Board of Agriculture, and in 1917 he was asked to help to improve the standard of tractor operation on Irish farms. Many of the tractors were difficult to use, especially with inexperienced operators and with implements designed originally for use with horses. This work took Ferguson and a talented engineer from his garage who was called William Sands, to many farms where tractors were in use, where they explained and demonstrated how to get the best from the equipment.
What he saw on his travels convinced Ferguson that there must be a more efficient way to use tractor power in the field, and he set to work on the problem. His first approach was to design a plough with a low draft requirement, light in weight, and with an ingenious arrangement of springs to help the tractor driver to raise it out of work. The plough was designed to hitch so closely behind the tractor that depth wheels would not be needed. The plough hitch point was beneath the tractor and ahead of the rear axle, so that the pull on the plough helped to stabilize the tractor and improve the grip of the rear wheels.
With so much variation in tractor dimensions, draw bar positions and power, Ferguson decided to make the plough suitable for one make of tractor. He chose the ‘Eros’, which was a tractor conversion for the Ford Model T car. The kit was made by the E.G. Staude Manufacturing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota, and was one of several conversion kits made for the Model T.
The plough went into production, to be sold as the ‘Belfast’. It attracted some interest and favourable comments on its unusual design, but it failed commercially because Henry Ford’s new Fordson tractors were arriving in large numbers from America. The Fordson put conversions of the Eros type out of business, and with them went the sales potential for the Ferguson plough.
A new plough was designed specifically for the Fordson. This version was also designed to work without a depth wheel. The hitch arrangement consisted of two sets of struts, arranged to keep the plough in work and also to transfer shock loadings on the plough as a downward force at the front of the tractor to prevent the danger of overturning. The struts were the forerunner of a three-point linkage, and were known as the Duplex hitch.
The new plough took Ferguson to the United States where he formed a joint company with the Sherman brothers of Evansville, New York State, to manufacture an improved version of the plough for the American market. Meanwhile development work on the hitch design continued, and in 1928 a hydraulic system for operating the draft control principle was tried as an alternative to a mechanical design. In the same year it was announced that production of Fordson tractors would be transferred from America to Ireland, and this led to the collapse of the Ferguson-Sherman plough business in America.
Fortunately Ferguson was strong enough financially to survive the American setback, and to continue his development work. The Duplex hitch was replaced by a series of experimental arrangements of converging links and systems of three linkage points.
With the Ferguson System on the way towards completion efforts were made to find a manufacturer to put it into production. In his book Harry Ferguson Inventor and Pioneer (published by John Murray) Colin Fraser cites some unexpected names among the companies which were possible partners for Ferguson at that stage. Some of the shipbuilding companies in Northern Ireland were approached, because they had the spare capacity at the time and because of Harry Ferguson’s hope of building the tractor in Ulster. In America Allis-Chalmers took out an option on some of Ferguson’s patents, and in Britain the Rover car company looked closely at the Ferguson System as a possible way into the tractor market. Ransomes and Rapier of Ipswich and the Rushton tractor company also showed interest, as did Morris Motors of Oxford.
As more companies proved unwilling or unable to find the resources to put the Ferguson ideas into production, it became clear that the advantages would have to be demonstrated. In order to carry out a demonstration, a tractor incorporating the Ferguson patents was designed and built by the team, and was finished in 1933 with a coat of gloss black paint. It became known as the ‘Black Tractor’, and deserves its place in the Science Museum, London, as the tractor which brought the Ferguson System into the world.
The Black Tractor was powered by a Hercules engine from America, producing 18 hp. At the rear of the tractor was an almost complete Ferguson System, with the linkage in its now familiar arrangement of single upper point and two lower arms. The single top arm of the linkage was used, after some trial and error, to actuate the hydraulics of the draft control system using compression forces coming up from the implement.
Some of the components for the Black Tractor, including the gears, were supplied by the David Brown company of Huddersfield. This established a contact between Harry Ferguson and the company, which led in 1935 to the manufacturing agreement Ferguson had been seeking. The manufacturer was David Brown Tractors, which occupied space in premises belonging to the gear company. The marketing company was controlled by Harry Ferguson and his backers. The product was a Ferguson tractor, often referred to as the ‘Ferguson-Brown.
Ferguson Tractors in the David Brown assembly plant in 1937
New Ferguson tractors started to arrive at the end of the Huddersfield production line in 1936. Demonstrations, organized with the precise Ferguson eye for detail, were arranged to show the advantages of the tractor, but sales were slow. There was resistance to the price, which at £224 was almost twice the cost of a Fordson. To buy a Ferguson meant additional expense for the special implements required, whereas a Fordson would probably suit the existing equipment on the farm.
The paint finish for the tractors was grey, and this remained the standard colour for Ferguson tractors until the Massey- Harris red took over. Styling was obviously based on the Black Tractor, but in the production model the engines were an 18-20 hp. Coventry Climax E in the first five hundred tractors, and a David Brown engine of 2010 cc for the rest of the production run. The gear box had three forward ratios and a reverse.
In order to encourage sales a special training school was set up by Harry Ferguson, The aim was to improve the standards of servicing and operation of the tractors to ensure that their performance was up to standard.
As the sales position remained disappointing relations between the Ferguson team and those at David Brown began to deteriorate. The tractor sold reasonably well in parts of Scandinavia and in Scotland, where its special advantages were most useful, but in spite of this stocks of unsold tractors began to accumulate at the factory, bringing cash-flow problems. There was some argument about teething troubles on the design and manufacture of the tractors, and disagreement between David Brown and Ferguson over changing the design.
David Brown (now Sir David) believed a more powerful engine and a fourth forward ratio in the gearbox would help to make the tractor more saleable. Ferguson, who found it hard to work harmoniously with any of his business partners, insisted that his original design was right and refused to agree to any changes.
Relations became even more strained after David Brown announced that he was briefing a design team from his company staff to work out the details for a tractor incorporating the improvements he considered necessary. Then in 1938 Harry Ferguson arranged to send a Ferguson tractor and implements to the United States. Through Eber Sherman, his former business partner in America, contact had been re-established with Henry Ford, and the tractor on its way to America was to be demonstrated to him.
The demonstration took place in Autumn 1938, apparently without the knowledge of David Brown. The ‘Ferguson Brown’ showed its advantages, under the supervision of Harry Ferguson and Ford was suitably impressed. That same day Ferguson and Ford shook hands on an agreement to work together to produce a new Ferguson System tractor. The agreement, involving millions of dollars of Ford money and the patents which were Ferguson’s life’s work, were never witnessed or written down.
Text reproduced from the Ferguson Club Journal Volume 1. No. 1 Autumn 1986.
Meanwhile back in Yorkshire the partnership between David Brown and Harry Ferguson ended in January 1939 in complete discord. Fortunately for the David Brown company – and for the future of the British tractor industry – the David Brown plans for a new tractor with more power were already well advanced, and in spite of some disappointments with the old Ferguson tractor, David Brown decided to stay in the tractor business after the break with Ferguson.
The new David Brown tractor – the first to carry the company’s name – was launched in July 1939. The new Ford tractor, resulting from the agreement with Ferguson, was launched at the end of June 1939 in America. The Ford tractor was called the 9N, the David Brown was the V AK 1.
Although the 9N was a Ferguson System tractor it was completely different in design and styling to the Ferguson-Brown. It is an extraordinary tribute to Henry Ford, and the resources he controlled, that only eight months passed between the first Ferguson-Brown demonstration in America, and the huge public demonstration of the new 9N.
Ferguson/Ford 9N, Coldridge Collection
Harry Ferguson and Henry Ford both shared a conviction that the new tractor had a vital role to play in the mechanization of world farming. This was to be a major contribution to improving the efficiency of food production and raising the living standards of farmers. To help achieve this objective the price of the 9N was to be kept within the financial reach of as many farmers as possible.
Production of the 9N tractor continued through the war years, with output rising in several years above the 40,000 mark, and the tractor made a big impact in the American market. Meanwhile in Britain Ferguson was again making determined efforts to find a manufacturer to make a tractor to his design. He had expected that the British end of the Ford empire would be ready to adopt his ideas, but this did not materialize. The Fordson tractor was in volume production and was well accepted by British farmers, It would have been difficult to introduce a new model under wartime conditions, and there is little evidence that the directors of Ford in England were enthusiastic about Ferguson or his ideas.
Since Ford – his first hope for a British partner – was a non-starter as far as any deal was concerned, Harry Ferguson looked for an alternative. His search ended soon after the war when reached an agreement with Sir John Black, then managing director of the Standard Motor Company, to manufacture a new tractor in Coventry. The Standard Company, now absorbed anonymously into the British Leyland organization, had spare factory capacity available at Banner. Lane, where the company had been producing aircraft engines for the war effort.
Ferguson’s determination and high-level contacts won through in the campaign to obtain steel allocations for the new tractor, and also the release of scarce dollars to pay for an American engine until a British alternative became available.
The legal proceedings were complicated by the informal nature of the original handshake agreement on which the tractor production and marketing arrangements had been based. They were also prolonged by Ferguson’s unwillingness to accept an out-of-court settlement. The proceedings dragged on for more than four years, during which Ferguson tended to gain public sympathy as the (relatively) small businessman confronted by the vast Ford organization. At the same time there was strong demand for tractors, and Ferguson’s business interests appeared to be prospering as production of the ‘Fergie’ increased. This was hardly helpful to his claim to have been so seriously damaged by the formation of Dearborn Motors.
Harry Ferguson eventually agreed to a settlement in 1952. He accepted a judgment for payment of $9.25 million by Ford to cover the royalties on his patents, plus an agreement by Ford to stop using some patented features on the 8N. The claim for compensation for damages to his company by the changed tractor marketing arrangements was dismissed. The verdict was not the great victory Ferguson had hoped for, although it was interpreted as such. The net amount received by Ferguson and his interests was fairly modest after legal costs, amounting to more than $3 million, had been paid.
The former farm boy from Ireland now owned a Rolls-Royce and a magnificent country house in the Cotswolds. The Ferguson System was making a significant contribution to the efficiency of farm mechanization, and the advantages of the ideas Ferguson had worked so hard to develop and promote were no longer in doubt. The rewards Ferguson earned from the commercial development of his ideas were considerable, but they might easily have been much greater. One of the limiting factors on the profits earned by his companies was Harry Ferguson’s policy of holding down his selling prices in a personal campaign to check inflation. This was a cause he believed in and promoted with great enthusiasm and little support. He applied the principles to his own business and he encouraged others to follow his example. He paid for advertising space in the national press to explain his views, and wrote numerous letters to politicians in an attempt to obtain government support. He also provided a substantial cash prize to be awarded for the best contribution to putting his ideas into practice.
The Ferguson formula for economic reform was to introduce a policy of price reduction. This was the key to breaking the spirals of cost and wage inflation. With prices no longer increasing, wages could be pegged so that increased income could be achieved only through promotion of higher productivity. Profits must also be restricted, with excess profits being invested for improved efficiency.
In the years around 1950, when the Ferguson economic theories were promoted most vigorously, Britain was struggling with an annual inflation rate of’ about 5 per cent. Ferguson predicted that the rate of inflation would increase disastrously if it was not brought under control by the method he advocated, and the result would be serious unemployment and encouragement to the spread of Communism. Since then, as successive governments have failed to cope with inflation, Ferguson’s credo has not been disproved, and his assessment appears increasingly relevant.
Soon after the lawsuit with the Ford organization had ended Harry Ferguson entered the final phase of his career as a leading figure in the world tractor industry. The new venture appears to have developed after his American company, based in Detroit, face increasing financial difficulties.
By the end of 1946 the first of the famous TE20 Fergusons were emerging from the Banner Lane production line. They were powered by a Continental engine imported from America, which was an overhead-valve design developing 23.9 belt hp as a maximum, but rated at 20.3 bhp. The engine capacity was 1966 cc, with four cylinders, operating on petrol. Importing this engine had been a controversial move, given official approval only because the expenditure of dollars involved would help to get the Ferguson tractor into production and into export markets more quickly. The replacement engine from Standard became available in 1948, and this was also a four cylinder design, developing about the same power at the Continental, but with slightly smaller capacity at 1850 cc.
Much of the design of the new tractor was obviously influenced by the Ford 9N, but the TE20 used a gearbox with four forward ratios, instead of the three Ferguson had chosen for the 9N and the old Ferguson-Brown tractors.
The launch of the TE tractor in England was good news for Ferguson, but 1946 also brought him bad news from America, where his agreement with Ford over the 9N tractor was beginning to crumble. Henry Ford II, now in charge of the huge company, was not satisfied with the old marketing arrangement which allowed Ferguson control over the tractor marketing organization. By the end of 1946 the discontent of the Ford side was becoming obvious, and it led to a new company being formed by Ford to take over the tractor marketing. This new arrangement was to become effective in July 1947, when the Ferguson organization in America would no longer have a tractor to handle.
July 1947, dealt a further blow to the Ferguson interest when Ford announced a new tractor, the 8N, to replace the 9N which went out of production. The new tractor, designed by Ford engineers, was equipped with a full Ferguson System linkage and hydraulics. The tractor was based on its predecessor, with similar styling, but the old three-speed gearbox was replaced with a new box giving four ratios and a reverse.
One of the results of these developments was a crisis for Ferguson’s American company, as the dealers they once supplied signed up with the new Ford marketing company, called Dearborn Motors. Efforts were made to find a factory and some financial backing to enable Ferguson System tractors to go into production in America under Ferguson’s control. Eventually production of an American version of the TE20 was arranged in a factory in Detroit. This tractor known as the T020, used Continental engines similar to those which had been imported to start the TE production line in Coventry. Later an improved version, the T030, was introduced from the Detroit factory, and sales topped 30,000 units in 1951 and in 1952. In both years total production of Fergusons in Coventry and Detroit exceeded 100,000 tractors.
Another result of the action by the Ford Company was the famous lawsuit in which Harry Ferguson and his companies claimed damages from the Ford Motor Company amounting to $251,000,000. This sum was later increased by a further $90,000,000. Part of the claim was for -compensation for the alleged damage to Ferguson’s interest by the changed distribution arrangements. There was also ·a claim for compensation for what Ferguson alleged was the unauthorized use of his patents in the new 8N tractor.
The answer to the American problem, Ferguson decided, would be to interest MasseyHarris in taking over the Detroit company, Massey-Harris, a Canadian based company, seemed a logical suitor for several reasons. There was already an established contact between Massey-Harris and Ferguson, and although the Canadian company had a highly successful product ranle in farm machinery, this was not matched by their tractors. Massey-Harris had the resources to buy and revitalise the American Ferguson business. the Ferguson business would give them the successful tractors they lacked.
This approach in 1953, failed. The Massey-Harris board decided that the ailing Detroit company on its own could be of only limited value to their international business interests. However, it made both sides conscious of the possibilities of some more fundamental link, and an opportunity to discuss this occurred later in 1953 when the Massey-Harris president, James Duncan, visited England to see a demonstration of a new prototype Ferguson tractor.
During this visit Ferguson began the negotiations which provided the basis for a link between the two companies. Agreement was reached for Massey-Harris to buy Fergusons’ interest in his companies for $16 million. Payment was in Massey-Harris shares, and Harry Ferguson became the largest single shareholder in the new group. The agreement provided Ferguson with the honorary position of chairman of the new company, with some executive responsibility for major engineering decisions. It was also agreed that the Ferguson name would be perpetuated in the new company, which was to be called Massey-Harris-Ferguson. This was later shortened to Massey-Ferguson.
The new organization was a logical union of different strengths, but a difficult settling-in period was to elapse before the benefits began to show. During this time important and difficult decisions had to be taken, and as usual Harry Ferguson had strong views which he promoted vigorously. The situation began to deteriorate, and there was probably a serious danger that a rift between Harry Ferguson and the M-H-F board might have soured the already difficult relationships between former Ferguson employees and their Massey-Harris colleagues. Matters came to a head when Harry Ferguson threatened to resign and to sell his shares in the company. The M-H-F board decided to accept his resignation and to arrange for his shares to be purchased.
In practical terms, that was the end of Harry Ferguson as an active force in the tractor world. But it was certainly not the end of Ferguson as a man of energy and ambition. He turned his attention and his resources to development work for the motor industry. In his company, Harry Ferguson Research Ltd. he had build a strong team to carry out engineering research.
At one stage he seriously considered making a return to tractor development. He believed that the FE35 – the first new tractor launched by Massey-Ferguson – had broken away from his original philosophy of simplicity and economical, functional design. He talked of a new Ferguson tractor which would be based on his ideals, and would continue his ambition to bring the Ferguson System to as many farmers as possible.
The new tractor never materialized, and the response from the car industry to the developments he had produced was disappointing. Harry Ferguson was facing problems of failing health and he could no longer rely on the vigour and forcefulness which helped him to build a commercial empire.
Harry Ferguson died in October 1960. His record of achievement in the tractor industry would be hard to equal, and the evidence of his achievements is to be found on most of the world’s tractors.
Concluded from the Ferguson Club Journal Volume 1. No. 2 Winter 1986/7.
“The Club is pleased to reproduce over several issues The Ferguson Story as written by Michael Williams in his book British Tractors, Published by Blandford Press Ltd. Details of this book and similar publications are available from Blandford Press Ltd. Link House, West Street, Poole, Dorset”
The Ferguson System: Reproduced from the Ferguson Club Journal Vol.6 No.2 (No.18) 1993
A brief history of the development 1917 to 1964 by G Field
Nearly a thousand people have joined the Ferguson Club since we published an account of Ferguson tractors and the Ferguson System. (Vol.1 No.1, Autumn 1986).
The Ferguson Club receives many enquiries and comments which show an enormous interest and, at the same time, much misunderstanding of basic Ferguson System principles. To our many new members we hope the following article will foster greater interest and understanding of your machines and help to explain why Ferguson tractors are so important to agricultural history and mechanisation.
The author is a professional fruit grower and arable farmer. Born during the Second World War, he grew up riding tractors from the age of three in the days when such practice was legal. His first seat was the tool box on the dash of a Fordson ‘N’ ‘Standard’ where hundreds of hours were spent until he was grown sufficiently to control the tractor himself. The first Ferguson TE came in 1947, replacing an Allis Chalmers WF, but it was a year or two before he was allowed to drive it.
His subsequent career with tractors has covered approximately 25,000 hours of commercial operation. Over 70 different models from over 20 different makes over two continents have been used on practically every task from tobacco to pigs, land reclamation to construction sites, all types of field. livestock, orchard and horticultural operations. Mini tractors, giants, crawlers, ‘one-offs’ and ‘system’ tractors have all made their contribution in addition to Fergusons.
This experience, combined with a fascination for tractor operating systems and especially hydraulics, has led to an acute appreciation of those who developed these systems. Harry Ferguson is by far the most important single contributor and the admiration and affection for his tractors throughout the world are ample testimony to that.
The author at home with what is believed to be the only surviving example of the first series Ferguson plough circa 1917 (the black stand is one Mr Field made to allow the hitch to be demonstrated without a suitable tractor). This version is a modification of the first hitch used on the Eros tractor and replacing a more complicated hitch initially proposed for use with tractors such as the Fordson ‘F’ or similar types. Photo: G Field
THE FERGUSON SYSTEM
HARRY FERGUSON (1884-1960)
For those to whom farming technology is a lifelong fascination, it is evident that a very large proportion of the successful inventions and innovations come from farmers and their families, Their inspiration has allowed staggering gains to be made in the quest to gain greater productivity from the land. From Jethro Tull and his seed drill in the late 1700s through to today’s highly sophisticated electronics and machines, much of the original thought has emanated from farmers. There is one man however to whom mechanised agriculture owes its biggest single debt – Harry Ferguson.
Born on a farm in County Down, Northern Ireland, it is said he greatly disliked the drudgery of farm work and, by the autumn of 1902, had decided to emigrate to Canada. However his elder brother Joe dissuaded him by asking Harry to work for him in his business in Belfast where they sold and serviced cars and motor cycles. From the start Harry Ferguson’s mechanical bent was apparent and the new apprentice quickly displayed a natural talent for tuning engines to a fine degree.
These talents led to motor racing and motor cycle trials with considerable success. Aviation caught his imagination and in 1908 he set about building his own aeroplane succeeding, on the last day of the following year, in becoming the second Briton ever to build and fly his own machine. It was also the first flight in Ireland.
As a result of the First World War Harry Ferguson, who in 1911 had established his own business in Belfast known as May Street Motors (later Harry Ferguson Ltd), took on the agency for an American tractor called the Waterloo Boy (Overtime in Britain). The war brought with it the threat of food shortages. Tractors were increasingly used to replace horses drafted into the army for transport. Harry Ferguson, along with his assistant Willy Sands. displayed considerable skill with tractors, so much so that they caught the attention of the Irish Board of Agriculture. The Board asked him to instruct tractor users so as to make the very best use of scarce machinery by visiting individual farmers and, in addition, giving demonstrations throughout Ireland.
So it was that Harry Ferguson “returned to farming”, but this time on his own terms. It was the start of a long and tortuous road that would lead to his becoming a millionaire producer of tractors and farm machinery, a crusader extraordinaire with a mission to improve the lot of the world’s farmers.
His tractor became a world best seller fulfilling the promise given to the then government that the Ferguson System would make a sustained and valuable contribution to Britain’s foreign exchange earnings. That promise has led, it is estimated. to over one billion pounds of exports to date. Massey-Ferguson continues to be the world’s top selling make, still firmly based on the Ferguson System.
The Ferguson System
The revolutionary principles contained and perfected in the Ferguson System remain unmatched the world over. So profound has their influence been on tractor design over the last sixty years that at least 85% of all farm tractors now produced in the world by all manufacturers are based on his unique ideas.
At the time Harry Ferguson grew up and went into business, the revolution in farm mechanisation, brought about by the application of the internal combustion engine to the land, was still in its infancy. To a man of his inventive ability the slight stature, the cumbersome machines and implements of the time proved a compelling challenge.
Not only were tractors costly, they were heavy, difficult to handle and potentially dangerous. But to Harry Ferguson their greatest drawback was that most implements were simply trailed behind, working against rather than with the tractor, separate rather than integrated as a single unit.
From his initial plough trials in 1917 it took Harry Ferguson just two years to design a two point linkage that laid the foundations of the ultimate Ferguson three point linkage. The Ferguson two point hitch (later referred to as the Duplex hitch) established the basic principle of all subsequent Ferguson linkages, namely the concept of a ‘virtual hitch-point’. This principle has been copied by all manufacturers ever since. It allows the line of draft of an integrally coupled implement to be at a position other than that of its actual connections. The 1919 Ferguson hitch, with its single top and bottom links, enabled his own Ferguson plough to become a unit (or integral to the tractor), pulled as if its point of hitch was near ground level under the centre of the tractor, as well as enabling it to be raised and lowered from the seat with a spring assisted lift. The ingenious geometry of the Ferguson system allowed a lightweight implement to gain penetration without built-in weight and in addition the 1919 linkage gave some relief to tractor and plough on striking a hidden obstruction. The top link also applied a downward force on the tractor’s front end, thus enhancing steering while entirely preventing the tractor from rearing over backwards.
The revolutionary 1919 Ferguson hitch that laid the foundation for the modern 3 point linkage. The line of draft extends from A: (the virtual hitch-point) to D’, thus tending to pull the plough Into the ground. he Implement IS not rigid to the tractor because the links can freely pivot at each end (float). Hitchlng is sImply by the two pins, one onto normal drawbar or plate and the other directly above on a Ferguson plate furnished with each plough. This system was later referred to as the Ferguson Duplex’ hitch.
From 1919 to 1925 the Ferguson linkage underwent further refinement, automatic depth control without wheels being Harry Ferguson’s ultimate aim. It was this requirement that brought Harry Ferguson, in 1925, to achieve a second crucially important invention, draft control. This is the principle whereby the depth of an implement is automatically regulated by reference to the effort (draft) needed to pull it through the soil. It complemented the ‘virtual hitch-point’ invention exactly. This Ferguson invention is the basis of all modern tractor hydraulic systems throughout the world.
Various methods of depth control were tried. By 1923 the ingenious ‘slipper’ arrangement seen here was used. Placed In the rear furrow and connected through rods and pivots to the cross-shaft, a constant depth was maintained while still allowing the plough to float and not lose weight to a depth wheel. Drawings Harry Ferguson Ltd.
However it took a further four years to complete the basic elements of what we now simply call ‘three point linkage’. The Ferguson two point hitch, or Ferguson Duplex Hitch, was not ideal for the wide variety of different implements Harry Ferguson always had in mind, mainly due to its lack of torsional stability and slightly adverse steering characteristics. A third link was added, initially retaining the single bottom link but soon to be ‘upended’ to two bottom links and one top link. The lower link draft sensing of the 1925 design was retained, operated by hydraulics using a continuous flow pump. The Ferguson ‘virtual hitch-point’ principle was applied to the two new double lower links by arranging for their line of pull to converge at or near the centre of the front axle. This allowed an implement to follow the front wheels, thus completing the major principles of the modern three point linkage.
By 1925 a patent application for Ferguson automatic ‘draft’ control had been made. Work continued on both draft control and the linkage, The single top link of the Duplex’ hitch was replaced by two links, universally jointed at both ends and arranged so that if their Iines of draft are projected forward. they converge near the front of the tractor forming a ‘virtual hitch-point’. This results in the implement following the tractor’s front wheels when In work. This illustration shows this linkage in use with a very early Ferguson cultivator circa 1927/28. A single vertical hydraulic ram can be seen which was automatically controlled by draft sensing from the lower link. This was the world’s first automatic draft sensing three pint linkage system, The continuous flow pump was driven from the tractor’s final worm gear drive shaft and was therefore only operational when moving. Ulster Transport Museum.
Lacking success in finding a manufacturer for his system, Harry Ferguson decided to build his own tractor incorporating all his designs to date. Work started in his Belfast works in 1932 and in 1933 the first all Ferguson tractor, incorporating the Ferguson System, came into being. This tractor, now on loan to the Science Museum in London, was called the Ferguson ‘Black’.
After further development. the linkage was ‘upended’ o one top and two lower links but still using lower link sensing, Another invention ensured that while in work the implement was allowed to move sideways sufficiently to follow the steering, but held centrally when fully raised on the linkage, The first Ferguson prototype. seen here at Fletchhampstead. used this system. Known as the ‘Black’ tractor. it was also the first to have ‘suction side’ control. The draft sensing system was changed during trials from lower link to top link, It would not be until the 1960s that Ferguson (by then Massey-Ferguson) would use lower link sensing again, (Note the :4′ at right. This is ‘A’ #1, now at Banner Lane) Photo,’ Harry Ferguson Ltd
By any standards it was revolutionary. At only 16.4 cwt with an 18 hp Hercules engine it could plough with two 10 inch fur- rows or operate other Ferguson implements with ease. These could be attached or detached in less than a minute and the driver could control the raising, lowering and set the depth of any Ferguson implement by the touch of a finger, without effort and from the seat.
This tractive performance is made possible by the use the Ferguson System makes of the weight of the implement, plus the weight of the soil on it and plus the natural tendency of the Ferguson linkage to draw the implement deeper into the ground. These three forces, carried by the Ferguson System linkage, add up to considerable weight, all of which is transferred to the rear wheels of the tractor. At the same time, the top link, by resisting the natural tendency of the implement to ‘rotate’ in a forward direction about its two lower hitch points, keeps the front wheels firmly on the ground.
These revolutionary Ferguson developments made possible traction without excess built in weight; allowed lighter and simpler machines that made more efficient use of resources and an attachment system that enabled an ease of attachment, control and safety that has stood the test of over half a century’s use, The Ferguson System has made tractors the everyday, all purpose machines everyone today accepts as normal.
Harry Ferguson’s system provided the breakthrough needed to spawn most of the agricultural mechanisation techniques seen today throughout the world.
Ferguson Tractor Production History
Having evolved the basis of his system and built a successful prototype, Harry Ferguson set about refining the machine and preparing for production. A new sales company was formed, Harry Ferguson Ltd, the Belfast Motor Company becoming Harry Ferguson (Motors) Ltd.
Many potential manufacturers expressed an interest in the early 1930s but the first firm to build the Ferguson tractor for Harry Ferguson was David Brown. Already well known for their gear making skills (they had supplied Harry Ferguson with such parts for the ‘Black’ tractor), David Brown (under a new company, David Brown Tractors) agreed to make the tractor at their Park works, Lockwood, Huddersfield in Yorkshire. Essentially this tractor was the same as the developed version of the ‘Black’ but used a Coventry Climax engine of about 20 hp. It retained the patented Ferguson final reduction gear of the ‘Black’ which did not allow the fitting of an engine driven power take-off shaft although a PTO central to the three point linkage had been shown as early as 1933, but driven from the final drive (ie ground speed PTO).
One other key development that had been fitted to the ‘Black’ tractor and now on the new Ferguson tractor (designated Ferguson Model A) was an ingenious control valve for the draft control. This valve, placed on the suction side of the pump, was to become the heart of every Ferguson tractor from then on. It is still in production today (1993) in all tractors from Massey-Ferguson’s Banner Lane factory. Other features on the A were steering brakes, three forward gears and one reverse, nine gallon tank and two reserves, all in a tractor weighing in at 1848 Ibs.
The world’s first production tractor with full automatic draft control and three point linkage undergoing trials in 1936 using a prototype inter-row hoe. Driver is John Chambers, now honorary vice-president of the Ferguson Club. Location not known yet. Note the row followers and the new Ferguson System patent wheels set out to the widest track of 54 inches. The front wheels used the same method of track adjustment, a system David Brown later continued to use for many years up to all tractors before the DB 900 in the late 1950s. Photo.D Bull
A novel new Ferguson method of altering wheel widths (sometimes called the incremental system) became available on the rubber tyred version. Whereas the steel wheels could be changed to just two track widths of 48 inches and 51 inches, the rubber tyred wheels (9-22 size) could be changed by reversing the rim to the disc to give 45, 48, 51 and 54 inches.
This method was to be used on all subsequent Fergusons (including the Ford-Ferguson) and, in due course, the majority of other makes,
The new sales company, Harry Ferguson Ltd, marketed the new tractor with, initially, four implements, all priced at £26 each:
.9 tine general purpose and/or row crop cultivator
All field adjustments for tractor and implements could be carried out with just one spanner, the famous Ferguson spanner, A 10 inch open-ended wrench, marked off in inches, this spanner was part of Harry Ferguson’s policy of using just two nut and bolt sizes wherever possible, a policy adhered to for nearly the next thirty years,
Sales however were slow due to the depressed state of the economy in the 1930s and also due to the novelty and perhaps the cost of the implements on top of a tractor that itself was dearer than the best selling British tractor of that time, the Dagenham built Fordson ,
During the summer of 1937 the sales company, Harry Ferguson Ltd, merged with David Brown Tractors to become Ferguson-Brown Ltd with Harry Ferguson and Mr David Brown becoming joint managing directors, Various improvements had been made to engine and other parts plus a PTO/belt pulley conversion unit being offered along with a developed range of implements,
By November 1937 Harry Ferguson in Belfast had designed a major improvement to his tractor, dispensing with the ‘Black/ A’ internally toothed ring gear reduction and incorporating a constant running lay shaft in the gear box, This allowed an engine driven PTO to be fitted and the hydraulic pump and PTO therefore could be driven whether or not the tractor was in gear, The pump was shown either fitted to the constant running lay shaft direct (as for example on the M-F 35 or 65), or fitted to the PTO behind a ‘dog’ clutch as on the later Ford-Ferguson or TE/TO series tractors, In fact all subsequent Ferguson tractors incorporated these 1937 improvements, right up to today, It was not however used on any of the David Brown built Fergusons .
Ferguson ‘A’ #722 in the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn. Michigan USA, This is the tractor Harry Ferguson used to demonstrate his technology to Henry Ford in October 1938, Photo: Graham Walsh
In October 1938 Harry Ferguson took tractor #722 with implements to the USA, There is no doubt that although the#722 was a standard production tractor, Harry Ferguson already intended that any new tractor would incorporate all of the features of his transmission improvements, as outlined above, plus others that they had in hand at the time, An American, Eber Sherman, who had manufactured the Ferguson plough with Duplex hitch in the 1920s, arranged for Harry Ferguson to demonstrate his tractor and implements to Henry Ford senior, So impressed was Ford that he and Harry Ferguson concluded a deal with a simple handshake, a gentlemen’s agreement, In essence, the agreement was that Ford would manufacture for Harry Ferguson a tractor incorporating all the latest Ferguson inventions and designs.
Harry Ferguson returned to England leaving the tractor at the Ford Airport Building in Dearborn, Ford built two prototype tractors incorporating some of the Ferguson inventions but these machines proved entirely unsatisfactory and were discarded, Progress was made, however, when in February 1939 Harry Ferguson and his small team of engineers returned to Dearborn and under their supervision work resumed on another new prototype, designated the 9N ,
In January, the agreement between Harry Ferguson and David Brown was terminated, the company reverting to David Brown Tractors Ltd with the latter continuing to sell the Ferguson A through 1939 and to provide after sales service, David Brown Tractors Ltd continued developing their own tractor, launching it in July 1939,
Unpublished photograph of Harry Ferguson introducing his new Ferguson System Ford built tractor at the worldwide launch on 29th June 1939 in America, These early 9Ns were fitted with 8×32 tyres. Ferguson rigid tine cultivator being displayed here, Henry Ford lower left. Photo,’G Field
Meanwhile by April, back in the USA, field tests with the new Ferguson made by Ford were well under way and on the 27th of that month a pUblic announcement was made of the Ford/Ferguson arrangement and the impending revolutionary (to the US market) new tractor,
The 9N was demonstrated to the trade on 12th June and to an invited audience of 500 from all over the world on 29th June 1939, The 9N incorporated all of the Ferguson tractor patents to date and was the first production machine to incorporate the Ferguson constant running lay shaft driving the Ferguson System pump on the PTO as in the 1937 patent outlined above,
Other new Ferguson features were an ingenious method of adjusting the new rowcrop front axle with a new double drag link steering box to supplement the Ferguson rear wheel system that had been used on the A but improved by dishing the rear wheel disc to allow double the number of wheel settings, ie 8 settings from 48 to 76 inches instead of four, The increments were increased from 3 inches to 4 inches,
Steering brakes, 14 inch fully energizing type, were fitted as on the Ferguson A but now with a separate clutch pedal, Tyres were initially 8-32 rear and 4,00-19 single rib fronts, 8-32s proved unsatisfactory and Mr Firestone, a friend of Henry Ford, had a new tyre developed especially for the 9N, the 10-28,
Ford production engineers got the new tractor on line in record time , applying the very latest production line techniques, To ensure speed, Harry Ferguson had to accept a Ford side valve engine whereas he would have preferred an overhead valve unit, Every effort was made to use stock items where at all possible, The gearbox was similar to the old A but the rear drive line, PTO and hydraulic assembly were as drawn in the 1937 Ferguson patent 510352, So was the linkage, draft control, hydraulic pump and linkage drawbar . the latter retaining the 11 holes,
The engine featured renewable hardened steel cylinder liners, full length water jackets, cast steel pistons, chromenickel valves with tungsten steel valve inserts, fully pressurised engine lubricating system and other advanced engineering, A centrifugal water pump, self sealing and prelubricated, an automatic governor, coil ignition combined with distributor, oil bath air cleaner, silencer and ignition key and lock were among other features,
The new tractor developed a stated maximum 23,87 belt horsepower at 2200 rpm from its 119, 7 cu ins (6: 1 comp ratio) on petrol only, A TVO version. the 9NAN , was made later for the UK market where the tractors did sterling service during World War II,
A sheet metal ‘styled’ bonnet was used as was the vogue at that time, with rear wheel wings similar to those used on the type A, A service panel allowed access to battery and fuel tank while a modern type dash displayed instruments, Self starter was standard with 6 volt electrics , At #12,500, in early 1940, a safety device was fitted to prevent starting the engine while the tractor was in gear, Some prototypes were fitted with a plastic pan seat made of material from Ford’s soybean research unit, 50 years ahead of its time!
A remarkable coincidence came about last year when our representative in Germany, Hartmut Lindner, sent the Ferguson Club a copy of the certificate illustrated above. A Ferguson dealer from the next village to his has this certificate, issued to a Mr G Krienm, on his wall. It so happens that I have a photograph of a class at the old Ferguson School, also of German students in 1951, on which Mr Kreim (standing fourth from right) appears. Although there is a slight difference in the spelling, the dates are the same. I am nearly certain it must be the same person. Is that so, and is Mr Krienm or Kreim still alive?
As with the A, tractors were painted grey. All frequently used nuts could be serviced with the Ferguson System spanner in common with the implements. However the jaw sizes were very slightly reduced from the earlier Ferguson spanner in order to standardise on American nuts and bolts. All later Ferguson spanners, both in the US and UK, retained these sizes.
The new 9N tractor, with all its unique Ferguson features, was a sensation and quickly established itself with sales to challenge market leaders I-H, Allis Chalmers and John Deere. Production continued until 1947 at which point over 306,000 tractors had been manufactured .
It had always been the intention of Harry Ferguson that his tractor would continue to be manufactured in Britain for world markets outside continental America. Indeed he had hoped that Ford would undertake production at Dagenham as they had in Dearborn. This was not to be. The search was on for another manufacturer. Another possible venue close to Harry Ferguson’s heart was to produce his tractor in Northern Ireland. This was not to be either.
Meanwhile, development of the Ferguson products continued in Belfast and the USA, both on tractor and implement design. The most important of these was a new four speed and one reserve gear box. This featured helically cut constant mesh gears ensuring an unusual lack of noise. A novel feature was the sa fety start system whereby, instead of the gear having to be in neutral before the starter could be operated (as on most 9Ns), the gear lever itself was used to operate the switch.
The steering brake arrangement was improved with a master pedal and separate steering brake pedals, the radius rods were strengthened, the rear centre housing was strengthened to take new drawbars and the latest design Ferguson trailers, and extra hydraulic tapping provided for external hydraulic services and the wheels were modified to replace the 9N’s ‘temporary’ 1940 rear hub modification among other developments. A position control device was designed but not included in the new proposed UK production tractors.
The UK manufacturer sought turned out to be the Standard Motor Company whose factory at Banner Lane, Coventry needed a new role after the war effort had wound down. Difficulties over steel supply delayed proceedings but a personal intervention by Mr Ferguson to the then new Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) Sir Stafford Cripps got sufficient allocation to allow production plans to go ahead.
In February, UK machinery dealers, both those who had been handling the old A and/or the Ford/Ferguson 9N as well as potential new ones, were informed of the impending new Ferguson tractor and to book orders. Details of the tractors were to follow later with deliveries made in rotation.
The task of equipping Banner Lane for production and finalising the last design details of the new Ferguson tractor went on apace throughout most of 1946. The prototype tractors and implements developed in Belfast and the USA had been shipped to England in the latter part of 1945. Arrangements for the production under contract of the ever growing range of Ferguson System implements had also to be made. Tractor production finally got underway in the last few weeks of 1946 under, it is said, very cold conditions .
Tractor England type 20, or TE 20, Seen here with John Chambers driving at Stoneleigh in England, this is the tractor the Ferguson Co developed mainly in 1944/5/6 from its sister tractor the 9N. It was produced concurrently with the 9N for part of both 1946 and 1947. Photo, G Field
The TE was intended to be a major export earner for Britain and so it turned out to be. Ferguson irrigation pump in action with a crop of Cholam (Sorgum) in the background. Water, probably the most valuable commodity in tropical areas in the right place and at the right time. can easily be transferred from place to place as here where flood irrigation is in progress, Photo, Harry Ferguson Ltd
The new tractor was designated ‘TE’ 20, meaning Tractor England. This is the tractor renowned and loved the world over as the ‘Grey Fergie’ .
Engines were supplied by the Continental Motor Company of Muskegon, Michigan, at that time the largest independent maker of spark ignition engines in the US. Their Z 120 unit filled the gap until the new Standard made engine became available later the following year. The new TE included all the above Ferguson improvements and now had the overhead valve engine Harry Ferguson always wanted. A last minute alteration was the forward hinged bonnet with the fuel tank bolted separately above the engine.
In September, one year after the start of TE production, the new Standard overhead valve engines began to arrive. For the tractor designated TE-A 20, its 112.9 cu in (1850 cc) engine gave 23.9 belt hp, similar to both the 9N and TE 20. The implement range continued to expand with the new Ferguson System trailer introducing the farmer to a concept that was to revolutionise farm transport.
By July, following an attempt by Ford to gain complete control of the Ferguson operation in the US, all 9N deliveries to Harry Ferguson Inc in Detroit ceased leaving the company with no tractors to sell . Almost all Ferguson dealers, many with great reluctance, went over to Ford’s new sales company Dearborn Motors. Ford continued to produce a modified 9N but with all the Ferguson designs still in place. It was this tractor, the 8N, that led Harry Ferguson to seek redress in the courts for infringement of his patent rights.
The Ferguson System linkage was adopted as an international standard “category 1”. A “category 2” was set for larger tractors using Ferguson type linkage and, much later, a “category 3” for very large tractors. These standards have remained to this day, another unsung Ferguson contribution to world farming.
TE production ceased in July when all Z 120 engines had been used up, all Banner Lane tractors from then on being fitted with the Standard spark ignition engines until the diesel version was introduced. Because of the cessation of supply from Ford in the USA, several thousand TE 20 tractors were shipped to Harry Ferguson Inc to enable sales to continue while a new Ferguson factory was equipped in Detroit. This plant started production of the TO 20 (Tractor Overseas) on 11th October. TOs were nearly identical to the TEs , apart from using Delco-Remy electrics , Long or Rockford clutches and Bendix brakes.
Harry Ferguson always preferred straight petrol engines but, to allow users to avoid the heavy tax on petrol, a vaporising oil engine was introduced in April. This tractor, designated TE-D 20, used an 85mm bore engine to compensate for the lower efficiency of vaporising oil. This raised the capacity to 127.4 cu ins (2088 cc) and lowered the compression ratio to 4 . 8:1 , to give 23.9 hp. Later, the compression ratio was raised to 5. 1:1 to give 25.4 hp.
A zero octane version (TE-H) for lamp oil with 4. 5:1 compression ratio followed in 1950 giving 22.9 hp using the 85mm engine. 80mm bore engines continued to be fitted to TE-As for a while after the TE-Ds were introduced .
The onward march of the diesel concept led Harry Ferguson Ltd to introduce the 20c engine in 1951. Designated TE-F, it produced a maximum belt hp of 26 from 127.68 cu ins (2092 cc) with a compression ratio of 17:1. 12 volt electrics were also introduced for all models from serial 200,001. Spark ignition tractors used a single Lucas 7 plate 38 ampere hour battery, while the new TE-F diesel require two Lucas 17 plate 6 volt 120 ampere hour batteries connected in series. Apart from small details, such as the extra safety button on the gear lever start, the TE-F tractors remained the same as spark ignition tractors.
1951 saw the new diesel 7E-F 20. A very early version seen here on test at the Ferguson School in Warwickshire, UK. The implement is a Ferguson rear mounted mower with ‘sheafing’ attachment. a means of partially mechanising grain crops at very low capital expenditure in such areas as India. Photo: Harry Ferguson Ltd
Perkins of Peterborough offered a 31 hp ‘P3’ three cylinder diesel conversion for all TEs and 9Ns. Other specialised versions of the TE 20 had been progressively offered starting with a ‘Narrow’ type, the TE-B in 1947. By 1952 the list had grown to the following types (not including those above):
A ‘Council’ Industrial version of the above fitted out with lights and Hi-Lift loader was also supplied.
The ever growing range of Ferguson implements listed in 1952 included:
For mounting on the Ferguson System three point linkage:
The following were front mounted using the hydraulics:
The following were trailed but used the external hydraulic services:
The following were trailed or semi trailed using the Ferguson System
The Ferguson System farmer was also offered a comprehensive range of accessories to tailor his Ferguson equipment to his exact requirements:
For the tractor:
For other machines:
Many other accessories were available to adapt Ferguson implements to local conditions around the world. (The above list is not definitive and there were many more for both TE and the later FE35. With overseas equipment it adds up to a list of very approximately 100 different implements from 1936 to 1964.)
In 1952 Harry Ferguson won his damages action against Ford for infringement of Ferguson patents. Ford had continued to produce a tractor, the 8N (literally a slightly modified 9N) with all the original Ferguson inventions plus some new ones, in complete disregard to patents. He was awarded $9.25 million, approximately $50 million today, but the case had cost him approximately $3. 5 to 4 million. Mr Ferguson’s claims for damages to his business and Ford’s counter claims were withdrawn. It had been a bruising and traumatic experience, fought for principle and the rights of the inventor. Ford had to cease producing tractors with the current Ferguson patents by the end of 1952. This caused them to redesign their tractors, mainly in the hydraulics, but they were able to continue using many Ferguson designs as the patents had, by that time, expired.
In the UK, Harry Ferguson Ltd was developing an exciting new larger Ferguson System tractor, the ‘LTX’ project or TE60,
Growing demand for power led to the LTX or TE 60, seen here in its proposed styling. Both diesel and spark ignition versions were intended and it had a remarkable performance. It was axed by the Massey-Harris influence who thought it unsuitable for US mid western farms. History has proved them wrong as 3 wheeled tractors soon went out of favour and there was nothing done to later 4 wheel tractors that could not have been done to the TE 60 several years before. Massey-Harris-Ferguson lost a great deal by abandoning this tractor, both in market lead and cohesion of their combined tractor operations. Photo: Massey Ferguson Ltd
The downturn in sales affected all manufacturers, no less Ferguson, Massey-Harris, a Canadian based company, had been approached by Harry Ferguson as early as December 1947, following the loss of his tractor supply from Ford, when he asked them to consider making the Ferguson tractor. They declined, thinking Harry Ferguson was unlikely to survive!
In 1953 Massey-Harris faced yet again a tractor crisis, judging, correctly this time, that the Ferguson System was the best and they needed it to survive in the tractor business. The two companies merged on 16th August 1953 to form Massey-Harris Ferguson Ltd. At that date 359,092 TE type tractors had been made by Harry Ferguson Ltd since 1946 making nearly 666, 500 Ferguson System tractors since 1936.
TE 20 production continued until October 1956 totalling 517 , 649 units. A UK version of the TO 35 tractor, already in production at the Ferguson plant in Detroit, replaced the TE 20. Called the FE 35, it had major developments to the hydraulics, transmission, engines and driver comfort. It retained all the Ferguson System designs, the rear end being dimensionally the same thus allowing a high degree of interchangeability with existing Ferguson and other makes of implements.
Several older Ferguson ideas were used on the FE 35 including ground speed PTO , the arrangement of the hydraulic pump directly onto the constant running lays haft , the 9N service panel, the unused ‘position control’ device, the old 9N safety start whereby the gear lever had to be in neutral to allow starter to be operated etc. TE type stepboards became standard as was the familiar tipping bonnet for engine access.
Principal all new features were the dual clutch that allows PTO and hydraulics to remain operational – ‘live’ – while the transmission clutch is depressed, a new 6 forward and 2 reverse gearbox, a new Standard 37 hp diesel engine, the 23c, a drop response and a new double acting
draft sensing of the top link. This latter device enabled implements that transmitted tension to the top link to operate the Ferguson System draft control, a situation that could only be done on the TE by fitting a top link assistor spring.
A ‘Deluxe’ FE 35 was offered with dual clutch plus comfort bucket type seat and a dash mounted tractormeter as standard. Petrol and TVO engines continued to be available, as well as all the familiar variants seen with TE 20.
By late 1957, the decision had finally been taken to drop the ‘twin track’ marketing policy. Amid considerable global reorganisation, Massey-Harris-Ferguson was dropped in favour of Massey-Ferguson. New unified colours, Massey-Harris red and Ferguson grey, for all Massey-Ferguson agricultural products were adopted along with a new triple triangle logo sporting the old Ferguson System badge.
Sir Edmund Hillary, leading part of the Trans-antarctic Expedition, the Commonwealth’s contribution to International Geophysical Year, reached the South Pole using Ferguson TE-A 20 petrol tractors, the first vehicles ever to reach the Pole overland. (The Trans-antarctic TEA 20’s, Mike Thorne, Journal 96, Winter 2020)
A larger Massey-Ferguson tractor was announced, the M-F 765 or ’65’. Quickly produced to fill a gap in the Massey-Ferguson range using components already developed in the US for the former TO 35 , M-H 50 and Ferguson 40, it replaced the hole left by the abandonment of the Ferguson ‘LTX’ four years before when Harry Ferguson retired as chairman of the recently merged Ferguson and MasseyHarris companies.
Massey-Ferguson introduced the ’65’ to catch up the gap left by the abandonment of the LTX. Seen here operating a Lundell 60 offset flail harvester at the 2nd National Grassland demonstration on Rex Patterson’s farm near Basingstoke. Both machines made a considerable impression on the farmers watching. Photo: G Field
The ’65’ displayed all the features of the FE 35 but used a Perkins AD 4/ 192Y four cylinder diesel engine developing 50.5 hp. The transmission was similar to the ’35’ using the same gearbox but with a final drive allowing inboard disc brakes, a differential lock (optional on early tractors) and epicyclic reduction gears at axle ends, This allowed faster rotation speeds in the transmission to cope with the higher power. Power steering was another option.
On 23rd January Massey-Ferguson announced that they had acquired Perkins Engines of Peterborough. Later that year they also took over the Banner Lane tractor plant from Standard Motor Co. that enabled the 4 cylinder 23c engine to be replaced with a Perkins unit, the famous and long lived 3 cylinder AD 3/152. Power increased 7% to 39.6 brake horsepower. Other options remained the same.
A new hitch, developed in Sweden, was introduced for the ’65’, the ‘Multi-Pull’ hitch, a forerunner to the Massey-Ferguson ‘Pressure Control’. This allowed the Ferguson System hydraulics to transfer weight from trailed equipment. A Mark II version of the ’65’ was offered with 11 . 9% more power from its 56. 5 brake hp Perkins AD 4/203 engine. Diff lock was now standard. (The US made ’65’ had the 4/203 engine when diesel model was launched the previous year.)
NIAE tests revealed the new ’65’ Mark II developed 58.3 hp. Massey-Ferguson altered their literature accordingly!
The M-F 35 was improved by the addition of an optional differential lock and power adjusted variable track rear wheels (PA VT), an Allis Chalmers patented invention M-F used it under licence. It complemented the Ferguson System front axle system very well, greatly reducing time and effort in varying wheel tracks.
In August a new change-on-the-go transmission was introduced for the ’65’ called Multi-Power. A power operated clutch allowed a higher gear to be engaged without clutching, thus giving 12 forward and 4 reverse gears.
In December a more powerful ’35’, the ’35X’, was offered in addition to the exist-. ing ’35’s. An uprated AD 3/152 engine gave 44.5 hp. With Multi-Power transmissions and the other improvements and options already announced, the latest ’35’ offered the best possible specification and value to the farmer.
By the 1960s the now Massey-Ferguson organisation had got its act together, producing one of the best tractors of all time. the M-F 35 with 3 cylinder diesel engine. Its versatility exceeded that of the TE 20 but had most of the TE 20’s advantages. It was the standard by which other clone tractors were judged. Operating a mid mounted hoe, probably a ‘Gloster’.
Rationalisation of manufacturing by the world’s leading makers was not only desirable but very necessary to meet a global market. Massey-Ferguson responded by announcing the results of their DX development programme. Given the title the “Red Giants”, these new tractors were the result of four years’ work involving one million man hours and costing nearly $8 million. Total capital invested on production exceeded $30 million.
Essentially the company’s assets around the world were deployed to make the best use of their resources while offering the market a larger, more unified range of tractors and bringing, for the first time, the Ferguson System to the larger size of tractors. Flexibility through the possibility of tractors being assembled from varying M-F factories had to be balanced with the growing complexity, both from the market needs of different countries and their varying legal requirements.
Essentially small and medium tractors were to be made in England. with France and the USA making the specialised and larger machines.
Styling of all tractors was revamped across the range to give a unified look. The engineering of the UK built tractors remained in many respects as before.
However this belied a vast amount of detailed development. Just on the new 135 there were 598 specific changes from its predecessor, the M-F 35 .
The key developments included an all new method of applying Ferguson System principles to trailed equipment, ‘Pressure Control’. Pressure Control enabled, as did the ‘Multi-Pull’ hitch, weight to be transferred from trailed implements to the tractor. It also had many other possibilities and was hoped to be a way of allowing two wheel drive tractors to compete with the growing interest in 4 wheel drive. This ingenious device, much misunderstood and under used in practice, added a new dimension to the Ferguson System, widening yet more the versatility and capability of the tractors.
Pressure Control coupler in use with a 4 wheel trailer on another outstanding Massey-Ferguson success story, the 165 tractor. It could be used even with PTO driven implements using a special spreader bracket an the implement’s drawbar. It has to. be seen to. appreciate its performance. Photo: Massey-Ferguson Ltd
In the UK, the range offered the French built 130 and the Coventry made 135, 165 and an all new larger tractor, the 175.
The ‘Red Giants’ in 1964 moved power up a notch with the M-F 175, the largest true Ferguson System tractor to. date. This M-F 5 furrow plough was semi mounted with a steerable rear wheel. Top link sensing was achieved by a special headstock that converted the draft from pull to. the top link. Photo.’Massey-Ferguson Ltd
Multi-Power tractors offered a new, more powerful auxiliary hydraulic system by combining the outputs of the Ferguson System pump with the MultiPower’s own pump to give over 10 gallons a minute. This fulfilled the growing demand for hydraulic power, especially motors. The hydraulic control quadrants were changed from that used on the 35 and 65 tractors by allowing the draft control lever to be used as on the original Ferguson System devised in the 1920s, ie one lever to raise, lower and set depth. The response control was taken off the separate ‘position’ control lever and moved to its own quadrant below on the side of the transmission.
Essentially the Banner Lane tractors of similar power retain this layout today. It is noteworthy that today’s tractors also use the original Ferguson System ‘suction-side’ control pump devised in the early 1930s.
Harry Ferguson died on 25th October 1960, a few days before his 76th birthday. His legacy to farming the world over is incalculable.
© George A Field and FF Publications
Research by G Field, John Baber and John Walker
(George Field – Newsletter editor 1986)
Mr and Mrs Tony Sheldon Mr John Chambers
The late Mr Dick Chambers Mr Alex Patterson
Mr James Barrow, Co Clare Mr Roger Seidel, Oxford
Mr Andrew Boorman, Bedford
Mr Norman Shearer, Orkney Isles Mr Ron TePoel, USA
Global Corporation by Prof E P Neufeld
Harry Ferguson & Henry Ford by Prof J B Rae
Tractor Pioneer by Colin Fraser
An earlier version of this article was published in Club Journal V.3 N.2, lecture notes presented by George Field at the Royal Show, 1949.
Ferguson type ‘A’ No. 104 owned by A. T. Oliver & Sons of Bedford, ploughing at the Ouse Valley Vintage Rally, October 1988. The driver – David Markham, Ferguson Club area representative for Bedfordshire . Photo – A. Boorman (photograph A4 insert in V.4. N.1)
At its launch in the spring of 1936 the Ferguson-Brown (also known as the Ferguson Model ‘A) was available with four mounted implements produced by the manufacturer. These were as follows:
Type ‘B’ two furrow 10″ plough with general purpose bodies.
Type ‘C’ General cultivator with seven spring release tines.
Type ‘D’ Three row potato ridger with steerage fin and markers.
Type ‘E’ Row Crop cultivator with nine rigid tines and steerage fin.
Later a single furrow 16″ digger plough and a two furrow 12″ plough with semi-digger bodies were offered.
1937 Ferguson Type ‘B’ 10 inch 2 furrow plough (# missing). Note the distinctive curved plate top of headstock, also found on early David Brown (1939 on) implements which used many parts identical to Ferguson. Ferguson mouldboards are identical to Olver GP, Part No P1. Photo A Boorman
Pre-war Ferguson Type ‘D’ ridger # 36 (a little like a US Lister), originally used with ‘A’ # 104 (see Vol 4/1) as was the plough. Both were very rusty having stood outside many years. All wearing parts were both worn out and rusted away. Replacement parts came from a David Brown type RLD 2 ridger. Photo A BoormanAndrew’s ridger refurbished with D-B parts. Original Ferguson parts at front. D-B discs, mouldboards and shares were used on the plough apart from modified Ransomes parts used for landslides. New parts no longer available from manufacturer. Note the marker’s pull chain anchored over the peg. Photo A BoormanThe maker’s plate on the ridger showing type, ‘D’ and # No 36. Pre-war implement plates did not list patent numbers but referred you to the tractor where they were displayed on the dash. Under-beam clearance on pre-war Ferguson ploughs is 2 inches less than later types and a similar amount on other implements. Photo A Boorman
The above photographs of the Type ‘B’ plough and Type ‘D’ ridger were featured in Vol. 7, No. 2 of the Ferguson Club magazine
Ferguson Curved Plate (Part No. C8) seen on all pre-war Ferguson implements
Like the post war implements, all field adjustments used the famous Ferguson 10″ open ended spanner differing from later ones in it’s use of BSF as opposed to Across Flat sizes. Ridger and cultivator frames, rolled from ‘Consett’ steel were drilled at 1 ” intervals to achieve row spacing.
By comparison with contemporary makes including Ransomes, Nicholson and Martin to name a few, Ferguson implements looked very light and flimsy but their high tensile steel and high quality hardware ensured that they outlasted their more rugged looking competitors who were using lower grade steel.
Acknowledgment George Field
The Type ‘C’ General Cultivator is 62″ wide and is fitted with three front and four rear spring release tines designed, with their pivot points vertically above the tine tip, so that when an obstruction is met they deflect in an upwards arc. They were patented by Ferguson on December 12th. 1930 (Patent No. 320084). Except for using BSF threads the tine assemblies are exactly the same as those used on the post war Type 9BE tiller which has nine tines and is 86″ Wide.
The Type ‘E’ Row Crop cultivator is 78″ wide with three front and six rear tines and could be fitted with a variety of points depending on width of ground to be cultivated between plant rows. The steerage fin, Ferguson Patent no. 471801, accepted Sept. 6th. 1937, was designed to ensure that the implement followed truly behind the tractor. The post war development of this machine, Type 9NKE, differs in being 84″ wide, has greater tine clearance front-to rear and has points adjustable for pitch by way of a slotted frog.
Andrew Boorman: Published in Journal issue 23 Winter 1995/96
The “Ferguson-Brown” (also known as the Ferguson Model ‘A’ ) was, of course, the first tractor in the world to be marketed with its own set of specially designed mounted implements.
Implements in general used up until then had been based on horse-drawn equipment and were merely towed behind the tractor. With it’s hydraulic lift and three-point linkage, the revolutionary “Ferguson-Brown” brought an entirely new concept to implement design. Equipment could now be mounted on the tractor and lifted in and out of work.
When the tractor was first launched in May, 1936, four implements were available – a two furrow plough, a spring-tine, cultivator; a three row ridger and a rowcrop cultivator. Each of the implements weighed approximately 2½ cwts., being made of high quality heat-treated alloy steel. All four sold for £26 each, the tractor itself costing £224 on steel wheels, including the hydraulic unit.
It was claimed that the implements could be changed by one man in two minutes without the use of any tools.
This was known as the Type B (the tractor itself being the Type A) and was sold with general purpose bodies; disc coulters and skimmers were standard equipment. Some ploughs had long name plates including all the patent numbers, but those with lower serial numbers (up to circa no. 7/800) have shorter name plates with the description:
Patent Nos. – See Tractor.
This embodied an exclusive and patented design of spring-tine which extended rearwards when over-riding obstructions and came back into work instantaneously. Standard equipment included 7 spring-tine units which were adjustable for spacing at different intervals. Alternative cultivator shovels were available at extra cost.
This had 3 adjustable ridging bottoms with spacing from 18″ to 30″ (at one inch intervals) It incorporated a patented steerage fin or rudder which maintained the implement centrally behind the front of the tractor when working on hill sides and when splitting ridges.
This was a 3 row implement with 9 rigidtines again adjustable from 18″ to 3D” and with a steerage fin like the ridger.
Later on in production two further implements were added to the range: a 12″ two furrow semi-digger plough was introduced, as was a 16″ single-furrow digger plough, the latter being shown at the Smithfield Show in December 1938. These again sold for £26 each.
In conjunction with the tractor the spring-tine cultivator won silver medals at the 1938 Peterborough Show and the 1938 Highland Show, ahd a gold medal at the Isle of Man Shew in September, 1938 for being the most serviceable all-round implement or machine in the entire implement or motor section.
Despite such acclaim, however, the tractor did not sell well, partly because these special implements had to be purchased at extra cost, whereas a Fordson or International could use the existing equipment on the farm.
Perhaps because of this and because only cultivation implements were marketed by Ferguson-Brown Ltd., other manufacturers did· step in and produce equ ipment for the tractor. Bamfords in particular marketed two mowers, the 7RTB, and the 7RTw and these, together with a grass harrow, were exhibited behind Ferguson-Browns with extension drawbars at various agricultural shows such as the 1937 Royal Show. Other firms such as Browns of Leighton Buzzard with their self lift spring tooth harrow and Aitkenheads from near Oldham with their harrows also produced suitable implements.
Although the “Ferguson-Brown” was not designed for trailed implements, it could manage ‘co pull light implements such as a hay rake or harrow, and in contemporary pictures, the tractor can be seen pulling a variety of other manufacturer’s equipment. Nevertheless breakages did occur due to the alloy casings, and these cannot have done the tractor’s reputation any good at all.
Compared to the later TE20 implements the “Ferguson-Brown” implements were generally much more lightly built and can be identified by the distinctive curved bit of metal where the top link is attached (the top link itself being shorter at 23 inches).
Published in Journal Volume 1 No. 2 Winter 1986/7
The Ferguson Club exhibition at the 1989 Royal Show illustrated the development of the Ferguson System in words, photographs and machines. The following, written by George. A. Field, was the actual text used with one modification due to new information on suction side control that came to our attention during the exhibition itself.
Over 80% of the world’s tractors these last 30 years or so have employed principles invented and developed by one man – the late Harry Ferguson. This exhibit seeks to illustrate these principles. how Harry Ferguson came to develop them and the profound effect the Ferguson System has had on farming the world over and on the tractor manufacturing industry itself.
Harry Ferguson was born of Scots-Irish farming stock on November 4th 1884. From an early age he displayed an independence. tenacity and persistence typical of many of his fellow countryman. For over 100 years the Irish of Scots decent had pioneered their way through the New World breaking new ground and new ideas. Such men as John Coulter, the great explorer, Sam Houston and President Andrew Jackson are just but a few prime examples of this spirit. Harry Ferguson too broke new ground with cars, aviation and, most importantly, farm mechanisation.
Harry Ferguson joined his brother Joe in the motor trade in 1902, quickly displaying a natural ability for things mechanical. A further characteristic, his inate instinct for publicity, was put to use by entering cars in various races and trials in order to promote the business.
In 1908 the fledgling aviation industry caught his attention. In the summer of 1909 the construction of a aircraft to his own design started resulting in a successful powered flight on the last day of the year. This was an incredible achievement; the more noteworthy for Harry Ferguson having no flying experience and only a rough idea of other aircraft at the time. It is probable that A. V. Roe was the first Briton to build and fly his own aircraft in his own homeland. This makes Harry Ferguson the second Britain to do so and most certainly the first to build and fly an aircraft in Ireland. He also flew carrying the first woman passenger in Ireland and was probably the inventor of the tricycle undercarriage.
In 1911 Harry Ferguson started his own business taking various agencies including Vauxhall. The outbreak of war in 1914 triggered a demand for farm machines. One of the agricultural agencies acquired by Harry Ferguson Ltd was for an American tractor, the ‘Waterloo Boy’, known here as the ‘Overtime’. Through his promotion of this machine Harry Ferguson gained a considerable reputation for demonstration and tractor handling abilities. This reputation led to his being appointed by the Irish Board of Agriculture to improve the efficiency of all the tractors and ploughs in Ireland. From March 1917 Harry Ferguson and his assistant Willie Sands travelled the length and breadth of the country visiting individual tractor operators as well as giving public demonstrations.
This experience led Harry Ferguson to the conclusion that while tractors left much to be desired, ploughs required the most urgent attention. He correctly analysed the various forces at work in trailing a plough and observed that they were at best wasted and at worst destabilising. He visualized that the weight of the plough itself, as well as the loads imposed on it in work, should be used to add weight to the tractor. This should result in a lighter and more efficient tractor for the same work. With these conclusions Harry Ferguson set out on a path that would eventually sweep all other hitching and implement control systems into oblivion.
An ‘Eros’ tractor, a converted model T Ford, was chosen for the first trials, the plough probably being made from a trailed unit with curved beams. The Eros was the only light tractor available at that time and allowed the plough to be hitched forward of the rear axle. This arrangement not only transferred weight to the rear wheels but applied a downward effort on the front axle as well. A pur pose built plough was designed incorporating shear bolt protection, a spring assisted lift from the drivers seat as well as depth control from the same lever. Ease of operation was to remain a fundamental Ferguson principle.
The arrival of the famous Fordson F in 1917 led to the demise of the Eros and thus a modified hitch was developed to allow the Ferguson plough to be used on this new tractor. The limitations of this design prompted the development of the new Ferguson plough with ‘DUPLEX’ hitch. This new design marked a major advance and quite clearly displays many aspects of what we now refer to as ‘three point linkage’.
This remarkable new plough was fully mounted and yet very simply attached and detached. It overcame completely the appalling habit of the Fordson F to rear over backwards and kill the driver. The controls were operated from the seat with a spring assisted lift to ensure ease of operation. The major shortcoming was the lack of an automatic depth control. Fitting a depth wheel obviously reduced the weight available for transfer onto the tractor. The imperative of finding a solution to this problem eventually led to ‘automatic draught control’. This plough was demonstrated to Henry Ford in 1922. Ford was impressed and tried to buy Harry Ferguson. Harry Ferguson was not to be bought so the two men parted company indicating they would keep in touch.
Having successfully established the Ferguson plough on the American market in the mid 1920s Harry Ferguson and his team turned their attention to how the forces generated by an implement, coupled directly to a tractor, could not only transfer weight but control the working depth as well. The principle that emerged was ‘draught control’. In 1925 they were ready to apply for a patent both in the U.S. and the U.K . This remarkable document, known as ‘Apparatus for Coupling Agricultural Implements to Tractors and Automatically Regulating The Depth of Work’ , sets out all possible ways except one of achieving draught control.
Even the one exception, electronic, is alluded to by the proposal for an electrically operated system. The principle aspects of the patent described a control system whereby the variations in draught or pull of a directly coupled implement be used to adjust the relative position of said implement so as to maintain a constant draught and consequently depth. Lower link or draught link sensing was proposed with movement being effected by:-
One further sensing device was also patented – that of the TORQUE VARIATIONS in the tractors transmission. This Ferguson principle is applied today by Ford with ‘Load Monitor’.
THE FERGUSON SYSTEM
Having clearly defined the fundamental principles upon which to proceed the team set about the long and difficult task of engineering and refinement. There were two principle aspects to this:-
Hydraulics soon emerged as the best answer to the latter but the linkage was not quite so easy. The early attempts at hydraulics were built onto the ubiquitous Fordson F using two upper links and one draught link from which the sensing signal was taken. Harry Ferguson realised that for an implement to accurately follow the tractor’s steering it should pull from the centre of the front axle.
This is. of course, not practical. but his understanding of the principle involved led Harry Ferguson to the solution. This involves extending an imaginary line from the two implement draught connections through to the centre of the tractor’s front axle. It will be seen that these lines converge. By fixing flexible joints (ball joints) at the implement ends and also at points where the lines pass just forward of the rear axle one achieves the desired effect. Ferguson retained the third and vertical dimension that had proved so successful on the Sherman built Ferguson Duplex plough. Patented in 1928 this invention in effect concludes all the fundamental aspects of a modern tractor’s hitching and draught control systems.
By the early 30s they had turned the linkage upside down thus a single top link was fitted with two converging lower draught links. Lower link sensing was retained along with the continuous flow pump. Using a continuous flow pump heated the oil. a problem that dogged them for some time. The real breakthrough came when Harry Ferguson, it is said during a sleepless night, had a brainwave. Why not fit the control valve on the suction side of the pump? Thus oil would flow only when needed to effect movement of the linkage. This brilliant idea solved the vast majority of the technical difficulties and now, at long last, the Ferguson System was ready for manufacture.
(Note – the Ferguson linkage used on the Fordson F has tapered type internal anti-sway blocks as used on some modern tractors like John Deere. it was another Ferguson first)
While all this technical progress was being made Harry Ferguson sought to interest a manufacturer for his ‘System’ . Allis Chalmers took out an option and various other firms such as Rushton. Rover and Ransomes Rapier showed an interest. Morris actually came close to signing a deal but fell out at last minute, probably frightened by the deteriorating farm economy.
THE ‘BLACK TRACTOR’
These setbacks led Harry Ferguson to the conclusion that he must build a prototype tractor himself. With his own purpose-built machine he hoped to find the backing he needed. Ferguson. Sands and Greer commenced work in 1932. John Chambers, a farmers son from Northern Ireland. joined them to do the technical drawing. The tractor was constructed at the Ferguson premises in Donegal Square, Belfast. The main castings were made to Ferguson’s order and then sent to David Brown Gears for machining and to have the gears fitted. The rear axle and steering box were done the same way. The U.S. firm Hercules supplied the 18 hp engine and the hydraulics were manufactured in Belfast. Lower link sensing was retained, with suction side control built into the oil immersed 4 piston pump. Early trials with the tractor revealed some problems with uneven depth control and various ideas were tried to improve performance. Willie Sands suggested switching from lower link to top link sensing and in due course this was done effecting a definite improvement. Top link sensing was to be the usual method from then on until the 1960s/70s when lower link sensing came back into use.
After an unsuccessful attempt to secure an agreement with the Craven Wagon Works of Sheffield. David Brown offered to build the Ferguson tractor. Production started in 1936 with a machine very similar to the ‘Black’ tractor apart from the 20 hp Coventry Climax engine.
The tractor’s performance and the System’s potential impressed all who saw it apart from the usual critics for whom no effort will enlighten. However the tractor was launched when farming was very depressed and even those convinced of the Ferguson’s potential probably jibbed at spending the extra money it cost. Cash flow difficulties led David Brown to call for changes to which Harry Ferguson was unlikely to agree and they parted company in 1939.
Meanwhile Harry Ferguson had demonstrated his tractor to Henry Ford in America. Ford was itching to get back into tractor production and appeared very unhappy with his in-house designs. At the demonstration. arranged by the Sherman brothers, Henry Ford quickly saw the significance of the Ferguson System and almost certainly realised that this was how tractors would be in the future. In essence both men needed each other at that particular time. It was here that they concluded their famous handshake deal. Ferguson would design. market, and service the equipment and Ford would manufacture it.
By April 1st 1939 a prototype with all the major Ferguson designs incorporated was ready for trials. Charlie Sorenson, Ford’s right hand man, did a brilliant jot in solving the problems of making the design suitable for rapid mass production. The only major design principle Ferguson had to forego was not using an overhead valve engine, Instead a side valve based on the Mercury V8 was fitted in order to maximise the use of standard parts and speed production. Incredible as it may seem the tractor was in production by June 1939.
Exactly 50 years ago on June 29th 1939 the new tractor was launched before 500 invited guests from across the States as well as 18 foreign countries. The tractor was a sensation both because of the brilliance of the Ferguson System as well as the extraordinary arrangement between Henry Ford and ‘Henry Ford’s only partner’ as FORTUNE magazine later put it.
The Ferguson System came of age with the 9N tractor and rapidly achieved 20% of the U.S. market against such industry heavyweights as I-H, Allis Chalmers and John Deere. In 1939 one month’s production was equivalent to the entire 3 years output of Ferguson Browns. By 1942 this output had doubled. Wartime shortages severely hit production for the next 2 years but by the time Ford ceased supplying Ferguson in mid-1947 306,221 units had been built.
It was Harry Ferguson and Henry Ford’s intention that the Dagenham plant should produce the 9N tractor in England. When it became obvious that this was not going to happen another manufacturer was sought. Standard Motors of Coventry agreed to build the Ferguson and production started in October 1946. Ferguson design improvements planned for the 9N were incorporated with a new 4 speed constant mesh gearbox and at long last, Harry’s beloved overhead valve engine. There were few other significant alterations. The T.E.20. as this model was called. rapidly repeated the same outstanding success as its U.S. built sister gaining up to 70% share of the U.K. market. Harry Ferguson Ltd. proudly proclaimed that by 1949, 450,000 Ferguson System tractors were serving farmers the world over. (300,000 9Ns 150,000 TEs). Annual production of T.E. tractors for 1951 exceeded 73,000 units.
TRACTOR PRODUCTION AT DETROIT
The ending of the Ford/Ferguson relationship in mid 1947 led Harry Ferguson into his only major manufacturing venture. A Detroit factory was purchased to make the T.E. model in America (called the T.0.). Although by 1952 Harry Ferguson Inc. was vying with Allis Chalmers for 4th place in the U.S. market, an incredible achievement when one recalls the fact that the company had had to rebuild its entire distribution network since mid-1947, the strain had taken its toll on everyone. Tragically Ford had continued to produce the Ferguson system tractor without regard to licence or patents. The famous law suit arising from their actions was resolved in 1952 with an award in favour of Ferguson of $9.25 million (approx. $50 million today). Roughly one million of Harry’s ‘Little Grey Tractor’ were built from 1939 to 1956 and that figure does not include those tractors made with or without licence.
All of Harry Ferguson’s tractor interests were merged with Massey-Harris of Toronto in 1953. By this time it was obvious to the whole industry that there was no other system worth a bean. It merely remained for each manufacturer to find their own particular way of adopting Ferguson principles or get out of the business.
The latter years of Harry Ferguson’s life were devoted to making the motor car a safer machine through the development of 4 wheel drive systems known as the Ferguson Formula. It took 30-40 years for world farming to fully utilise the benefits of the Ferguson System. It seems it is taking a similar period for the automobile world to reap the benefits of the Ferguson Formula and make motoring a safer activity.
Copyright – George A. Field Acknowledgements to Mrs Elizabeth Sheldon; Bill Martin; John Chambers; Richard Chambers; Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and Mr John Moore; Massey-Ferguson UK; Colin Booth; Ian Wood and the many Ferguson Club members who provided information and assistance.
Ferguson Club Journal Volume 3 No.2 Autumn 1989